This weekend’s Woodfest ’11 resulted in law enforcement intervention and injuries, arrests, thrown bottles and the use of pepper spray.
Columbus police encountered a crowd of more than 1,000 people at about midnight Saturday on East Woodruff Avenue and attempted to disperse the crowd flooding the street. According to the police report, the officers used pepper spray to disband the crowd after bottles and cans were thrown at police.
“We haven’t had issues like this in nine or 10 years,” said Sgt. Richard Weiner, public information officer for the Columbus Police Department.
According to Lantern archives, large block parties on Chittenden Avenue in the early 2000s inspired similar police responses. Those parties were called Chittfest.
The Lantern reported that 40 Columbus Police officers in riot gear and gas masks responded to a large congregation of partygoers, resulting in 26 arrests, 13 of which were Ohio State students, on April 22, 2002.
Of the police officers that responded at Chittfest, 12 were reported to have sustained injuries. Much like Saturday night’s event, some attendees were seen throwing bottles and objects at the officers and the police wagon.
Student response to the police action was similar in both cases. While some students said the disorderly behavior and thrown bottles gave the police the right to retaliate with pepper spray, others said it wasn’t needed and created more of an issue.
Cory Yaceczko, a third-year in accounting who lives on Woodruff Avenue, said he thought pepper spraying each house involved was excessive on the police’s part.
“Everybody I talked to didn’t hear a warning,” Yaceczko said. “There was nothing really going on that was illegal.”
Yaceczko said the event started off as just a neighborhood barbecue but the crowd eventually grew.
“It started to get a lot bigger than we expected,” Yaceczko said.
Greg DalSanto, a second-year in marketing, said he didn’t think the Columbus police handled the situation properly.
“It should have never escalated,” DalSanto said. “I don’t think people should have been Maced or tear-gassed.”
DalSanto said he never heard the police give warnings over a loudspeaker.
Weiner, however, said police did give proper warning and acted appropriately.
“There was a lieutenant inside that wagon that gave the dispersal warning,” Weiner said. “You can’t hear it on the YouTube video, but that lieutenant has assured chain of command that the dispersal warning was given.”
Woodfest and Chittfest aren’t the only large parties to result in problems for police and OSU students.
In 1989, more than 70 people were injured and six were arrested at a block party that the Office of Student Life sponsored at the French Field House, according to Lantern archives. An estimated 3,500 people attended the annual event, some of which were seen carrying knives and guns.
According to Lantern archives, on April 21, 2001, between 1,500 and 2,000 people congregated on Chittenden Avenue. People were reportedly rocking cars, setting fires, throwing bottles and a motorist was assaulted. Police used tear gas and knee-knocker wooden bullets to try to disperse the crowd.
One week later, similar incidents occurred on East Norwich Avenue, also called Norwichfest, and East 13th Avenue, according to Lantern archives.