AMHERST, Mass. -- An early St. Patrick's Day celebration around the University of Massachusetts' flagship campus known as "Blarney Blowout" spun out of control Saturday as police officers in riot gear arrested more than 40 people while dispersing massive crowds, including unruly students throwing beer cans and bottles.
Forty-four people were arrested by late Saturday afternoon and four officers suffered minor injuries after police spent the day attempting to disperse "several" crowds of more than 1,500 students, said Amherst Police Capt. Jennifer Gundersen.
Most of the arrests came at an off-campus apartment complex, where large crowds began gathering Saturday morning for the annual event, which was originally started by bars to allow the students to celebrate the holiday before their spring break begins this week.
Police from the city, university and state troopers in riot gear converged on the crowds around noon. The Republican in Springfield reported that the police began to march toward the crowd firing paintball-style guns loaded with pepper spray after students began setting off fireworks.
"It is extremely disturbing and unsafe. Perhaps one of the worst scenes we have ever had with drunkenness and unruliness," Gundersen told The Republican. "It is extremely upsetting. It is very dangerous."
Three officers were hurt when they were hit by bottles and one was injured while attempting to make an arrest, Gundersen said. None of the injuries required serious treatment.
Amherst Capt. Christopher Pronovost described the day as "mayhem" to the Daily Hampshire Gazette.
"This can't be in any way, shape or form be characterized as a party," he said. "This is destruction of property (and) assaultive behavior."
Gundersen said that numerous participants in the revelry were also injured.
She said that most of the people arrested as of 4 p.m. Saturday were being charged with failure to disperse and disorderly conduct.
UMass spokesman Ed Blaguszewski said UMass students who were arrested will have their behavior reviewed under the school's code of conduct and that sanctions could include suspension or expulsion.
The university said it reached out to students, landlords, parents, faculty and staff this week to "communicate the importance of students acting safely and respecting the property of others."
Collecting bottles and cans around the scene of the mayhem Saturday night, Amherst resident Raul Colon told the Gazette that the day's events looked like "a revolution, like in the countries that have revolutions between the students and the government."