Riot police shut down Palmerfest Saturday night after revelers lit several fires and attacked firefighters and police officers who arrived to extinguish the blaze.
At midnight, more than 40 officers from the Ohio University Police Department (OUPD) and the Athens Police Department (APD) sat near Rollerbowl, 28 Palmer St. About 8,000 people - give or take 2,000 - attended this year's alcohol-soaked bash, according to Athens police.
Wood and beer boxes doused in lighter fluid began burning shortly before 10 p.m. at the center of the block. Firefighters extinguished the blaze by 10:05 p.m., according to an APD news release. Soon after authorities put out the first fire, revelers lit several others just feet away. Those fires soon merged into a second blaze that consumed a couch, lawn furniture and a wooden table.
As firefighters and mounted police moved in to extinguish the fires, people standing along the street began throwing glass bottles and beer cans. The bystanders injured five horses, including one hit between the eyes with a bottle that shattered on impact, according to an APD news release written by Chief Richard Mayer.
After firefighters neutralized the second blaze, police cleared the entire block. Officers in riot gear pushed partiers out of the street, off the sidewalk and behind houses along either side of Palmer Street. Several students reported that police sprayed a yellow substance that acted like pepper spray on people who failed to leave quickly.
Athens police called university police for assistance at around 10 p.m., said OU police Chief Andrew Powers. About 15 OUPD officers responded, Powers said, adding he didn't have an exact headcount and would release a statement later.
At about 11 p.m., a couch fire started behind 18 Hocking St., but was quickly extinguished. By 11:30 p.m., Palmer Street was empty and crowds gathered at the intersection of Palmer and Mill Street.
Police, dressed in black riot gear and wielding wooden sticks, asked students to remain on the sidewalks and not block traffic. The crowd began clapping in unison, alternately chanting "OU" and "Palmerfest."
Mounted officers pushed back crowds that gathered around houses at the intersection. The sound of shattering glass could be heard as bottles flew from the crowd towards officers.
"Get the [expletive] off the porch and get inside, now," yelled one officer as he and several others cleared a crowded porch directly across from Palmer Street.
After officers returned to Rollerbowl, several people ripped down a stop sign marking the intersection. At 2 Palmer St., Chris Grimaldi began playing "[Expletive] tha Police" through large speakers pointed through a ground-floor window.
Officers ripped a screen, broke a window and knocked over a speaker, said Grimaldi, a senior studying management information systems and marketing.
Next door, Sarah Meadema said a mounted officer ran one person into a bush outside her house.
"The police, there's no reason for the violence they're doing. They beat a kid with a club for no reason at all," said Meadema, a junior studying healthcare administration.
Across the intersection at 134 Mill St., David Gold said officers demanded he clear his porch and began pushing everyone into the house.
"The last guy, the last cop, pushed me into my house and slammed the door," Gold said, adding he tried to move everyone inside as fast as he could. "I lived here last year and it was nothing like this."
In the news release, Mayer said immature individuals ruined the historically peaceful block party. "Sadly, the students failed to control their party this year, leading to the fire, a near riot, and threat to safety forces that were there to respond to problems."
Exsistence is the answer for a question of why. We fight to survive. We fight for an existence. But we've always been fighting each other and not the question.