Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Amherst Police Dept. uses pepper spray to disperse party on Hobart Lane

(Collegian File Photo)

The Amherst Police Department dispersed a Hobart Lane party with pepper spray on Sept. 16, firing three bursts into a crowd gathered outside.

Morgan Harris, a sophomore studying marketing at the University of Massachusetts, arrived at the party at 11 p.m. and noticed police cars parked. Harris said that she assumed the cars were only parked there to ensure the party did not get out of control.

Around an hour later she said she and her friends were preparing to take a picture when they started to get pushed by the crowd. Harris said she got lost from her friends in the commotion.

“I saw flashlights. I breathed in and I started coughing,” she said. “I didn’t breathe in a lot of it, I was really worried I was going to have an asthma attack.”

Harris said that she could still feel the presence of pepper spray on her face after she went home, and that those traces remained into the next morning.

In an article published on Sept. 19 by The Daily Hampshire Gazette, APD Detective Michael Forcum said police officers were prompted to use the pepper spray after college-aged people threw cans and bottles at each other and at police officers. The officers’ spray cleared the party by 12:28 a.m.

The article said that at least three people were struck by beer cans or bottles, and that around 2,000 people attended the party.

Harris estimated a much smaller amount of people, a few hundred, were present in the time she was there, and that the party itself was not particularly rowdy.

“I saw people throwing half empty beer cans,” she said. “They do that anyway.”

“They break up parties every single weekend so it shouldn’t really be a big deal for them,” she added.

Harris said that she thought responding police officers used excessive force when breaking up the party. According to her, the party-goers were already beginning to respond to dispersal orders.

“They need to be more careful in how they respond to the parties,” she said.

This is at least the second instance this month in which APD has used pepper spray.

According to a MassLive article published on Sept. 12, the first instance took place on Sept. 11 at 12:33 a.m. when two men leaving a Hobart Lane party began to fight. This party had also been broken up by the APD immediately before the use of pepper spray.

The police officer quoted in the article said that the two men fighting on N. Pleasant Street had to be subdued with pepper spray before being arrested.

The APD did not respond to requests for comments from The Daily Collegian.

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

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