Police tear gas crowd at college party

April 6, 2008 2:26:12 PM PDT
Police used tear gas early Sunday to disperse a crowd at a large party near the campus of Michigan State University after fights broke out and officers were pelted with bottles and cans. Police said in a statement that 3,000 to 4,000 people had gathered for the Cedar Fest party late Saturday. They said 52 people were arrested and 48 others were ticketed for various offenses.

Nearly every officer at the scene reported being struck by a flying object, Police Chief Tom Wibert said at a news conference Sunday. Four small fires were reported and windows were smashed on two police vehicles.

"I don't see how we could have dispersed the crowd without tear gas," Wibert said. He said the gas was used as a last resort and officers showed restraint throughout the night.

Wibert said the injuries to some officers and partygoers were mostly cuts and bruises.

Authorities said the crowd became increasingly unruly after 1 a.m., and about 80 officers from various jurisdictions worked to contain the crowd.

Wibert said police initially used only loud, smoking munitions rather than tear gas to try to get the crowd to leave, but only about half of the people dispersed. Tear gas was fired at about 2 a.m.

Police said many of the troublemakers weren't Michigan State students. Of the 52 people arrested, 28 had been identified as university students. They could face charges ranging from disorderly conduct to inciting a riot. More charges could be coming after police review videotape.

The event was held at Cedar Village, a student housing complex bordering the northeast side of campus.

The city and Michigan State University had warned people on Friday to stay away from the event, which was an attempt to revive an East Lansing party tradition that had been ended because of past problems.

In 2005, a crowd of more than 2,000 college students and others swarmed downtown East Lansing after the Michigan State men's basketball team lost in the Final Four. Police arrested 42 people.

In 1999, property damage was estimated at up to $500,000 when the Spartan men lost in the Final Four. Revelers overturned cars, smashed store windows and set fires. Police arrested 132 people, including 71 Michigan State students.

There also were problems during the Spartans' 2003 NCAA tournament run. But large gatherings during Final Four appearances in 2000 and 2001, for the most part, were peaceful.