Metro

Police in riot gear respond to crowd near Keene State College

KEENE, N.H. — Disturbances continued into Sunday morning after parties at Keene State College spun out of control Saturday. Police in riot gear fired tear gas at hundreds of students throwing bottles and other objects, according to witnesses on the scene.

At least one car and two Dumpsters were overturned.

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According to the Keene Fire Department, multiple people were transported to a nearby hospital.

Witnesses described the scene, largely on or around Wilcox Street, as chaotic, and far more extreme than anything they’d ever seen before.

The parties were being held along with the Keene Pumpkin Festival, an annual event that is a point of pride for the small New Hampshire community. Last year’s festival set a world record of 30,581 carved and lighted jack-o-lanterns at one place and one time

“Pumpkinfest has always been fun,” said Julie Conlon, 23, who graduated from Keene State in May. “Yeah, kids drink excessively, but it’s never been out of control. This year I watched thousands of kids pile into a backyard and kind of go crazy.”

Conlon said people were throwing bottles, uprooting street signs, and setting things on fire.

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Police responded in force, with canine units, SWAT gear, tear gas, tasers, and pepper spray, several witnesses said.

“I watched cops roll in, I watched the fire department roll in, I watched state troopers roll in with their batons out, ready to take on the crowd,” said Conlon. “It was crazy.”

Police responded to disturbances in Keene, N.H.

Jeremy C. Fox for the Boston Globe

Police responded to disturbances in Keene, N.H.

Thousands of students and visitors pour in from out of town for the event, and witnesses said most of the disruption was caused by college students from surrounding schools, including the University of New Hampshire, the University of Rhode Island, and University of Massachusetts.

“There were about 4,000 kids in this backyard, and it almost felt like a war zone,” said Keene State sophomore Ellery Murray.

“People were just throwing everything they could find — rocks, skateboards, buckets, pumpkins. It was actually kind of scary.”

Even after police had broken up most of the parties, the chaos continued late into the night.

Students gathered in clusters on the edge of campus, between the TDS Center and a student residential area, near police dressed in riot gear.

On nearby streets, empty beer cans and water bottles littered the pavement.

In the center of one street a large Dumpster was overturned.

Shortly before 10 p.m., police ordered students standing on one street corner to move back down the block, and shoulted at them to move. Several students responded by shouting profanities at the officers.

A few minutes later, students dispersed across campus as acrid, stinging smoke filled the air.

One woman screamed, “Oh God, kill me now.”

Some students dropped to the ground on their hands and knees coughing and spitting; one leaned forward with his hands on his knees and vomited.

Conlon said it’s shame the festival turned out this way.

“Pumpkin Fest on Main Street is really a beautiful event,” she said.

“I would bring my mother to Pumpkinfest on Main Street.

“But I wouldn’t bring her to Pumpkinfest anywhere else. Keene State turns it into insanity.”

Videos from the scene of a police response to large crowds near Keene State College in New Hampshire. (Videos provided to the Globe by Jason Harrington / Instagram and Instagram.com/denis527, Instagram.com/Ramaproductions)

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