Thousands of people at Cedar Fest dispersed by about 3:15 a.m. Sunday after police declared an unlawful protest and fired tear gas and other munitions into the crowd.
East Lansing police Chief Tom Wibert said the decision to fire munitions was made after repeated loudspeaker commands urging the crowd to disperse were ignored. Wibert said he was disappointed he had to make this decision.
“The volume of glass that was coming in was ridiculous,” he said. “The amount of people being hit was ridiculous.”
Wibert did not know how many arrests were made or how many munitions were fired into the crowd.
He said police initially only used “flashbangs,” which are loud, smoking munitions without the burning affect of tear gas, but only about half of the crowd dispersed. At that point, he said, police resorted to tear gas.
Freshman Jason Peters said he doesn’t think the munitions was necessary, but he did notice a change in the crowd before they were fired.
“It had just gotten crazier, people getting out in streets, people getting drunker,” Peters said. “I heard the warning, but I didn’t think it was going to happen. I didn’t see anybody take it seriously.”
Throughout the night, police mainly targeted individuals who were throwing bottles, committing indecent exposure or lighting fires, but Wibert said police decided to act with force when the crowd grew hostile, pelting officers with bottles.
“It got to the point where the mood of the crowd almost instantly changed,” he said.
Wibert said a press conference will be held tomorrow at City Hall, 410 Abbot Road, to discuss the events at Cedar Fest.
Lee June, vice president for student affairs and services, who witnessed the 1999 riots and 2005 disturbances, said police acted appropriately when dealing with revelers.
“From what I saw, it seems to me that the police were very restrained and were trying to allow the crowd to just enjoy this. Near the end, it seemed that there was quite a bit of taunting with the police, projectiles.”
For more on this story, see Monday’s edition of The State News and check statenews.com for updates.