UMass-Amherst students criticize police response to Blarney Blowout bash

Students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst rallied in protest today against the police response to an unruly outdoor party last weekend, alleging that local officers overreacted by using riot gear and pepper spray to break up the large crowds.

Referring to videos that show police aggressively detaining partiers, UMass students denounced the Amherst department’s handling of the Blarney Blowout, a St. Patrick’s Day celebration, which led to 55 arrests.

“The videos definitely show that students were treated like animals,” said Zac Broughton, president of the university’s student government association. “They wanted to send a message.”

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The Amherst police chief, Scott Livingstone, said officers worked “diligently and professionally” to disperse unruly crowds that swelled to more than 4,000, and said they were pelted with bottles, full cans of beer, and snowballs.

In a statement issued Monday, Livingstone said police had to break up the large gatherings to protect public safety. He denounced students for “dangerous and assaultive behavior.”

“The events of this past Saturday were extremely upsetting and hazardous,” he said. “The behavior of many participants of this melee caused the public and first responders to be placed in a very dangerous situation.”