Three officers were injured, multiple students were left bleeding and tear-gassed, and several vehicles were damaged after SWAT teams broke up a college party of at least 800 people in Boulder, Colorado.
"Three SWAT officers were struck with bricks and rocks and suffered minor injuries," according to the Boulder Police Department.
The chaos erupted just after 8 pm on Saturday in the University Hill neighbourhood of Boulder, a college town home to the main campus of the University of Colorado, the largest university in the state.
An armoured police vehicle sent to the scene had its windshield shattered and ver 100 people started running towards the officers before teargas was deployed, according to Chief of the Boulder Police Department Maris Herold.
The University of Colorado put out a statement, calling the huge party "unacceptable and irresponsible, particularly in light of the volume of training, communication and enforcement the campus and city have dedicated to ensuring compliance with Covid-19 public health orders".
Most of the party-goers were not wearing masks or social distancing. Boulder County district attorney Michael Dougherty called the party a “tremendous setback” against the city's pandemic fighting efforts. County public health director Jeff Zayach called the lack of pandemic safeguards employed by the students “shocking and disturbing," The New York Times reported.
Officers were at the scene by 8.30pm and used loudspeakers to try to disperse the crowd and to tell them to leave or risk being arrested.
As the party got out of hand, people set off fireworks, flipped over a car, and reportedly threw rocks and bottles at officers, CBS4 reported.
The university tweeted: "Any student who is found responsible for having engaged in acts of violence or other egregious acts connected to the events will face serious sanctions up to expulsion from CU Boulder, and may also face criminal and civil sanctions."
Chief Herold said police vehicles sustained damages to the tune of “thousands and thousands and thousands” of dollars, CBS4 Denver reported.
The neighbourhood is simply called "The Hill" and it's where many of the town's bars, frats and sororities are situated. Chief editor of student-run news site CU Independent Anna Haynes wrote in The New York Times in October 2020 that The Hill is "the place you go to party, pandemic or not".
Students who live in the area said they had small get-togethers in their yards to enjoy the good weather. People who didn't live in the area and local high school students began arriving in the street as images of the scene were shared on social media.
University student Brynn Umansky told The New York Times: “As soon as it turned dark, it turned into a whole mob and it literally kept growing over the night until the cops came".
She added: “It was really scary and awful and the police didn’t do anything for hours. It was a lot, especially living right here and seeing all of it and not being able to do anything about it.”
CBS4 Denver spoke to a group of students who said “No one was trying to do anything harmful. It’s the cops that were trying to harm us".
They claimed they saw what took place but that they were not part of the group of people damaging vehicles and throwing around garbage.
They added: “It’s sad, but when kids are locked up for months they act like animals.”
Police say they have "excellent" video evidence of the party which they will use to make arrests.
Chief Herold said at a news conference Sunday: "Believe me, we have excellent body-worn camera video and the community is sending us video. There will be arrests.”
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