Another quiet ‘Blarney’ weekend

Eight noise complaints, two fires reported


(Judith Gibson-Okunieff)

By Collegian News Staff

The annual “Blarney” celebrations at the University of Massachusetts were contained and limited in terms of rowdiness this year, with extensive security measures in place.

In years past, the weekend has entailed large groups of students celebrating St. Patrick’s Day the weekend before spring break. Day drinking in local bars and off-campus housing complexes has been a campus safety concern. In 2014, 55 people were arrested and several were injured during that year’s renowned “Blarney Blowout.”

This year, the town of Amherst, its police department and regional law enforcement partners worked throughout the day to ensure the “safety of the community, safety of first responders and protection of private property,” according to a press release from the UMass News and Media Relations.

“Once again, the efforts of the town and University have maintained the safety of our community and prevented any significant issues during the course of the day,” said town manager Paul Bockelman in a press release. “Our success in addressing this challenge underscores the importance of our partnership with the University.”

In the days prior to “Blarney,” the University described its “comprehensive plan” to prevent arrests and property damage, including outreach to the town of Amherst, increased police presence and the “Mullins Live!” concert.

“Mullins Live!,” a free concert for UMass students, included in its lineup this year 21 Savage, GoldLink and Big Sean. More than 3,700 students attended the concert, which ran from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Throughout the week, 5,500 tickets were distributed to students.

Police Officer Christopher Stechmann was positioned at the Mullins Center and said lines had been “slow but steady.”

“Blarney this year, I don’t think it’ll be too crazy, just because all the step-up with the police force…the buses, the concert. There are just so many other things,” sophomore management major Alicia Creswell said at approximately 11 a.m.

“Last year, I thought it was pretty good. It wasn’t as crazy as I thought the past years [were],” Creswell added.

Law enforcement presence in the University area was also constant and thorough, with officers from the UMass Police Department and Amherst Police Department, as well as officers from various surrounding towns, including Amherst, Easthampton, Chicopee, Belchertown, Pelham, Deerfield and West Springfield. Massachusetts State Police officers were also involved in the day’s operations.

Large groups of officers were located outside of many off-campus housing locations, including the Townehouses, Puffton, Crestview, Brandywine and Presidential apartments.

For 22-year-old Hugh Byrne, a student at Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont, the festivities were both safe and tame, attributing this to the large police presence.

“So far, the police presence has been kind of high, which I feel safe about,” said Byrne, who drove approximately three hours from Northfield to celebrate; however, he noted that the “Blarney” celebrations didn’t live up to his expectations.

Police call volumes reportedly increased at midday with “pockets of activity” in South Amherst and toward lower Main Street. Police responded to eight noise complaints and two reports of fights.

Police noted “heavier than usual” foot traffic in the downtown area, and that a “large gathering” near South Prospect Street and Northampton Road was dispersed by police order.

Additionally, two students were placed in custody at the “Mullins Live!” concert by UMPD, and at another location, one person was arrested for assault and battery on a police officer and disorderly conduct by APD.

Police officers stationed in various locations within the community reported cooperation, respect and positive communication with students.

“A key factor today was the cooperation displayed by students at the Mullins Center concert and off campus,” said Enku Gelaye, UMass vice chancellor of student affairs and campus life. “I congratulate our students, including our Team Positive Presence volunteers, for helping make today a safe and peaceful event.”

The Amherst Fire Department triage unit and UMass Emergency Medical Services treated 18 people at the Mullins Center concert. Four patients were transported to Cooley Dickinson Hospital for intoxication, while another was taken to the hospital for hypothermic symptoms, according to News and Media Relations. A sixth student was later transported from a dining common to Cooley Dickinson to be treated for intoxication.

Elsewhere on campus, an ambulance responded to another call, but no transport was required.

Last year, seven people were treated at the concert and one was transported to Cooley Dickinson Hospital for intoxication.

Members of the news staff can be reached at [email protected]