Dozens charged in bash at UMass

Police surrounded participants in the Blarney Blowout party.
Robert Rizzuto/The Republican/AP
Police surrounded participants in the Blarney Blowout party.

The chancellor of the state’s flagship public university said a series of drunken melees Saturday at huge outdoor parties near the University of Massachusetts Amherst “brought shame on our fine university.”

More than three dozen college-age partyers were arraigned Monday on a range of drunk and disorderly charges. From Saturday to Sunday morning, Amherst police said, they arrested 55 people at the packed off-campus gatherings, part of an annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration called Blarney Blowout. Another eight people were issued court summonses.

A spokesman for the district attorney’s office said a majority of those arraigned were not UMass students, but were from other colleges that were on spring break. University officials said 21 of those arrested attended UMass Amherst.


Police said that when they tried to break up the crowds, they were pelted with bottles, full cans of beer, and snowballs. Four officers sustained minor injuries. Amherst police said they used pepper spray, pepper balls, sting balls, and 40mm impact munitions.

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On Monday, police said they were prepared for large parties, but did not anticipate the “dangerous and assaultive” disturbances that broke out at two apartment complexes and a fraternity house in the middle of the day.

“The events of this past Saturday were extremely upsetting and hazardous,” Scott Livingstone, chief of police in Amherst, said in a statement. “The behavior of many participants of this melee caused the public and first responders to be placed in a very dangerous situation.”

The charges included a dozen arrests for inciting a riot or disorderly conduct, 19 for failing to disperse from a riot, and 17 for alcohol violations. About 40 people were arraigned Monday in connection with the weekend disturbances, and were released on their own recognizance. More arraignments are scheduled for Tuesday.

The wild scene, which saw crowds in excess of 4,000, drew a sharp response from UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy. “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,” Subbaswamy said in a statement.


University officials had warned students about drunken behavior, and Subbaswamy promised “swift action” against unruly students. “There will be consequences for those found to be responsible,” he said. Sanctions could include suspension or expulsion.

“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,” he said.

The parties, which coincide with an event sponsored by bars in downtown Amherst, have consistently caused problems. Last year, several students were hospitalized, and six were arrested after revelers set fires and smashed windows. The year before, police found a large number of intoxicated students downtown involved in fights and other disturbances.

The university says it does not encourage the event, but has no power to stop it.

On Saturday, the parties began around 10 a.m., when several thousand people left the UMass campus for a party at an off-campus apartment complex. The crowd continued to swell through the morning, and police broke the party up after several fights broke out.


But shortly after noon, police faced another unruly crowd at a nearby apartment complex, where partyers were damaging vehicles and destroying light poles. At the same time, a large party at a fraternity house had spiraled out of control, police said. That crowd, too, threw items at police, including rocks and bottles. Some were thrown from the roof, porch, and windows of Pi Kappa Alpha house.

Subbaswamy said he was outraged by the students’ behavior and “deeply disturbed” that Amherst residents were forced to endure the parties.

“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,” he said.

John Musante, the Amherst town manager, said municipal officials had worked with the university and landlords to rein in the parties, and he expressed disappointment over the disturbances. “I share the frustration, the embarrassment, and, really, the anger over the events of the weekend,” he said.

Musante said that the crowds congregated outside apartment complexes that cater to students and that no major disturbances were reported downtown. “The issues were not at the bars,” he said.

Peter Schworm can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @globepete.