Police define Sox gathering as a ‘riot’
Published: Friday, November 8, 2013
Updated: Friday, November 8, 2013 03:11
After the Boston Red Sox victory Wednesday, Oct. 30, around 3,000 students of the University of New Hampshire and local people gathered on Main Street in Durham, N.H., to celebrate the win.
Police, however, were ready to intercept them and quell the group before violent behavior could ensue.
“The police were there with an extensive plan that had the goal to keep the celebration from turning criminal,” David Kurz, chief of police in Durham, said.
Some students said they went to Main Street to celebrate and watch events unfold.
Marjorie Boyer, a freshman, said she went down to celebrate and “to say that [she] had been there with the rest of the Wildcats.”
“I don’t smoke or drink, so it was kind of a point and laugh type of deal,” she said. “I saw firecrackers and fireworks and got a terrible-quality picture of a kid who climbed a lamp post and the boy who was on the roof of one of the buildings.”
Anna Parsons, a sophomore, said she went to Main Street around five minutes after the Red Sox victory.
“I was right across from where a guy was waving an American flag,” Parsons said. “I could [see] people drinking champagne and beer. There was some kid setting off little firework, popper things and when they would do that everyone would jump and move because they thought the cops were shooting at us.”
The police soon went into action by warning students over a speaker in addition to previous warnings sent to students about gathering on Main Street.
There was some disagreement between the police and students, however, as to those warnings.
Paul Dean, chief of University of New Hampshire police, was not on the scene, but knows how police react to riots. He said that in this case, like others, officers sent students multiple warnings about gathering on Main Street.
“There was stuff in [The New Hampshire] about what to do and what not to … emails were sent to students and their parents, it was very clear what the expectations were to do,” Dean said. “You can’t block roadways. You simply can’t do that, unless there’s some permit where there’s an event and traffic controls in place to do that.
“I think some students just [thought], ‘What’re the police going to do?’ I think that they were given an opportunity to celebrate to the point that they had and then they were told to leave,” he said. “They were given warnings, to my understanding it was three warnings … but these are pretty standard things we do: we give warnings and then disperse the crowd.”
Kurz also said “letters [were sent] to every student’s parents, to students, through media, et cetera, urging them not to engage in criminal activity during the celebration.”
The riot, according to Kurz, later resulted in five arrests for disorderly conduct.
Some students said that they did not hear the verbal warnings police gave at the riot.
“I, personally, got no warning from the police prior to the game,” Boyer said. “I knew they [the police] obviously didn’t want us there. Some people talked about getting an email, but I did not. Someone retweeted their warning after the game …”
“I never did hear a warning from the cops,” Parsons said. “The only [warning] I received was when they started marching our way.”
Kurz responded and said that law states that police “must make [the] effort [to warn people] so we do the announcement three times and when the police move forward with a line of police officers, the ‘reasonable and prudent man’ must understand and/or comprehend that ‘maybe I should be leaving now.’”
When rioters began throwing bottles and other debris, police reacted with “pepper spray foggers,” according to Kurz. The foggers, which have a distance of three feet, brought officers within range of the debris, so the police changed to pepper ball guns. Pepper balls are packs of pepper spray within a ball, which can be shot against any solid object, including people, and cause the same effects as pepper spray.
“It wasn’t until I had gotten shot that I pushed my way through the crowd of people and went back to the dorm,” Parsons said. “I have a bruise that is about the size of the palm of my hand.”
Nathaniel Tully, a sophomore, went to the scene to take pictures, but did not know police would use the pepper spray or pepper balls.
“I was down by the police taking some pictures when they went over a loud speaker saying this was an illegal public gathering,” Tully said. “I didn’t hear any warnings regarding pepper spray.”
There was also some disagreement between gatherers and authorities on whether or not the gathering should be classified as a riot.
“What the newspapers and media are calling a ‘riot’ on our campus seems wrong because there was no severe danger and the students weren’t angry; we were happy and celebrating and having a night that everyone here on campus will always remember,” Serena Trubacz, a freshman, said.
“… When the bottles began being thrown and vehicles damaged, the celebration became criminal,” Kurz said. “Under [New Hampshire] law, everyone not removing themselves after we issued three orders over a cruiser public address system to do so were actually committing a crime and could have been arrested. That means simply standing on a sidewalk and watching under these circumstances subjected persons to arrest.”