Police fire baton rounds at Kent State rioters

/ Source: The Associated Press

An end-of-year college block party spiraled out of control when police fired baton rounds and used pepper spray to break up hundreds of rioting students who sparked a string of street fires at Kent State University.

Video posted on the Internet shows students hurling furniture and street signs into the flames on Saturday night as a SWAT team in riot gear converged on the crowd. Kent police said the party grew violent after one reveler was arrested and students began pelting officers with bottles, bricks and rocks.

"They were burning pretty much everything," said police dispatcher Rosemarie Mosher. "They were throwing stop signs on the fires, they were throwing chairs, couches, tree branches. Basically anything they could get their hands on."

Dozens of students are arrested
At least 64 students were arrested, and several officers suffered minor injuries, Mosher said. Students gathered on front porches at about 8:30 p.m. and began spilling into the streets on the unusually warm evening.

When officers ordered the crowd to disperse, students built piles of couches, suitcases and other debris and lit them on fire. There were at least four fires blazing in the middle of the street, Mosher said.

Students who lived in nearby houses threw objects from windows to feed the flames. Video shows students huddled on a roof, escaping into a second-story window as a line of police, their faces masked by plastic shields, forms near the flames.

Choruses of boos were captured on video as firefighters doused the fires, and students cheered as others quickly ran back into the street to spark more.

"The cops were being nice, and two minutes later we were shot by rubber bullets for no reason," junior Jamie Farrell told the university's student newspaper.

University awaiting police information
The riot was mostly over by 10 p.m., when more than two dozen police and fire vehicles surrounded the area.

Kent State spokesman Tom Neumann said the students' behavior is inexcusable and the university is awaiting more information from police.

"Obviously, things got a little bit out of hand," Neumann said. The university has not received any reports of injured students, he said.

In 1970, four Kent State University students were killed by Ohio National Guard troops during a campus protest of the invasion of Cambodia. Nine people were wounded.