People gather Saturday for the pre-St. Patrick’s Day “Blarney Blowout” near the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Mass. According to the Amherst police department, four police officers were hurt as they worked to disperse hundreds of unruly students who were throwing beer cans and bottles at police on Saturday as large crowds gathered at the off-campus apartment complex.
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Officials at Indiana University of Pennsylvania plan to work with Indiana Borough police to identify students who were cited or arrested for alcohol-fueled offenses on Saturday as part of a pre-St. Patrick's Day celebration.
The area around the IUP campus was the scene of rowdy disruptions by groups as large as several hundred people throughout Saturday, making it the most recent local site of out-of-control gatherings of college students around St. Patrick's Day.
It was the second year of St. Patrick's Day disruption at the campus, even though university leaders had tried to fend it off through educational programs about alcohol abuse and alternative activities for the weekend.
"We are doing as much as we can to change the expectations for what this event is," said IUP spokeswoman Michelle Fryling. "Unfortunately it is not unique to IUP."
At the University of Massachusetts on Saturday, police in riot gear arrested more than 73 students, some of whom threw beer cans, bottles and snowballs, causing minor injuries to four officers.
The celebration, known as "Blarney Blowout," involved thousands of people who came to Amherst, Mass., to celebrate St. Patrick's Day before spring break began for students.
In Morgantown, home to West Virginia University, a 2012 St. Patrick's Day celebration resulted in rioting with dumpster fires and light poles knocked over, and a video of events that went viral.
And since 2007, Penn State University has been the site of State Patty's Day celebrations, generally held early in March, which include public drinking and rowdiness. Students created the day as an alternative celebration for the patron saint of the Irish because March 17 fell during spring break.
But this year, Penn State made some headway combatting excessive drinking incidents during State Patty's Day, which was celebrated March 1. That's because the university paid local bars, restaurants and bottle shops to not serve alcohol during the event.
As a result, local police said arrests this year were down by 47 percent from last year. That reduction was on top of a 37 percent reduction in arrests in 2013, the first year the university offered payments to local establishments to halt alcohol sales.
Indiana Borough police Cpl. Justin Schawl said the department was prepared for increased calls because of complaints and disturbances from celebrations in previous years. State police and officers from Homer City, Punxsutawney and the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board were on hand to assist Indiana's force.
"We had a wide range of calls and a lot of alcohol-related investigations were conducted," Cpl. Shawl said. He did not have statistics about arrests or details on charges. "There were arrests," he said Sunday, adding that more details would be forthcoming.
Ms. Fryling said the university was awaiting official police reports so that it can start university judicial proceedings against any students who were arrested or cited. She said it was her understanding some of the people involved in the incidents were not IUP students, but people visiting the area Saturday.
"We have no idea how many of the IUP students are involved. We know there are a tremendous number of visitors who come into the community for this event," Ms. Fryling said.
One particularly large crowd was noted near South Seventh Street, but it dispersed within an hour.
Ms. Fryling said the incident has been the subject of videos.
She said most of the activity had died down by Saturday night, when representatives from IUP's division of student affairs circled the streets to make sure things remained calm and "to be aware of any situation that could become dangerous," Ms. Fryling said.
The spokeswoman said IUP officials take very seriously any offenses that university students commit in the off-campus community.
"Our students know that it may not be a university police charge, but any charges that you face in our communities will impact you in our university community," she said.
Mary Niederberger: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1590. The Associated Press and the Centre Daily Times contributed.
Mary Niederberger: email@example.com or 412-263-1590. First Published March 9, 2014 12:47 PM
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