UMass Official ‘Outraged’ After ‘Blarney Blowout’ Arrests

More than 70 people were charged after police responded to the rowdy party in Amherst.

After photos, videos, and news reports of an out-of-control party that required heavy police presence and led to more than 70 arrests at UMass Amherst garnered national attention, the school’s top official blasted out a letter to the community expressing his embarrassment and outrage.

“I want to make it unequivocally clear that the University of Massachusetts Amherst condemns the outrageous behavior of those students who acted out without any regard for public safety and the community in which they live,” said Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, in a strongly worded letter shared with the public and students. “They have brought shame on our fine university and run the risk of devaluing the college degree that all of our students work so hard to achieve.”

The “outrageous behavior” that Subbaswamy made reference to was allegations that UMass students, who gathered in the thousands during the annual “Blarney Blowout,” a pre-St. Patrick’s Day celebration near campus, hurled snowballs, bottles, beer cans, and even rocks at police officers that tried to disperse the crowd.

“It was a sad and difficult day for our campus and for the town of Amherst,” Subbaswamy said. “There is no excuse for this type of alcohol-fueled behavior, and I want to assure both the town and the campus that we will take steps to address this incident.”

Subbaswamy said the administration would redouble their efforts to quell these sorts of parties, which in the case of the Blarney Blowout led to 73 arrests and several police officers suffering from minor injuries. Charges include failure to disperse and inciting a riot, assault with a dangerous weapon, breaking and entering, disorderly conduct, liquor law violations, and assault and battery on police officers.

According to reports, university and Amherst police broke up the Blarney Blowout on Saturday using pepper spray and pepper bullets. Officers called it “perhaps one of the worst scenes we have ever had with drunkenness and unruliness” at UMass Amherst, a school known to many as “Zoo Mass” for its outdoor parties that often lead to a response by riot police.

Police said at one point they stumbled upon 4,000 people, where “party-goers were involved in the destruction of property including damaging vehicles and destroying light poles.”

Subbaswamy said “there will be consequences for those found to be responsible.”

Of course, students saw the incident unfold a little bit differently from the officers that responded to the large gathering with pepper spray bottles in hand. “What the news stations depicted as an out-of-control riot appeared much more to us, the students, as a day-drink with aggressive police tactics,” the creator of the above video said. “Can’t wait for Blarney ’15.”

We suspect police will be at the ready for that one. “No doubt there are difficult conversations that lie ahead concerning student behavior, alcohol and civility, but I have no doubt that, working together, we can build the kind of community in which we all want to live,” Subbaswamy said.

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  • westernmassjimbo

    It’s very easy for the UMass chancellor to condemn students’ behavior — the entire community does. What takes a lot more effort on his part and by UMass officials is actually doing something to prevent this blowup each year. Why didn’t the university have a substance free dance party with big-name groups that day, or some other event to provide a serious alternative for students? It’s because the university is neglecting its full responsibility to students to provide a rich campus life for them. This in no way excuses the students’ who caused trouble from facing the full consequences of the law and hopefully university sanctions, but the university needs to do a lot more, a lot more, to prevent this event next year. Time to step up chancellor!

  • agentweez

    To be fair, I don’t live in Massachusetts, but it seems to me, from a number of videos posted, as though there was a CLEAR overreaction by police. You can see the police start their “dispersal” fully decked in riot gear. You can see videos of cops blasting pepper spray right into students’ faces. You can watch police taking pot shots with their modified paintball guns.

    The students threw bottles and snowballs? Was that before or after the police opened fire with their tear gas loaded paintballs? Are bottles and cans and snowballs really a danger to an officer who arrived on scene in special gear specifically designed to protect them from those types of attacks?

    Sequence of events, especially in a case like this, are not clear and are very important to establish culpability.