04/06/2008

Mich. police tear gas crowd at college party

By The Associated Press

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Police early Sunday used tear gas 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.

Thousands of people had gathered for the party titled Cedar Fest in East Lansing on Saturday night, and police say the crowd became increasingly unruly about 1 a.m., the Lansing State Journal and The State News reported.

Tear gas was fired about 2 a.m. after repeated loudspeaker warnings to leave were ignored, and the crowd had dispersed about an hour later. Police said arrests were made at the event, but didn't release exact numbers.

''The amount of people being hit was ridiculous,'' East Lansing police Chief Tom Wibert said.

Wibert said police initially only used loud, smoking munitions without the burning affect of tear gas to try to get the crowd to leave, but only about half dispersed. At that point, he said, tear gas was used.

Wibert said police tried to avoid the use of tear gas. ''The hardcore ones wanted to be tear gassed, that's what it is,'' he said. ''Our guys were just taking too many bottles.''

Police told The Associated Press on Sunday morning that no additional information would be released until a news conference later in the day.

A university spokesman told The AP on Sunday he didn't have any information on the disturbance.

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

The event was held at Cedar Village, a student housing complex bordering the northeast side of campus. East Lansing has been the site of several past disturbances.

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. Damage was estimated at $8,275.

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.

 

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