Cody Cousino / Photo editor
The Columbus Division of Police described situations at two block parties over the weekend as “extremely dangerous,” but did not say how many arrests occurred or explain why pepper spray was used to end both events.
Neighborhood block parties Woodfest, on East Woodruff Avenue Friday night into Saturday, and ChittShow, on Chittenden Avenue Saturday night into Sunday, included almost every residence on those streets on their respective nights.
Columbus Police Sgt. Richard Weiner said Columbus Police had an incident-action plan in place before Ohio State’s weekend’s parties, outlining what its response would be if the parties got out of control. He said the incident-action plan is followed up by an after-action report filed by the lieutenant on the scene during the block parties.
Weiner said it could take up to two weeks for the lieutenant to file the report, and the number of arrests made at Woodfest and ChittShow will remain unknown until the report is filed.
Although Weiner said the number of arrests made at Woodfest 2012 is unknown, one non-student was arrested for disorderly conduct early Saturday morning near Woodruff Avenue, according to a report from Columbus Police. A theft was also reported on East Woodruff Avenue early Saturday morning. At about 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning at the corner of Chittenden Avenue and Indianola Avenue, Columbus Police had one male in the back of a police car, and another male was talking to an officer outside of the car. Neither men were handcuffed.
In May 2011, Columbus Police also used pepper spray to shut down Woodfest, but no pepper spray was used to break up ChittShow in 2011. According to reports, three people were arrested at each of the two block parties last year.
On May 15, 2011, Weiner met with reporters to discuss Woodfest, which had taken place the Saturday night before. At the conference, he discussed arrests that had been made at Woodfest.
This year Columbus Police used pepper spray to break up both parties, but Weiner said after talking to the police commander who was on the scene, he wasn’t sure why.
“I don’t know why they used (pepper spray),” Weiner said. “I do know that bottles were thrown at officers, and the situation was extremely dangerous.”
Weiner said the large party situation was dangerous due to a swelling crowd and bottles being thrown at officers. He said the police’s ultimate goal was for no one to get hurt, students or officers.
Ohio State Police Deputy Chief Richard Morman said he thinks Columbus Police handled the situation well, and University Police was there to assist.
“I think the tactics they used worked very well,” Morman said.
Morman said he is “fairly certain” University Police did not use pepper spray.
At Woodfest, Greg Sabol, a third-year in physics, said he watched the Columbus Police interact from inside his friend’s house on Woodruff Avenue.
“As far as police, I saw a girl walking by herself, talking on the phone, after police had done some of the spraying and most people had left, which I don’t think she knew, and I saw a cop nail her in the face point-blank with pepper spray,” Sabol said.
Sabol said he did not see anything dangerous except people spilling into the street, but when they were told to disperse, Sabol said they complied.
“I saw the same group of cops (who had sprayed the girl) walk up to a kid who was sitting on the ground and had already been sprayed, he had his hand over his eyes,” Sabol said. “They didn’t spray him directly, but they sprayed the area on the ground around him, almost as if they were bullying him.”
Sabol said he didn’t think police gave people enough time to cooperate and get out of the way of the pepper spray. He said he saw police walk through the grass and tell people to go inside their homes, but that it wasn’t on a megaphone.
“If anyone had been preoccupied or not paying attention, they wouldn’t have heard the warnings,” Sabol said. “The police talked in a normal talking voice, and I didn’t think that was fair.”
Despite police statements that Woodfest became dangerous, Sabol said the environment was generally positive amongst OSU students.
Weiner said some issues came from people who were not OSU students. He said they don’t have the same invested interest in partying safely that OSU students might have.
“We encourage students to participate in student life,” Weiner said. “We’ve been to college, we know what it’s like, and we’re not discouraging that. We are just telling them to stay safe.”
Morman compared Woodfest and ChittShow to Halloween in Athens, Ohio, at Ohio University. He said he noticed people who seemed to come in late with no destination in mind, people who might have been from outside the university or out of town who had just heard about the parties.