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Blarney 2016: Seven arrests and 10 summonses recorded in relatively calm event

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Judith Gisbon-Okunieff/Daily Collegian

(Judith Gisbon-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

By Stuart Foster and Patricia LeBoeuf 

In the backyard forum at the center of the Amherst Townehouse Condominiums, as small groups of students clad in green blared music Saturday morning, two Westfield police officers started playing a variation of Frisbee, Kan Jam, with two residents.

By the end of the day the Blarney Blowout, an annual series of drinking parties held in Amherst during the first weekend of March, had resulted in seven arrests and 10 summonses, a far cry from the 55 arrests and 28 summonses which came from Blarney two years ago.

“Our goal is to keep the community safe and prevent property damage,” said Amherst temporary Town Manager Peter Hechenbleikner at a press briefing held at 5 p.m. today. “I think we accomplished both of those.”

Scott Livingstone, the Amherst Chief of Police, said that hundreds of police officers from 15 surrounding communities helped patrol different areas of Amherst.

Livingstone added that the call volume on March 5 was a little higher than normal for a Saturday and that almost all of the arrests made were as a result of underage drinking or open container violations.

The University of Massachsuetts also also held an exclusive concert at the Mullins Center, which featured Jason Derulo, Capital Cities and Migos. Approximately 3,200 students attended.

At the Townehouse Condominiums more than 15 officers guarded the entrances to prevent visitor parking and walked throughout the small gatherings to ensure the situation did not escalate.

At the nearby Puffton Village Apartments, police officers prevented visitors from entering at all at the request of the managers of the complex.

“So far it’s been pretty quiet,” said Seth Florek, an officer with the Westfield Police Department, on Saturday morning in the Townehouse Condominiums. “I really don’t anticipate too much trouble.”

Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

Throughout the day small gatherings of people drank and played music in the Townehouse Condominiums and surrounding areas, with interactions between police officers and the gathered students remaining civil throughout the day.

“From a Police perspective this was entirely successful,” said Livingstone. “Foot traffic in the north Amherst area was almost non-existent.”

University of Massachusetts Police Chief Tyrone Parham said that UMPD officers did not break up gatherings of students, but only had conversations with them to deescalate the situations.

“I think a lot of our students really wanted to change what happened two years ago,” Parham said, adding that the increased weekend restrictions on parking and guests from outside of the University helped to contain the situation.

Hechenbleikner said that discussions between the town of Amherst and the area bars McMurphys, Stackers and Uptown Tavern were fruitful, as the bars changed their hours for the day to prevent long lines, which Parham said resulted in fights in 2014, from forming.

Members of the Pioneer Valley community in downtown Amherst said that the Blarney Blowout was significantly calmer this year than it was in 2014, primarily as a result of policing techniques and an increased presence of police officers.

“I think that the police presence sort of brings the hype down in the early morning hours,” said Oliver Thibault, a barista who has worked at the Amherst Starbucks for five years.

Brittany Vrideaux, who has worked at the Amherst bakery The Black Sheep for three years, said she was satisfied with the way the Amherst Police were handling the situation.

“They’ve definitely done enough, they’ve made their presence known,” Vrideaux said. “There are cops on every corner. People aren’t going to be drinking in public.”

Palmer Police Officer Sean Ford, who was stationed in downtown Amherst, said that there had been no problems in the morning.

“Everybody’s been nice, polite and cordial, the same as last year,” Ford said. “Hopefully it continues that way.”

Marcus McGrigg, a worker for the Amherst Business Improvement District, said that he helps with cleaning Amherst after Blarney, and said that the process of trash cleanup was “terrible” the previous year.

McGrigg said that cleaning up on Sunday normally takes about six hours.

Rick Miller, a retired professor who lives in Greenfield, said that the Blarney Blowout needed to be scaled back significantly and that the culture of Amherst encouraged the event.

“I don’t think the University does enough to limit the extent to which things get out of hand,” Miller said. “I think they wait until there’s a problem and then they react to it.”

Stuart Foster can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @Stuart_C_Foster. Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at [email protected]

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