Police react to JMU Springfest violence

Crowd of 8,000 damage surrounding property; officers arrest 20 to 30 people, use pepper spray, foam batons

ns-riot2-robertboag

Riots erupted at James Madison University's annual "Springfest" party Saturday when gatherers began throwing beer cans and bottles. Harrisonburg civil disturbance officers dressed in full riot gear used pepper spray, tear gas and foam batons to disperse the crowd. According to officials, between 20 and 30 people were arrested.

Held in a field between two rows of apartments known as "The Row," the open-air party usually sees between 1,000 and 2,000 people, some of whom are not university students. This year, however, an estimated crowd of 8,000 attended, and many partygoers involved were not James Madison students. The crowd quickly became unruly.

James Madison senior Keenan Lofton was at a friend's apartment on "The Row" when violence began at about 2 p.m.

"People started throwing cans and bottles at each other and then throwing bottles at houses," he said. "That was going on for 45 minutes."

The violence escalated to the point where dumpsters were set on fire, car windows were shattered and some injured individuals were sent to the University Medical Center for treatment.

Police officials had lined up throughout the field earlier in the day in a preemptive effort to discourage disorderly behavior. The officers, who were dressed in riot gear, then took action on the crowds around 3 p.m.\nIt is possible the presence of the police officers who were fully dressed in riot gear could have provoked more violence.\n"I think the cops did fuel extra anger from the students, which caused them to throw bottles at [the police]," JMU sophomore Samantha Terraforte said. "This gave them a reason to use tear gas, which just caused more chaos."\nPolice officials disagreed, however, justifying their intervention by the degree of violence and civil disruption.\n"As the crowd grew, we received complaints about property damage and injuries. The property manager also asked us to get involved," Harrisonburg Police Lt. Kurt Boshart said.\nBoshart said the department will conduct an after-action report and critique the involvement of the officers.\n"What we really want to know," he said, "is how can we avoid even getting involved. Usually it's well out of control by the time we get involved."\nAround 6 p.m., the police sent a mass text message to the James Madison student body, which asked non-residents of the area to cease events immediately for safety reasons. The riots eventually settled down, but not before crowds inflicted thousands of dollars worth of property damage.\nJames Madison President Linwood H. Rose sent an e-mail to the student body the following day in which he acknowledged the fact that most James Madison students were not involved, but reprimanded those who were.\n"To those of you who were involved, your collective behavior was an embarrassment to your university and a discredit to our reputation," the e-mail read.\nWian Vb, who began a Facebook group in response to the riots, agreed that the incident reflects poorly on the university. He believes, however, that many of the instigators were not JMU students.\n"It's sad that the actions of a few people can affect the image of a whole university," he said.


Published April 13, 2010 in News









The Cavalier Daily welcomes thoughtful, respectful and relevant comments that contribute to a public dialogue. In order to maintain a high level of discourse, all comments must be approved by our moderator. For more information, view our full comment policy.

Commentary

Add your $0.02, go to the comment form or follow the comment feed

Jeff
(01/01/70 12:00am)
Report
Comment

It is hillarious to see that students think that the police were responsible for drunks throwing bottles. I have to wonder what is going on up there at JMU education wise for a student to make such an idiotic statement. Police were only reacting to a bunch of unruly drunk fools. They are not to blame. The cops did not hold people down, pour booze down people's mouths and then force them to throw bottles and smash windows. The utter lack of person responsibility in today's culture is reprehensible. Man up and own up.


Jay
(01/01/70 12:00am)
Report
Comment

"I have to wonder what is going on up there at JMU education wise for a student to make such an idiotic statement."

Don't blame JMU education for a stupid comment made by a student. Also, cut her some slack, she was probably drunk when she made it.


JMUundergradUVAgrad
(01/01/70 12:00am)
Report
Comment

I was at Springfest this weekend at JMU as an alumni and I have to tell you, the majority of the 8000+ people were not current or former JMU students. Most were from the local community college Blue Ridge, "townies", or from other schools around VA. The initial problems were created by people that weren't from JMU. JMU students who live in the community eventually started closing their doors/kegs to out-of-towners who were becoming increasingly disrespectful and had no ties to the property. This only lead to more property damage as those people became frustrated.

As the police started to show up in formations dressed in riot gear, the same people kept out of the houses only saw them as a target and started rioting against the police.

This was my 5th Springfest, and was by far the worst. I've never seen a situation escalate like that at JMU. This event was by no means an accurate depiction of the student body at JMU or of the character they uphold.


justbeinobjective
(01/01/70 12:00am)
Report
Comment

Just a note for all you that were involved and ended up with your face plaster on a YouTube video...Hope you never look for a job that this will surface...you'll be lucky to get in the mailroom taking out the trash....


