The OC Blog Back Issues Our Mission Contact Us Masthead
Sudsy Wants You to Join the Oregon Commentator

James Madison University Riots

The annual Springfest at James Madison University got a little out of hand this past weekend. More than 8,000 party goers turned the booze filled block-party into a full fledged riot. Thirty party goers were arrested due to the riot. Over at JMU’s paper The Breeze they are reporting that police used pepper spray and tear gas to subdue the crowd. I could go on describing the mayhem but the videos are much more interesting.

You know it’s going to be a good riot video when it starts off with a drunken mob yelling “fuck the police!” Those JMU kids will chant in unison any chance they get.

It just goes to show you when you drink a dozen too many Bud Lights and approach riot patrol you are going to get some pepper spray in your face. I liked the guys in the beginning trying to make some peaceful gesture, they thought that pose would land them on the cover of Time Magazine before they got a face-full of pepper spray. Congratulations JMU rioters, I hope all those beer bottles you threw at the police on video will not land you in prison.

  1. Larry Hill says:

    You do have the right to peaceably assemble. You do not have the right to a) be publicly intoxicated with an open container b) destroy property c) litter d) disturb the peace. This country has laws. Meaning Potts that, in fact, you are wrong. You CAN’T stand in the road with a peace sign (unless you meant alongside a road). That would be obstructing traffic. Protesters and those who wish to assemble must abide by the laws of the state, which would include obtaining noise permits and, if need be, permits to have a section of street blocked off. This block party was broken up because they were breaking the law. That is the bottom line.

  2. Jonathan Potts says:

    I guess you would be asking yourself*

    sorry rushed that last post

  3. Jonathan Potts says:

    Did the fires and the rioters start before or after the police came? Was it lives or wealth that was being protected by the police? Is it safe to say that the majority of the thirty injuries were caused during the quelling of the riot not during the block party?

    I need some answers on those matters.

    Because from what I have seen and read all the crowd control did was endanger the populous and protect the wealth of the owners of the condominiums. What if there were casualties and tramplings when the tear gas was shot would we all being singing the same tune? If someone had died because a block party was too big…then I ask you would be asking yourself was it worth it?

    Finally I do not agree with the actions of those who assaulted police officers and I hope they find themselves facing justice. But I do say those videos are only proof of our system failing. I have the right to peacefully assembly and if that means I choose to stand in a road holding up the peace sign then thank god I have that right. The bottles don

  4. nike urbanism duk says:

    Hey Potts, ever tried pot ?

  5. Betz says:

    The “alcohol culture” topic is better left for another day – there is too much to be said on this topic (although I would agree with Potts – we as a society seriously need to re-think how alcohol is consumed and seen in our culture).

    As for the JMU riots … why is that whenever I see an amateur-filmed video of a student riot that I am not surprised at all that police responded the way that they did? The filmmakers of these videos always assert the same theme – police brutality, trampling of rights, etc. However, the police have a duty to protect and serve ALL citizens (as NAB correctly posits). Imagine for a moment that the police simply did not show up, and “let the party go” … what would happen? Is it that easy to forget that you have a dangerously large group of people that are inebriated and lack the necessary judgement calls to prevent them from vandalizing cars, lighting fires, or smashing windows – or doing any number of other crimes? What of the neighborhood or people that live in the area of this party that has to clean up the broken bottles and trash left over after this party? Or the families whose property has been vandalized by party-goers “just trying to have a good time”?

    It always amazes me the willful ignorance that student rioters / protesters exhibit when they try to defend their actions for breaking the law in the name of whatever cause they support. The reason that you got pepper-sprayed is that you are BREAKING THE LAW / causing damage / creating an unsafe environment – Simple! Of course they do not see this, because it is easy to ignore the concerns of others when you have those extra-narrow tunnel-vision blinders on.

  6. NAB says:

    Potts, you don’t seem to understand that police have to protect all citizens, even those who they may despise. You may not believe it, but by pushing back the protesters who were up against their line, they may have prevented serious injury to them. I’d rather be pepper sprayed than be hit in the back of the head with a glass liquor bottle. Twelve officers were also injured that day, but I didn’t hear you’re type of people condemning the students for assaulting our state’s finest, nor did I hear you condemn their decision to vandalize vehicles, set fires dangerously close to homes, litter the ground with thousands upon thousands of beer cans and shards of glass (really good for small children, they love it). What really pisses me off is your false sense of local concern or pride. As a local Virginian, I can tell you that I supported the police 110% You can bet that if these kids who are calling out the police where getting their face bashed in by a DRUNK spouse, they would be the first one asking for an officer. I’ve seen a lot of incredible evidence as a Police Science student that negates the usefulness of our legal system. Enough to almost make me want to chose another field, but I believe people like you are the primary cause of our problems.

