Prince George's police chief says officers acted appropriately
UM students object to police use of pepper spray, batons on crowd at protest rally
Despite complaints of police brutality from students at the University of Maryland, College Park, Prince George's County Police Chief Roberto Hylton said Thursday officers were justified in using pepper spray, riot shields and batons to disperse revelers following a victory by the men's basketball team Wednesday night.
About 1,500 people mostly students celebrated along Route 1 in downtown College Park shortly after the Maryland Terrapins defeated the Duke Blue Devils, 79-72, said police spokesman Cpl. Larry Johnson. He said police responded at 11:23 p.m. to disperse crowds and keep revelers off streets, but made arrests after unruly students rocked a university bus and pelted officers with snow, ice and other objects.
"We had a large, ugly and destructive mob that descended into the city," Hylton said at a news conference Thursday afternoon at police headquarters in Landover. "Our department responded accordingly in attempting to restore a peaceful environment to College Park."
County, university and Prince George's Park Police responded to the scene, some of whom rode horses or wore riot gear. Hylton said county police used batons, shields, pepper spray and "pepper balls" small projectiles that are fired from a gun and expel gas on impact. Police remained on Route 1 until about 2:15 a.m. before crowds dissipated.
Hylton said county police arrested 28 people, 23 of whom were students. All were charged with misdemeanors such as disturbing the peace, and were subsequently released, said police spokeswoman Misty Mints. Police declined to release the names of the arrested, saying it would not serve the public interest.
At the university Thursday, a group of about 15 to 20 students held a rally protesting police conduct after the game. Ivan Goldensohn, a 21-year-old UM senior, said police attempted to intimidate students and incite violence.
"I've never seen anything like this," said Goldensohn, who added he witnessed the melee firsthand. "There were a couple of hundred drunk kids trying to walk home, and there were an equal number of cops trying to beat the [expletive] out of them."
Mints declined to say exactly how many county police were at the scene, but said there were less than 100.
One attendee at the rally was Paul Adler, a 21-year-old senior at the university who said he was among the 28 arrested. Online records did not show Adler's case file as of Thursday afternoon, and police declined to verify whether he was arrested.
Adler said he watched the basketball game at a friend's apartment on campus before heading to a bar on Route 1. He said when he attempted to cross Route 1 to get back to campus, he was tackled and arrested by an officer.
"He hit me with his riot shield and grabbed me around the neck," said Adler, who said he was charged with disturbing the peace and released at about 3 a.m.
Hylton said a preliminary police investigation found no police misconduct and he said officers "acted very bravely" in subduing the crowd. Police in riot gear have had previous run-ins with student revelers on Route 1 following regular season victories over Duke in 2000, 2001 and 2005, as well as after a Final Four loss to Duke in 2001.
University Police spokesman Paul Dillon said the students arrested could face administrative sanctions as severe as expulsion and police are reviewing tape to possibly identify more students.
"I'm extremely concerned," Adler said. "I don't think anything should happen but I'm afraid that it will."
E-mail David Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org.