Police arrested 46 people while responding to a “riotous” outdoor gathering Saturday that drew thousands of young people and left four police officers with minor injuries, officials said.
“It’s that out of hand,” Captain Jennifer Gundersen of the Amherst Police Department said Saturday afternoon. “The behavior is out of control, the damage, drunkenness, and disorderly activity in North Amherst is close to the worst that we’ve ever seen. We’re extremely concerned for the safety of the community.”
Officers issued at least two dispersal orders during the rowdy celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day, known more commonly by the area’s students as “Blarney Blowout,” a series of lawn drinking parties that have been broken up by police for the past few years.
Partygoers began gathering at around 10 a.m., and as of Saturday evening, Amherst police had arrested 43 people on charges including failure to disperse, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and numerous alcohol offenses.
Most of those arrested were male and were being held for failing to comply with dispersal orders.
In addition, the University of Massachusetts Amherst police arrested three people, according to spokesman Ed Blaguszewski.
The injured officers, who were hit by bottles and cans thrown by the crowd, were not hospitalized. One had a laceration to the hand due to shattered glass from a thrown bottle, according to a statement from Amherst police.
As of 8 p.m., officers were still responding to reports of highly intoxicated individuals, fights, and noise complaints, said a statement from Amherst police.
Numerous people had injuries, Gundersen said, adding she could not speak to their severity. The largest crowds had generated in the area of Amherst’s largest apartment complexes — the Townehouse Apartments, Brandywine Apartments, and Puffton Village Apartments — which house hundreds of students from UMass Amherst.
Many participants were intoxicated, and several members of the crowds vandalized property, including ripping out mailboxes and pulling trees down, Gundersen said. There was also damage in the form of scratching and denting town police vehicles, police said.
The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority also suspended bus service in the area “because of problems transporting drunken students around,” Gundersen said.
Those arrested were being held in the department’s cell block, Gundersen said, adding that if the station reaches its 40-person cell capacity, detainees may be sent to the Hampshire County House of Correction in Northampton. As of 9:30 p.m., there was no word on whether any detainees were sent.
Gundersen said a few of the individuals arrested Saturday morning may be bailed out in the evening.
Gundersen said Amherst police were working closely with UMass campus police. She also said she was not able to confirm whether the “college-age” individuals under arrest were UMass students.
UMass police refused to comment, referring all media calls to the university’s media relations office.
In a statement issued March 3, Blaguzewski said, “The University of Massachusetts Amherst has undertaken a series of measures in advance of the anticipated and unsanctioned ‘Blarney Blowout,’ on March 8. The university has reached out to landlords, parents, faculty and staff to impress upon students the importance of respecting the safety of others and their property,”
The statement also said that disciplinary measures for students involved in “bad behavior” included suspension or expulsion.
“I am writing to remind you that ‘Blarney Blowout’ is not sanctioned by the university. Last year, it led to several arrests as students left downtown Amherst and migrated to off-campus housing complexes, engaging in unruly behavior that jeopardized the safety of others and resulted in the destruction of property,” UMass Dean of Students Enku Gelaye wrote in an e-mail to students before Saturday’s gatherings, according to the statement.
Gundersen said several ambulance crews were “extremely busy” responding to calls about excessive drunkenness and fighting. The majority of individuals with alcohol- or fighting-related injuries were transported to Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton. Calls and e-mails placed to Christina Trinchero, a spokeswoman for the hospital, were not immediately returned.
At the request of UMass and Amherst police, State Police officials sent 10 troopers to assist at the scene, according to a State Police spokesman, Lieutenant Daniel Richards.