  7. Melissa says:

    I am a senior at JMU. I probably would have been at Springfest this year if I wasn’t working 12 hours that day. Nobody should be laughing at JMU. Nobody should be laughing at all. According to the sheriff’s report to the city council, there were 40 hospitalizations at the local hospital, one of whom required surgery. Three more were transferred to UVA (University of Virginia), one by helicopter. Rubber bullets and tear gas grenades were used by 213+ officers gathered to disperse the crowd. As I walked home from work that night, hours after the incident, a helicopter with a searchlight circled overhead.

    But this problem is not just JMU: it’s across the country. A similar annual block party at the University of Wisconsin has caused 440 arrests in recent years. An unofficial beach party at University of California Santa Barbara netted 13 arrests and 33 hospitalizations. This year there were 31 arrests and 33 hospitalizations. The University of Minnesota spring party also turned into a riot last year with students starting fires and tearing down street signs. The police tear-gassed the students there as well, but only arrested 12.

    We need to think about the college drinking culture as a whole. There is such a ‘verboten’ factor about drinking that really appeals to impressionable minds. Also, parents and school officials wave off minor offenses, thinking, “We did the same when we were their age.” However, these offenses are worsening in nature. I don’t have all the answers, but don’t just point a finger at us. This problem is everywhere and it will only get worse with time.


  8. Java says:

    J. Potts got a few things right:

    “We need to educate our children more and create a social drinking society. You can

  9. NGA says:

    Are Potts and Stephen real posts?

    Potts, White would be proud of you guys. What better way for college kids to show how “mature” they are than by getting drunk and antagonizing police officers. I’m no fan of cops, but I dislike ignorant people even more. It’s kids like those in the video, and you who support them, who hinder individual freedoms, not expand them.

    Thanks for making my life more difficult. And to think, you did it all the way from Virginia.

    Also, it’s not just Oregon, California is laughing at JMU too.

  10. Stephen L says:

    I’m a sophomore at JMU and there are a few interesting things that many are unaware of when covering this story. First, the cops usually do not let people onto the strip of road (seen here as the start advancing) which helps them detain the full-fledge partying. This is the first time to my knowledge that this sort of negligence has occured, and I’ve been going to this event for 4 years. Second, the Harrisonburg Police Force is doubling up, and the money they are using to do so is coming right out of students’ pockets, from all this mess and helicopters flying throughout the night spotlighting people to them itching to get back at the students by letting the situation get out of hand; students that is to say, who pay their damn salaries.

  11. Jonathan Potts says:

    “If our colleges and universities do not breed men who riot, who rebel, who attack life with all their youthful vision and vigor then there is something wrong with our colleges. The more riots that come on college campuses, the better the world for tomorrow.”

    -William Allen White

    I am a senior and history major at SUNY Cortland in New York State. Sir I ask you is it easy to laugh about these events all the way from Oregon? For me these events are close to home; I have many friends who attend James Madison. Your sarcasm and ridicule of others is childish and unbecoming of a respectable commentator. I don’t think it’s funny when people who are peacefully protesting by standing in a road are maced in the face or a college student who is yelling stop throwing bottles gets nabbed up and they mace a innocent student holding a camera. This isn’t the America I dream of, this kind of action is unbecoming of a man in service of the people. True, the maturity of those throwing full beers and empty bottles at the police is in question but in those videos the only ones I saw getting maced were law abiding people. This is an unfortunate event, for both sides of the fence have painted themselves in the worst light but i ask you who is suppose to be more responsible the man of law or the eighteen year old hooligan who came out of town for a huge party? An eighteen year old has the worst of both worlds in this society their told they are now to be treated like adults except in places like NY they can’t by tobacco till their nineteen and alcohol till their twenty-one? What a contradiction. I am told to be a man and yet I am told I am not man enough to decide whether I can consume alcohol or not. That was a little away from the point, but a point that should be made in another situation. I’m not blaming the riot on teenage angst; I’m blaming it on an overzealous or nervous and unprepared police force. Also the immaturity created by society. If I were to have a glass of wine every night for dinner since I was six would I be inclined to binge drink more or less? Binge drinking is obviously the cause of this event why aren’t we looking at ways to improve maturity towards alcohol instead of leaving our children to figure it out on their own. These children know not why they riot but in my mind a clear point has been made. We need to educate our children more and create a social drinking society. You can’t send me away for four years and expect me not to drink; you should send me away for four years knowing you have thought me to be mature about consumption. This is a cry for help

  12. Anne says:

    College material? Should people who go to college achieve a level of perfection before they are accepted? Whether or not people get higher education, people follow crowds and get worse when they drink. A hell of a lot of these people do not even go to Jame Madison University and you can bet that many “non-college educated” people from the city of Harrisonburg joined the party, too.

  13. Betz says:

    First video has been removed …

  14. Rebecca O says:

    And parents are paying for their “children” to go to school for this? Just shows not everyone is college material.

  15. Michael G. says:

    Frankly, the police showed amazing restraint. If I’d had a few beer bottles thrown at me, the asp baton would have employed. I guess that’s why I’m not a cop.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.