updated 4/6/2008 7:04:11 PM ET 2008-04-06T23:04:11

Police used tear gas early Sunday to disperse a massive crowd partying near the Michigan State University campus after fights broke out and officers were pelted with bottles and cans.

Police said in a statement that 3,000 to 4,000 people had gathered for the Cedar Fest party late Saturday. They said 52 people were arrested and 48 others were ticketed for various offenses.

Nearly every officer at the scene reported being struck by a flying object, Police Chief Tom Wibert said at a news conference Sunday. Four small fires were reported, windows were smashed on two police vehicles and several officers and partygoers suffered injuries — mostly cuts and bruises.

“I don’t see how we could have dispersed the crowd without tear gas,” Wibert said. He said the gas was used as a last resort and officers showed restraint throughout the night.

Authorities said the crowd became increasingly unruly after 1 a.m., and about 80 officers from various jurisdictions worked to contain the crowd.

'Chanting for tear gas'
Wibert said police initially used only loud, smoking munitions rather than tear gas to try to get the crowd to leave, but only about half the people dispersed. Tear gas was fired around 2 a.m.

“I think that there were some who were there because they wanted to be tear-gassed as a rite of passage, so to speak,” Wibert said. “After the initial munitions — the flash bangs and the smoke bombs — they were actually chanting for tear gas.”

Michigan State student Vanessa Schultz of Macomb County’s Clinton Township said she got a whiff of the gas through her apartment window.

“I think everyone’s mentality was like, ‘We want to get tear-gassed. This is fun,”’ said Schultz. She said she stayed inside because it didn’t look like fun to her.

“During the day it was all relaxed and fun,” Schultz said. “It was kind of a shock when it turned weird. But we all kind of knew what was going to happen once it started.”

28 students arrested
Police said the majority of Michigan State’s 45,000 students stayed away from the gathering and that many of the troublemakers weren’t students. Of the 52 people arrested, 28 had been identified as university students.

They could face charges ranging from disorderly conduct to inciting a riot. More charges could be coming after police review videotape.

Students convicted of charges involving riotous behavior could face long-term suspension, as allowed by state law.

The event was held at Cedar Village, a student housing complex bordering the northeast side of campus.

The city and Michigan State University had warned people on Friday to stay away from the event, which was an attempt to revive an East Lansing party tradition that had been ended because of past problems.

Past problems
East Lansing has been the site of several past disturbances.

In 2005, a crowd of more than 2,000 college students and others swarmed downtown East Lansing after the Michigan State men's basketball team lost in the Final Four. Police arrested 42 people. Damage was estimated at $8,275.

In 1999, property damage was estimated at up to $500,000 when the Spartan men lost in the Final Four. Revelers overturned cars, smashed store windows and set fires. Police arrested 132 people, including 71 Michigan State students.

There also were problems during the Spartans' 2003 NCAA tournament run. But large gatherings during Final Four appearances in 2000 and 2001, for the most part, were peaceful.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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