Police define Sox gathering as a 'riot'

By Corinne Holroyd
On November 8, 2013

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."

Kurz also cited the New Hampshire law for what defines a riot, which includes "any person who refuses to comply with a lawful order to withdraw given to him immediately prior to, during or immediately following a violation [of two or more people gathering with tumultuous or violent intent] is guilty of riot."

Some students also said that police overreacted to the situation.

"I do think they overreacted at the point when they moved in on the crowd," Tully said. "If they didn't get involved it looked like the only damage would have been a few beer cans and champagne bottles on the ground."

However, Kurz and Dean disagreed, saying that police acted in a way as to protect students and property.

"I believe there was significant restraint and professionalism displayed by the officers," Kurz said.

Dean agreed and added that the way officers acted was the best way to clear the streets.

"The reality is, that is the safest way to disperse the crowd, and it worked, and it does work," he said. "At the end of the day, there were no injuries. Police officers weren't injured and the people in the crowd were not injured, at least nobody reported anything here to the UNH Police Department."

Dean also explained that the job of the police is to prevent damage and injuries from happening in the first place.

"Some students may see that as 'well, we weren't doing anything,'" he said. "... Well we're not going to let it get there. We're not going to watch people destroy public property if we can stop that from happening."

While students and police may not agree on every aspect of the celebration, officers and students said they understood that the Red Sox victory was to be celebrated, but not by rioting.

"I blame the stupid people throwing the glass bottles at the police for the whole thing because, after that happened, they [the police] had to react," Boyer said.

Dean said that officers wanted people to celebrate in a safe way, but police handled this situation well.

"It seemed to disperse quickly when the police went to disperse it. I've heard estimates of 30 to 45 minutes total," Dean said. "... I know that we want people to celebrate. We want to be watching the game too, but the reality is that we have to keep order."


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