UPDATE: ‘Blarney Blowout’ leads to 55 arrests, police injuries

By Patrick Hoff

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Forty-six people — including 43 by Amherst police — were arrested Saturday during “Blarney Blowout” celebrations off-campus. (Photo courtesy Robert Rizzuto, Springfield Republican/MassLive.com)

Update: Monday, March 10, 12 a.m.

Fifty-five people were arrested Saturday during “Blarney Blowout,” an annual St. Patrick’s Day-themed series of drinking parties, that left a number of people with minor injuries, including four police officers, police and university officials said.

Officers from the Amherst Police Department issued dispersal orders, increased police manpower to the area, released pepper spray and shut down bus service and streets near the stretch between Puffton Village and the Townehouses in North Amherst. It took nearly an entire day to quell the rowdy crowds which grew with thousands in attendance.

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Thousands of people gathered for “Blarney Blowout” at different off-campus locations Saturday, including the Brandywine Apartments complex. (Photo courtesy Robert Rizzuto, Springfield Republican/MassLive.com)

APD officers arrested 55 people with at least 18 of those people held on charges of failing to disperse and inciting a riot; at least three others were held on assault and battery with a dangerous weapon charges; and an individual was also charged with breaking and entering. Other charges included disorderly conduct, alcohol violations and assault and battery on a police officer. Police also issued an additional 28 summons.

All of the arrests occurred between 9 a.m. Saturday and 4 a.m. Sunday.

Any University of Massachusetts students arrested in connection with the event will face a sanctions review from the University, whose officials, including Dean of Students Enku Gelaye, warned early last week may result in their expulsion or suspension from the school. The University, which released a statement late Saturday night, said its officials condemn the “unruly behavior” at “Blarney Blowout.”

Officers began responding to calls related to the parties at 10 a.m. At 8 p.m., police were continuing to break up fights, respond to noise complaints and communicate with intoxicated people, according to a statement by the APD.

The UMass Police Department also arrested three people at the event Saturday, according to UMass spokesman Ed Blaguszewski, who added that because the parties were almost all held off-campus, UMPD officers were acting as more of a “supporting agency” to APD officers. State Police officers were also called in to support the APD in its attempts to break up the crowds.

The first students were arrested on charges of violating public alcohol laws as they were leaving UMass’ campus.

Amherst police broke up a party at the Puffton Village Apartments shortly after 11 a.m. when fights began breaking out, and people began throwing snowballs, cans and bottles into the crowd, the statement said.

At 12:15 p.m., police cleared approximately 4,000 people from the Brandywine Apartments grounds, the statement said, adding that officers issuing dispersal orders were struck by glass bottles, full beer cans and snowballs by members of the crowd.

APD officers broke up a “dangerous and out of control” party at the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity house shortly after 1:30 p.m. and were hit with bottles, beer cans, rocks and snowballs, the statement said. Some of the items were thrown from the house’s roof, porch and windows.

Four Amherst police officers received minor injuries from thrown objects and physical fights.

Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy sent an email to the campus community on Sunday evening expressing his outrage and disappointment for Saturday’s activities.

“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 wrote. “They have brought shame on our fine university and run the risk of devaluing the college degree that all of our students work so hard to achieve.”

The chancellor added that he and his administration will take the necessary steps to address the incident and they will “redouble … efforts” to avoid future incidents from occurring.

Blaguszewski said that the University is trying to identify whether visitors to UMass and Amherst played a part in instigating “Blarney Blowout.”

Earlier in the week, the University sent an email to undergraduate students and their parents about the consequences of “bad behavior.”

“While the vast majority of UMass Amherst students act responsibly every day – both on campus and in the surrounding communities – for those students who violate the University Code of Student Conduct or the Town of Amherst By-Laws, the consequences will be significant and they may be lasting,” wrote Enku Gelaye, interim vice chancellor for student affairs and campus life in the email.

As part of its preparations for “Blarney Blowout,” the University also sent letters of warning to students who had been disciplined for alcohol-related misconduct within the past year and to students living off-campus who had been cited for noise or nuisance house complaints.

Blaguszewski said that it is “difficult to tell” whether the messaging campaign worked on controlling the crowds, but “we needed to do that.”

Photos courtesy Robert Rizzuto, Springfield Republican/MassLive.com.

Patrick Hoff can be reached at [email protected]