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Police use pepper spray to disperse block party near Ohio State

Photo courtesy of Kris Bradley

Columbus police officers responded to a disorderly crowd and several house parties at about midnight Saturday. Police used pepper spray to control the situation.

The block party, Woodfest ’11, took place one block east of High Street on Woodruff Avenue. Officers from the Columbus Police Department, armed with pepper spray, demanded that people return to their homes, get off the street and leave the area.

According to the police report, officers encountered a large crowd on Woodruff, and saw several house parties with more than 1,000 people blocking the street.

Officers attempted to clear the streets with a chemical substance, when several bottles were thrown at the officers. Columbus police reported that three officers sustained injuries and that several people were arrested.

Matthew Coleman, a 19-year-old majoring in biology, Brian Witt, a 21-year-old majoring in civil engineering, and Michael Shivak, 21, were arrested for assault on a police officer following the block party.

All three were charged with assault on a police officer, and Coleman was charged with two counts of assault on a police officer. Coleman and Witt tried to evade police and sustained ‘minor injuries’ in the process.

Sgt. Melissa McFadden of Columbus police said the substance used to deter the crowd was pepper spray.

Ray Giesige, a third-year in construction systems management, said police were walking up and down the street with the pepper spray, spraying anyone close to them.

“It cleared out the area pretty fast,” Giesige said. “There were thousands of people there.”

Giesige said he saw one police cruiser attempt to drive east on Woodruff, when he encountered hundreds of people blocking the way. Giesige said he saw people jumping on the car and throwing bottles and cans at the police cruiser.

About a minute later, other police cruisers began to block the road and a police van led the way as five officers followed on foot, spraying the entire area with Mace, Giesige said.

Katie Gannon, a third-year in computer and information science, said she did not expect the situation to escalate to that level.

“I just turned around and started breathing the spray,” Gannon said. “It was just crazy.”

Columbus police officers were unavailable to comment on the scene. 

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