Police respond to College Fest riots at press conference

DKS Editors

CLICK HERE for a recap of the entire press conference on our Twitter account.

Kent police chief James Peach gave the police department’s account of what happened Saturday night at a press conference late this morning.

After a female observed drinking underage was arrested Saturday night at nearly 8 p.m., other partiers came to her aid, taunting and threatening the police officers, Peach said.

“The officers told them to get away, back away,” Peach said. “They were interfering with the arrest of another. They refused to comply at that time, in order to effect the arrest, the officers pushed the people away; one was a female who fell down from that incident.”

Peach said that after this, partygoers at College Fest, which ended in riots Saturday night, began throwing bottles, cans and pieces of concrete at officers. Eight to 10 officers then went door-to-door on College Avenue in attempt to clear the street.

This attempt did not last long, Peach said, because they were continually pelted.

“The crowd was very confrontational, threatening and taunting throughout this entire period,” Peach said.

When it got to the point where the Kent and Kent State police officers’ safety was jeopardized, they called upon mutual aid from other departments. Those that responded were the Portage County sheriff, the Ohio state highway patrol, the Metro SWAT team and the Brimfield, Ravenna and Brady Lake police departments.

Police officers then began staging on the west side of College Avenue. Forty-five minutes later, officers in riot uniforms and gear lined up, giving orders through electronic speakers to stop their actions and leave the area immediately. Peach said they were repeatedly told that failure to leave would result in their arrest.

Meanwhile, partygoers had set a fire in the middle of the street.

The fire, Peach said, was the length of the street, and flames were 25 to 30 feet high. People were fueling the fire with porches, fences and doors from houses they may or may not have lived at.

He said officers continued a “slow, methodical process” to get people off the streets so firefighters could put out the flames. However, they could not do so because they, too, were being pelted with objects.

Only about a third of the crowd left when police asked them to, leaving 1,500 to 2,000 people in the streets, Peach said.

“It was necessary for the officers to use non-lethal pepperballs, stinger grenades and baton rounds to disperse the angry and hostile crowd,” Peach said. “It took officers approximately an hour and a half to disperse the length of College Street from one side to the other.”

He said 50 people were arrested for failure to disperse.

Contact public affairs reporter Christina Stavale at [email protected]

Check KentNewsNet.com for more updates throughout the day. Also, be sure to watch TV2’s newscast at 5:30 p.m. for the latest news regarding the College Fest riots. You can watch a live feed directly on KentNewsNet.