Mary
(01/01/70 12:00am)
Report
Comment

I am ashamed of this entire event. I am a "townie" meaning I did not attend JMU. However, this is my hometown and I have always supported JMU and their numerous events. The majority of the comments I have read seem to be placing the blame on anyone EXCEPT JMU students. Shame on you all....and shame on you for labeling anyone not attending JMU as "townies"...sounds like you're trying to make yourselves elitists, but judging from the videos and photos, you're anything but. You're a bunch of spoiled and entitled kids who drank too much, caused extensive property damage and want to blame everyone else. I'm sure your parents are oh, so proud. My son attends college in FL, where the parties are notorious, and they have never been involved in property damage, riot police, etc. Way to go Dukes! (or should I say dookies....because that's what your are if you were involved.!)


JMU
(01/01/70 12:00am)
Report
Comment

So, first of all, look at the arrest stats. About 10% of the people arrested actually attended JMU. Most of the rioters came from other schools and the local community. I actually met a TON of people from about an hour down the road from this place called UVA. This event far from defines JMU and the great institution that it is. Yes, it is a shame this happened, but one incident does not define the people at JMU especially when nobody knows EXACTLY who was involved(why would we want to make ourselves look bad?) This is ridiculous and the fact that students from other schools try to bash another is even more hilarious especially when I'm sure they have no idea what they are talking about, have no idea about JMU academics or the close student community that we are.


JMUStudent
(01/01/70 12:00am)
Report
Comment

You are all being ignorant. We're not placing blame on other people. We're just stating the facts. If this party happened to only have JMU students at it and no one else I can garun-effing-tee you that it would not have ended like this. And of course the police provoked us. They were tear gassing people. People got tear-gassed in their own homes! That's the exact opposite of what the police were trying to do. Now don't get me wrong, JMU students must have been involved, but to place the blame solely on JMU students is absolutely retarded! It's sad to see us looking like the bad guys when JMU is truly the victim of this riot.

If you have any interest to hear my opinion about how the situation should have been handled than hear me out. Just the simple presence of the riot police caused at least half of the people in attendance to scatter, one of which being me. If the police simply arrested unruly drunks and told the other people face-to-face to go home there would be no need for tear gas and mace. The violent acts on both ends of the story would have diminished significantly.


JMUundergradUVAgrad
(01/01/70 12:00am)
Report
Comment

To say that no JMU students were involved in the riot would be an outright lie. However students and alumni with places to go (who actually lived in the surrounding communities!) for the most part dispersed immediately when asked. The fact of the matter is, of the people involved in instigating the riot, they were primarily NOT JMU students.

The police have repeatedly stated this.

"Five men from Northern Virginia, none of whom are James Madison University students, are being held in jail without bond. The men are all charged with malicious wounding by mob, a class three felony, which carries a sentence of five to 20 years in prison."

http://www.whsv.com/home/headlines/90782769.html

Harrionsburg Police Department Lt. Kurt Boshart Boshart believes a large number of the crowd came in from different schools in the area and that led to the problems.


JMUStudent
(01/01/70 12:00am)
Report
Comment

Thanks JMUundergradUVAgrad. You have provided the links and facts to which I refer. I'm glad to see that there are people out there that realize JMU students did and still do have respect for each other, others, and their community.


Earnan
(01/01/70 12:00am)
Report
Comment

JMU student

"You are all being ignorant." Only one person, a harrisonburg townie, decried the fact that many of the prime troublemakers were not JMU students. Take it easy.

The Dukedog doth protest too much, methinks.


JMU - Parent
(01/01/70 12:00am)
Report
Comment

From a parent's point of view. OK, let me begin by stating that I was not in attendance however I have read various accounts of what happened at the "JMU Springfest Incident" in several on-line periodicals including The Washington Post.

The way I see it is if an adult throws an open door party and provides free alcohol they are just asking for trouble. Now I'm sure someone will comment that they (JMU students) didn't invite (non JMU students)and are therefore aren't responsible that things got out of control. That's BS, you need to grow up, take responsibility. Be honest, most of you all knew that they have been attending this event in previous years in ever increasing numbers. True, perhaps the violence and destruction would not have escalated to the level that it did if "outsiders" were not involved but you, their hosts knew that they were coming. You invited them through Facebook and Twitter!

Let me state for the record that I was no angel in college, admittedly quite the contrary. When I was in school we learned that even the most conservative person can become a real asshole if you add enough alcohol. We also learned that if we allowed everyone access to our free booze that we could have a great time, that is until someone over does it and gets out of hand. Oh, and by the way it rarely is the host or hosts friends that punch a hole in the wall.

Finally, as a parent, while I am not proud of my student for electing to participate in this "powder keg" and even though damages will be accessed to the student tenants and even though I will have to pay hundreds of dollars for damages that I had no part in, I will not be angry. Why not?; you ask. Quite simply, the way I see it is this fiasco was part of the learning experience and if my kid and hopefully the JMU student body as a whole learn from this and they never throw an open door party again in their lives. Well......


