UD crowd throws bottles, riot police fire Pepper Balls, order people out

A large, disorderly crowd of University of Dayton students throwing bottles at police was dispersed Wednesday morning by law enforcement in riot gear firing Pepper Balls and asking the students to leave, the university said.

More than 1,000 students started to gather on Lowes Street starting at around 11 p.m. Tuesday, according to a university statement. The university stated the crowd began throwing objects and bottles on to the street and at police, as well as jumping on cars.

“Police gave verbal orders to disperse, which were ignored,” the UD statement said. “Police initially launched Pepper Balls, which contain powder with an irritant that disperses quickly, that were unsuccessful in reducing the crowd size.”

A video posted on social media shows police firing the Pepper Balls into the ground. Students at the scene complained that they felt officers were firing tear gas at them, according to videos at the scene, however, Pepper Balls are different. The company that makes Pepper Balls says on their website that they are safe and have not caused any deaths or serious injuries in over 20 years of use.

UD said campus police and Dayton police again gave orders for the students to clear the street at around 2:15 a.m. The students complied at that time, the university says.

At least one person was injured by a thrown bottle. The extent of the injuries was not known Wednesday. A Dayton police report lists more than 10 vehicles that were damaged as part of the incident.

The specific reason behind the gathering is still unclear, but many at the scene and on social media said it was a combination of protest for the university closing student housing abruptly following coronavirus concerns and also served as an opportunity for students to party one last time before the university is closed until April 6.

UD announced on Tuesday that it was closing the university due to concerns of coronavirus and canceled classes Wednesday. It also asked all residential UD students to leave campus by 6 p.m.

Students will take online courses during the two weeks after spring break between March 23 and April 5.

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The incident brought back memories of 2018 when UD student partiers had a run-in with campus police while celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. During that incident, UD officers encountered an “extremely” dangerous situation where rocks, bottles, fireworks and other projectiles were thrown at and struck officers.

In 2013, a riot broke out on St. Patrick’s Day evening, when more than 1,000 people gathered on Keifaber Street and students were jumping on cars, throwing glass beer bottles and yelling at police officers. Police from 10 jurisdictions responded to the incident, which was the first major St. Patrick’s Day problem since the 1990s.

Dayton Police are preparing for this year’s St. Patrick’s Day on Tuesday, although the impact and public safety ramifications of the First Four, primary elections and St. Patrick’s Day happening on the same day are in question now that authorities are requiring limited public gatherings.

Dayton Police Lt. James G. Mullins said the department is prepared to keep the public safe during the holiday.

“With St. Patrick Day comes with people out celebrating, so we wanted to say it’s great, come out and have a good time but do so responsibly,” Mullins said. “Make sure you have a sober ride home. There are lots of opportunities out there for that.”

He said he doesn’t expect the same amount of crowds out and about on St. Patrick’s Day like there was a few years ago when the holiday landed on a Saturday, but the department does anticipate patrons throughout the city and mainly the Oregon District.

“We will have a stepped-up police enforcement activity including more patrols,” he said.

St. Patrick’s Day is traditionally a day where drinking and driving arrests go up, Mullins said, as well as disorderly conduct cases.

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