A “playful” snow day at West Virginia University soon devolved into a “dangerous and threatening” confrontation that involved riot police and pepper spray.
With classes canceled since Wednesday due to extreme weather conditions brought on by a polar vortex descending on portions of the nation, students at West Virginia University took to the outdoors Friday to snowboard, sled and do some daytime drinking, according to KDKA-TV.
But, according to University officials, the “playful time in the snow” Friday afternoon soon escalated into what police later called a “riot,” with fires, smoke grenades and students hurling glass bottles.
“It is unfortunate that what began today on Spruce Street as a playful time in the snow, turned into a dangerous and threatening situation for students and law enforcement officers alike,” university officials said in a statement.
— WVU Barstool (@WVUBarstool) February 1, 2019
Hundreds of students were asked to clear the way so snow plows and salt trucks could get through the streets they were blocking, as Morgantown Police officers gave the plows an escort. But the students allegedly began throwing bottles and rocks at the plows and police who went behind the snow plow to provide cover.
“We had winter sports activities that turned into criminal behavior and violence,” Morgantown Police Chief Ed Preston told student newspaper, The Daily Athenaeum. “They started attacking city workers as they plowed the streets.
According to KDKA:
Police say three officers deployed pepper ball munitions, targeting the building above the people throwing projectiles so the balls would disintegrate on the building and the powder would fall onto the crowd. They say the officers were trying to cover the retreat of other workers and officers in the area.
According to police, the incident was declared a riot around 3:50 p.m. and officers ordered the crowd to disperse.
Students failed to heed multiple warnings to disperse, leading police to employ a “Long-Range Acoustic Device,” described as a loud speaker that emits a “steady annoying noise.” Although some students allegedly responded by setting debris and furniture on fire. many others did leave the area.
What’s it like going to school at West Virginia University? Well this is outside my house… pic.twitter.com/Hyex9Qq8lz
— Claire Weber (@Cweber20) February 1, 2019
No arrests were made and there were no reported injuries but university officials are reviewing the incident.
“The escalation apparently began when the several hundred students and others who had gathered refused reasonable instructions to disperse…resulting in law enforcement taking action,” WVU communications director April Kaull said. “University officials will review videos of the situation to determine if any charges should be filed.”
We remind our students that our actions should represent our Mountaineer values. Behave responsibly, be accountable and please comply with police, who want to keep our campus, city and all of our first responders safe through this weather. pic.twitter.com/8UlpmHlu47
— WVU Mountaineers (@WestVirginiaU) February 1, 2019
“We’ll work with University Police and other authorities and we’ll look at all the video and see what we can identify, and absolutely if they’re WVU students, then we’ll run them through our student conduct process and certainly there could be charges that are forthcoming,” WVU Dean of Students, Corey Farris, said according to KDKA.
Some accused Morgantown law enforcement of using too much force on Friday and others questioned the timeline.
Literally students were sledding. SLEDDING. Cops came and told them to disperse, and they didn’t. That’s when they started shooting rubber bullets at anyone who was around. THEN students threw bottles (sure, that was wrong). The cops then tear gassed.
— Kris ?? (@_kriswolfe) February 1, 2019
Police made it a riot by shooting paintballs and tear gas. ??♀️ hate to see it
— Art Vandelay ™️ (@AdamHough1) February 1, 2019
Damn, the cops really turned on them kids like that ?
— PGHPUcKTeNDER62 (@PghPuckTender62) February 1, 2019
Shooting into a crowd of kids is a horrible reaction by police. Someone need to be fired or suspended
— Gary Mitchell (@wb9tpg) February 2, 2019
“Students got a little too jovial and I’m afraid got carried away,” Morgantown Mayor Bill Kawecki, told The Exponent Telegram Friday.
“It’s unfortunate that they couldn’t simply enjoy the snow without turning it into some circumstance where people were in danger,” he said. “As near as I can tell, the university isn’t receiving it very well either.”
Many on Twitter called out the students for their behavior.
Kids? These are friggin adults and we should expect more from them. We have created a generation of malcontents.
— Ari Stotle (@AnistaEng) February 2, 2019
It’s called respect. When officers ask you to clear street so salt and plows can do there job. Throwing beer bottles and rocks unacceptable. I’m from The beautiful State of WV. Don’t trash it and disrespect officer’s of Law.
— ❤LaDawn Eyre❤Ohio For Trump❤#REDWAVE⚘?? ❤?? (@leyrewe) February 2, 2019
Stupid is as stupid does. If the school does not suspend or expel them, then the parents need to reimburse the city and school for the monies spent to corral their children. Not a moment to be proud at all.
— Pamela Bintner (@BintnerPamela) February 2, 2019
@WestVirginiaU students. You represent West Virginia. Stop acting like children. You are now adults in a top notch university. Do something positive in your down time & use this link to see how many ppl are homeless in OUR Great State of West Virginia. https://t.co/Y2G6nQHd1f
— Michael V. Moses (@MosesMvmgt1) February 2, 2019
This is ridiculous… these are policemen giving an order for the safety of people. What is wrong with people and this country’s turn to lawlessness is unacceptable. Makes me sick.
— Candace Fife (@candyfife) February 2, 2019
What’s wrong with these kids? Get an education and a job.
— bev bucur (@bevbucur) February 2, 2019
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