Were rights violated?
MACOMB, IL – A block party being held near the Macomb campus of Western Illinois University got so out of hand on Saturday that police responded using tear gas and riot gear. The Wheeler Street Block Party is an annual off campus event at WIU which has a reputation for being “a little crazy” as one student put it.
The Wheeler Street Block Party devolved into total mayhem on Saturday with reports of beer bottles being thrown at police who showed up in riot gear and used tear gas to disperse the crowd. Over 100 citations were issued by Macomb Police.
According to University officials, there had been a steady police presence around the party throughout the day, but when EMT’s began to treat people for dangerous blood alcohol levels police decided to disperse the crowd. At that point several acts of vandalism reportedly occurred, perpetrated by people attending the party.
A spokesperson from the McDonough County Sheriff’s department says authorities from several different police agencies started breaking up riots around 6:00 p.m. Saturday.
Some students reported that police had been in the area of the party all day checking I.D.’s to prevent underage drinking. Then suddenly, the police began using mace and ordering people to get off the street and go indoors.
Several people were arrested as a result of the “riot”. WIU President Al Goldfarb insists most of them were not students, but promised punishment for any WIU student that was incarcerated.
“Those students who were arrested will also face disciplinary action from the university. It is sad that those individuals have such little respect for themselves, their community and their university,” Goldfarb said in a written statement.
Was this a case of overreaction by local police. Was this a case of drunks out of control, or were rights violated by an out of proportion response?
RTR.org reports, “Students attending the Wheeler Block Party were met by a Multi-Jurisdictional Task Force who used tear gas, LRAD sound weapons and crowd suppression tactics to force students into their homes. Gary Franchi is joined by eyewitness and victim of the raid, Julio Rausseo to review video footage and recount the abuses against the students. Establishment media and law enforcement have begun to spin the story ignoring the rights abuses.”
See video and report from RTR.org
WIU President Al Goldfarb’s entire letter about the incident follows:
As has occurred at other universities that have had similar issues with unauthorized off-campus events, a small percentage of our students tarnished the reputation of our outstanding University community by their actions at the so-called “Wheeler Street Block Party.”
According to the Macomb Police Department, approximately 104 citations were issued to 89 individuals as of May 1. Of those, nearly 50 percent were non-WIU students, and several more nonstudents engaged in yesterday’s inappropriate and illegal behaviors. The vast majority of our nearly 11,000 Macomb campus students does not participate in such events and truly represents the high caliber of students we have at WIU.
Law enforcement personnel were present in the vicinity throughout the day. It was only after emergency medical personnel began treating dangerous levels of alcohol intoxication and when participants began engaging in dangerous activities, including vandalizing property and throwing bottles and other objects at local law enforcement officers who were not in protective gear, that the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System Mobile Field Force, comprised of officers from throughout the state, was called in for crowd control to ensure the safety of all present. The University supports the law enforcement agencies in their attempt to ensure the safety of our students and our community.
Those students who were arrested will also face disciplinary action from the University. It is sad that those individuals have such little respect for themselves, their community and their university, and that they, along with visitors to this community, can tarnish Western Illinois University’s reputation.
We will continue to work with our community and law enforcement to prevent events of this magnitude from happening again in the future.
Western Illinois University