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Police Face "War Zone" at University Celebration

Police Face "War Zone" at University Celebration

Fire and fights broke out late Saturday afternoon during the annual "Springfest" off-campus party near James Madison University. [AP]

Washington Post via YellowBrix

April 13, 2010

HARRISONBURG, VA. — The bottle caps, broken glass and empty plastic cups littering a neighborhood near James Madison University’s campus suggested that the events of Saturday afternoon were nothing more than a kegger gone bad. But those who witnessed the party-turned-riot recalled chaos so out of character for this Shenandoah Valley town that by Monday afternoon, it still had the power to amaze.

“When you are setting off tear gas and people still aren’t leaving, you know it’s bad,” recalled Lt. Kurt Boshart of the Harrisonburg Police Department. “It was really bad.”

Each semester, James Madison students organize a huge block party, in one of the popular neighborhoods near campus, that typically attracts about 2,000 people. But when more than 8,000 people showed up to “Springfest” at a row of townhouses at the Forest Hill Manor development, the event quickly escalated, Boshart and witnesses said. Rocks, beer bottles and cans flew, hitting and injuring dozens of people and shattering car and house windows, according to police, witnesses and video of events. Dumpsters were set ablaze.

The response eventually involved about 200 police officers from several different agencies, many outfitted in riot gear and fighting back with canisters of tear gas, rounds of pepper spray and foam projectiles. A Medevac helicopter arrived to take a casualty to a trauma center, and about three dozen others went to the local hospital.

By the time it was over, Harrisonburg police said they had arrested at least 17 people and were studying uploaded YouTube videos for more suspects. Other law enforcement agencies made arrests, but the total numbers are still being tallied.

Linwood H. Rose, president of the 18,500-student university, sternly e-mailed the entire campus Sunday. “Your collective behavior was an embarrassment to your university and a discredit to our reputation,” he wrote. “No one is opposed to some fun on a beautiful spring weekend, but public drunkenness, destruction of property, and threats to personal safety are unacceptable outcomes.”

The student newspaper, the Breeze, was more terse with its large headline in Monday’s paper: “War Zone.” ad_icon

On some college campuses, spring semester’s warmer weather leads to a proliferation of unofficial, student-run parties that quickly can attract thousands — sometimes including people with no ties to campus — especially when news spreads over Facebook or via text message. The parties occasionally are magnets for crime and injury and can increase friction between students, campus authorities, town officials and residents of neighborhoods populated by students.

“Crowd-control issues tend to feed off each other,” said Marlon Lynch, associate vice president for safety and security at the University of Chicago and president of the industry group International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators. “Some behavior becomes contagious, and before anyone realizes what’s going on, it grows to the point where it’s hard to de-escalate.”

James Madison student Cara Mulqueen, 21, said she looked out her rowhouse window about 2 p.m. Saturday and was surprised that there weren’t more people outside. Within 45 minutes, the junior speech therapy major said, all she could see was crowds of people.

“It was just swamped. Everywhere you looked, there were people standing shoulder-to-shoulder,” Mulqueen said.

Police said JMU students were not the only ones at the party. Cars full of students from area high schools arrived, as did college students from Virginia Tech, Washington and Lee, and William and Mary.


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  • P1010076_max50

    Alexander_Ott

    about 4 years ago

    572 Comments

    Bump Collegecop_WA's comment.

    Comment seems to be a bit biased and unfair, BSpoonire. Care to elaborate?

  • Car6_max50

    Ahi

    about 4 years ago

    1990 Comments

    Glad to hear things didn't get worse then they did. There should be a harsh punishment and more people taken in.

  • 100_7432_max50

    petecoolcattt

    about 4 years ago

    652 Comments

    Typical bunch of drunk wankers... Dickheads!!!

  • Me_last_wk_max50

    delano388

    about 4 years ago

    4318 Comments

    I went to the Academy with a lot of the JMU and Harrisonburg Officers and that whole area is like dodge city.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    BSpoonire

    about 4 years ago

    50 Comments

    And where are the protesters with the signs standing by and handing out pamphlets when you need them?

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    BSpoonire

    about 4 years ago

    50 Comments

    Sounds like the citizen's presumed right to free speech via alcohol was abused just a little. This should have been a mass intervention, not a pass-the-crack pipe convention. Was this a religious college I wonder...?

  • Picture_204_max50

    bklyn

    about 4 years ago

    762 Comments

    Rubber Bullets

  • Az_phx_motorcade1a_max50

    Bury

    about 4 years ago

    1340 Comments

    Mob mentality ... anonimity and they think thy can't get in trouble.

  • Fallenherobadge-3-1_max50_max50

    CAZ

    about 4 years ago

    1428 Comments

    The "Future Educated Leaders" of this country I am proud!!! Really I am.

  • 74596_129289523905506_927477597_n_max50

    CadetAK

    about 4 years ago

    3428 Comments

    a bunch of college kids + alcohol = bad news!

  • In_remembrance_of_oakland_pd_max50_max50_max50_max50_max50

    rhood

    about 4 years ago

    23592 Comments

    The future of this country is a bleak one when you look at the idiots that atend higher education schools these days. Charge all that can be ID'd and show them no mercy in court.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    about 4 years ago

    WOW......that's all I can think of to say.....just wow

  • Policememorial---a_max50

    Collegecop_WA

    about 4 years ago

    2380 Comments

    I have to agree with Paladin on this one. For decades, especially where the "entertainment" media is concerned the general perception of the whole higher education system has been young "adults" on a campus someplace wasting their parents hard earned dollars while they party themselves into a stupor every day, worship sports like it was the salvation of mankind, who barely bother studying for their classes, and then cram ( or cheat) like hell to get a minimum passing grade so they can graduate and claim to be "educated". Anyone who actually cares about their education or doing well in school is mocked and shunned. Campus administrators are portrayed as either incompetent idiots or overzealous thugs whose sole purpose is to squash any sort of "fun" the kids might want to have. So is it any wonder when these kids get to campus they act out like this?

    The thing that rankles me so bad is these morons are the future leaders of our nation. God help us all.

  • John_groh_max50

    wiseass0282

    about 4 years ago

    10986 Comments

    Bunch of jerks. I say go back to the days of fire hoses and wooden sticks. You throw something at the police you get your butt kicked and locked up. I hate a bunch of out of control drunks.

  • Fp-183_max50

    Paladin3087

    about 4 years ago

    40 Comments

    Why does that behavior surprise anyone, alcohol, testosterone, women, and a tolerant society, could happen anywhere... oh, lets not forget, disdain for the "middle man" the police...

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