JMUDUKE
(01/01/70 12:00am)
Report
Comment

There are so many inaccuracies in this article, it is hard to begin...\n1. First of all, the (Forest Hills) Manor, where the parties were held on Friday night, are rarely ever called The Row. Typically the Friday night parties are in a different apartment complex (Fox Hills) but was moved this year. FRIDAY night is what typically attracts about 2000 people. THAT is Springfest. THE whole weekend IS NOT Springfest. This is so annoying to any JMU students. Overly aggresive police presence on Friday (in comparison to Saturday, MUCH smaller parties, not-as-welcoming open house policy) really irritated students and our guests.\n2. SATURDAY IS JUST KNOWN AS BLOCK PARTY. STOP referring to it as Springfest. SATURDAY in Forest Hills is mainly just for Greeks welcoming back their alumni with usually-closed parties. Saturday is what typically draws about 6-7,000 people. In the years that I've been here more and more visitors hear about the parties and come. This year I met people from FL GA MA & DE that came just for the weekend because they heard of the insanity & wanted to compete with it. These visitors (obviously with some JMU exceptions) are the ones that were dumb enough to walk around with open cans & abuse our cops (who we RARELy have even the slightest issue with at all throughout any other year; it has NEVER even come remotely come close to this). \n3. To the first comment by Jeff, you are so ignorant and misinformed about the situation, please stop running your mouth and don't try to have an actual opinion on it. Clearly you have no idea what actually went on.\n4. Obviously alcohol and the atmosphere that spring alumni weekend creates is to blame for the weekend. Not JMU students. Not our guests. The police were overly aggressive assholes all week leading up to the events for no tangible reason. Police are ALWAYS present for block party and there is rarely rarely an issue & very few arrests. Bringing in an obnoxious size of police force with riot gear & tackling & teargassing students that were just standing there is a disgrace on a police department that the students used to respect highly. Go look at many examples on youtube or facebook for clear abuse of power.\n5. Mary you should also be ashamed of yourself for generalizing a diverse student body of over 18,000 students as all elitist, spoiled and entitled. Do not pretend that you have the right to place judgement on anybody besides yourself. Your pure ignorant comment literally disgusted me more than it offended me personally.


townie
(01/01/70 12:00am)
Report
Comment

"I


Danton
(01/01/70 12:00am)
Report
Comment

"Obviously alcohol and the atmosphere that spring alumni weekend creates is to blame for the weekend. Not JMU students. Not our guests"\nSo jmu students nor guests were to blame. Who does that leave...the police, the administrators, the "system", the man?

"abuse our cops (who we RARELy have even the slightest issue with at all throughout any other year; it has NEVER even come remotely come close to this)."\nI have visited JMU enough, and my brother went there, to know this is not true. At least compared with UVa, the cops and students have a much more antaganistic relationship with each other. This is also not the first time the riot squad had to come to a block party (I was there in 2000 and saw them firsthand), although I'm sure something of this magnitude is a unique event.


Penny
(01/01/70 12:00am)
Report
Comment

So why am I go to spend 30K for my 18 year old daughter to go to this school! Between the Rave party at the library and this - we are re thinking and have until May 1st to decided. I am sure that there are other parents facing the same decision.


JMUStudent
(01/01/70 12:00am)
Report
Comment

What's wrong with the rave? That was good sober fun for over 1000 kids.


Emperor of the Moon
(01/01/70 12:00am)
Report
Comment

"JMU student made no attempt to stop when things started going out of hand."

Let me get out my tear gas and baton stash here...\n---\nJMU has had a culture of open-door, free-beer parties for many years now. There's rarely a bouncer and never a fee to drink. If an apartment did charge, few would show up. Generally, they don't get out of hand either. Tenants move their precious belongings out of their living room, and the people pile in. Attendees drink, dance, swap digits, and leave when the keg(s) run(s) dry. If a party does grow out of hand, turning the music off and hiding the kegs for thirty minutes calms things down. The people that can't play "six degrees of separation" with anyone in the room leave. Tenants regulate their own parties.

It's a system that generally has no problems, but the reputation has grown. The system can't handle over eight-thousand people wandering the streets. Tenants don't control public roads. The open-door system becomes a bucket with too much water; it spills. Students had not anticipated and were effectively disarmed. The tools that even veteran party hosts had acquired through years of late natty nights broke. When they elected to hold the event, they had no idea it was going to become this large.

Pointing fingers is easy enough, but what's done is done. The system finally came to a head--and it's done its worst--but it's not the end. This will affect it. I'm sure the reaction now is unnoticeable, but future parties will have different moods. The spirit will change, and above all, the system will change. The open-door, free-beer system might finally crumble down. I can't be sure though. I just know that parties in the shadow of this event will be different and set a different context for incoming students in the future.


Butchie Boy
(01/01/70 12:00am)
Report
Comment

Gee, guess no one here is old enough to recall "Easters".\nNothing good comes from mixing students and unlimited alcohol. Period.



Powered by powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News