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Riot squad arrest 73 at pre-St Patrick's Day 'Blarney Blowout' at US college

One resident near the University of Massachusetts said the scenes were like “a revolution”.

Police say they witnessed
Police say they witnessed "the worst scenes we have ever had with drunkenness and unruliness".
Image: AP Photo/The Republican, Robert Rizzuto

MORE THAN 70 people were arrested at the “Blarney Blowout” on Saturday, an early St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the University of Massachusetts.

The event spun out of control as police officers in riot gear were forced to arrest people and disperse massive crowds, including unruly students throwing beer cans and bottles.

Police said yesterday that a total of 73 people had been arrested and four officers suffered minor injuries after police spent the day attempting to disperse “several” large gatherings.

Amherst Police Capt. Jennifer Gundersen said in a statement that police remained busy through Saturday night handling numerous reports of fights, noise and highly intoxicated individuals.

“It is extremely disturbing and unsafe. Perhaps one of the worst scenes we have ever had with drunkenness and unruliness,” Gundersen told The Republican in Springfield. “It is extremely upsetting. It is very dangerous.”

Most of the arrests came at an off-campus apartment complex, where large crowds began gathering on Saturday morning for the annual event, which was started by bars to allow the students to celebrate the holiday before their spring break begins this week.

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Police surround participants in the pre-St. Patrick’s Day “Blarney Blowout”.

Police from the city, university and state troopers in riot gear converged on a crowd of about 4,000 people at an apartment complex shortly after noon.

Police said party-goers were involved in destruction of property and, as officers began to disperse the crowd, they were pelted with glass bottles, beer cans and snowballs.

After handling the disturbance at the apartment complex, police say several thousand people assembled near a frat house and near an intersection. Authorities said they determined that the gathering became dangerous and out of control, and when officers tried to clear the crowd they again faced people throwing bottles, rocks, cans and snowballs.

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One of the 73 people had been arrested in the disturbances.

Police say pepper spray was used to disperse the crowds because of the size and “assaultive behavior.”

Three officers were hurt when they were hit by bottles and one was injured while attempting to make an arrest. None of the injuries required serious treatment.

Police say charges ranged from inciting to riot and failing to disperse to disorderly conduct, liquor law violations and assault and battery on officers.

Some have been released on bail while others have been held, depending on charges.

After police arrested several people at last year’s “Blarney Blowout,” the university warned students earlier this week that police would have an increased presence around the town on Saturday. Letters were also sent directly to students disciplined in the last year for alcohol-related misconduct.

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Numerous participants as well as four officers were injured.

The university has denounced the “unruly behavior” and spokesman Ed Blaguszewski said students who were arrested will be reviewed under the school’s code of conduct and that sanctions could include suspension or expulsion.

Amherst Capt. Christopher Pronovost described the day as “mayhem” to the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

“This can’t be in any way, shape or form be characterized as a party,” he said. “This is destruction of property (and) assaultive behavior.”

Collecting bottles and cans around the scene of the mayhem, Amherst resident Raul Colon told the Gazette that the day’s events looked like “a revolution, like in the countries that have revolutions between the students and the government.”

Gundersen said that numerous participants in the revelry were also injured.

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Other colleges across the country have gone on high alert around St. Patrick’s Day to deal with alcohol-fuelled students. At Penn State, the school paid licensed liquor establishments to stay closed this month during the unofficial drinking holiday known as State Patty’s Day for the second year in a row.

All pictures: AP Photo/The Republican, Robert Rizzuto

Read: Irish politicians call on New York parade to include LGBT banners >

Read: Taoiseach: New York St Patrick’s Day parade ‘about our Irishness and not about our sexuality’ >

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Associated Press

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