Students riot on Chittenden, fourth OSU riot in a year
Published: Saturday, April 21, 2001
Updated: Saturday, June 16, 2012 00:06
The four-week-old extension of Ohio State's Code of Conduct off campus and OSU's two-week-old party patrol did not perform up to expectations early this morning when a group of more than 2,000 students and area residents rioted on Chittenden Avenue.
"About 10 p.m. I drove through on my way to a movie with my girlfriend and it was starting up," said James Brown, a local Columbus resident. "I think it really started up after midnight."
Columbus Division of Police estimated the event escalated around 1:30 a.m., when the parties changed from an almost Mardi Gras feel to the fourth riot in just over a year in the off-campus area. The riot also took a more violent trend than the previous disturbances with a motorist being beaten outside his vehicle and reports of a person driving a car into a line of police.
"That person could very well be facing felony charges," said Sgt. Earl Smith, spokesman for the Columbus Division of Police, about the man who was accused of driving into the police. That man and one other person are the only two arrests reported so far.
Around 2:15 a.m. the Chittenden block just east of Pearl Alley had filled with people, encircling a car, with a group of four or five people standing on the front hood before one man began jumping on the back of the car, eventually smashing the back window. With the rear dented and broken, two people then began kicking the side windows, and the car appeared totally trashed when students returned to setting off fireworks in the street.
Shortly afterward, at about 2:30 a.m., police began to advance eastward on Chittenden, firing tear gas at least twice to try to disperse the crowd.
Partiers appeared to escape between houses, running both north and south into the alleys behind Chittenden. Many students also fled east on Chittenden toward campus, crossing High Street and stopping to stand on the lawn in front of Drinko Hall.
"My opinion is they don't take enough preventive measures to keep stuff like this from happening," said Brad Bethel, a junior in communication. "When it gets big like this, what can they do but shoot the rubber bullets and tear gas?"
Columbus police reached High Street, but began to pull back after bottles were thrown at them from behind. At that point, a group of about 200 rioters tried to charge back down Chittenden but were turned away by a second set of volleys of tear gas students standing on High Street said.
"About 200 people crossed High Street to go back again," said Tim Schmidt, a sophomore in political science. "The cops chased them back across though."
The students stayed on the Drinko lawn before venturing into High Street a couple people at a time, slowing down traffic. One middle-aged man dragged a tree into the middle of High Street, stopping traffic while students on Drinko lawn cheered him on.
Meanwhile, a group of students began to cluster on the East Side of High Street facing Drinko. This new group through a trash can into the street, with the contents spewing across the northbound lanes. Cars driving by began to honk at the growing crowds which only egged the masses further.
The students clustered around a southbound vehicle, encircling it and rocking it for more than 30 seconds, before clearing from the street again. When the light turned red again, another vehicle stopped, this one facing north, and one man from the crowd stepped in front of it and looked like he hit the hood of the car.
The driver, agitated, opened his door and went to the front of his car to confront the individual. A short melee ensued, with the driver being assaulted by several people from the crowd before he was able to get inside his vehicle again and take off, speeding north and away from the yelling crowd cheering for either side.
Three police cars quickly arrived at the scene, with the officers chasing the students who standing on campus toward the west and the far side of Drinko Hall.
Another group of students moved back eastward onto Chittenden Avenue about 3:15 a.m. "We can't afford to babysit the irresponsible behavior that appears here. That's a problem," Smith said.
The group of people returning to Chittenden were greeted with a fire burning in the middle of the street, practically next to the original car that was smashed at the start of the riot.
With fireworks being shot off and bottles being thrown from the houses again, the crowd advanced toward the fire until Columbus police came westward down the street once again shooting knee-knocker wooden bullets into the ground and driving everyone into the houses on Chittenden Avenue.
"The officers used tear gas, knee knockers - virtually anything and everything," Smith said.
About 20 minutes later, seven or eight police stood on Chittenden at Pearl Alley while a fire truck showed up to put out a Dumpster fire that had started in an alley parallel to Chittenden.
"This is very typical for this area - it's quite a problem," Smith said. Shortly after 4 a.m. trickles of people began to exit various houses and apartments to return to their actual residences.
Police had two cars towed from Chittenden and sent water trucks down the street in the early morning trying to clear the street of broken bottle glass and other debris that followed the unrest despite a small group of people throwing an occasional bottle into the street.
The violence occurred on one of the first warm weekends of the year and followed two riots last fall and one riot within days of a year ago - April 17, 2000. To combat the repeated problem OSU had launched a party patrol this month. Comprised of teams of Columbus and University Police, the patrol had hoped to eliminate the rioting of OSU students.
With or without the patrol, however, the police were dependent on student behavior. "What we are asking for is voluntary support and compliance. Outside of that, I don't know what the answer is." Smith said.