A protest outside a fraternity house at the University of Massachusetts Amherst on Sunday drew an estimated 300 people, who chanted and held signs alleging sexual assault by members of the chapter, Amherst police said.
The demonstration was prompted in part by a Reddit post written by an anonymous user Sunday morning calling for people to gather outside the Theta Chi house on North Pleasant Street at noon.
Students who participated in the demonstration alleged that a sexual assault occurred at the house during a party Saturday night.
The fraternity’s chapter president did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday, and a message sent to Theta Chi’s national headquarters went unanswered.
An online petition calling for Theta Chi to be shut down or suspended had gathered more than 12,000 signatures by Monday morning.
Ed Blaguszewski, a UMass spokesman, said in an e-mail that the protest was “focused on reports circulating online and among students of an alleged sexual assault related to the Theta Chi Fraternity.”
“UMass is committed to responding promptly and effectively to all allegations of sexual assault and misconduct,” Blaguszewski said. “We strongly encourage members of our community with information related to the alleged Theta Chi incident or any incident of sexual assault or misconduct to contact university authorities immediately.
“A variety of confidential options are available, including the Center for Women and Community and the UMass Police,” he continued. “At the directive of survivors, these discussions can then result in the initiation of investigative or disciplinary action.”
In a statement, Amherst police said the fraternity called for assistance at 12:12 p.m. Sunday as the crowd grew in front of the house. Officers then called in backup from UMass police, Hadley police, and State Police, bringing a total of about 10 officers to the scene, according to the statement.
Video of the protest captured by the Daily Collegian, the campus newspaper, showed police urging demonstrators to leave the area.
“Start walking,” one officer shouts in the video. “Don’t lose your education over this. There’s a process . . . and this isn’t it.”
In a statement, Amherst police said the protest began peacefully but “became destructive when members of the protesting group threw objects at the building, tore down a flag, and attempted to gain entry, through force.”
Mark Doherty, a UMass junior studying political science who participated in the protest, said two members of the fraternity came out of the house to raise an American flag. He alleged that the members mocked the protesters, who responded with boos, and one person threw a water bottle, striking one of the fraternity members.
Amherst police said the bottle struck a resident of the fraternity house in the head.
“The injury was not life-threatening,” police said, adding that there were no other injuries reported.
Police said they dispersed the crowd “with voice orders without further incident” by about 2:15 p.m. No arrests were made.
Doherty said he learned about the protest through Reddit and posts on Yik Yak, an anonymous social media app. Doherty and his friends drew signs in their dorm rooms Sunday and headed to the house, where a crowd had begun to form around noon.
Doherty said at least one police officer already was in the area when demonstrators began to gather.
“An officer told us that as long as we stayed on the sidewalk, we’d be fine,” he said. “As the day went on, some people became rowdy in their protesting, throwing eggs at the house and other objects.”
Police said a fence on the property was “damaged and vandalized with graffiti.” Doherty said he saw some demonstrators scrawling messages in black marker on a white fence behind the house.