Cody Cousino / Photo editor
The Columbus Division of Police shut down two street-wide parties this weekend in Ohio State’s off-campus housing area by spraying chemical agents into the crowds.
Neighborhood block parties Woodfest, on East Woodruff Avenue Friday night into Saturday, and ChittShow, on Chittenden Avenue Saturday night into Sunday, included almost every residence on their respective streets on their respective nights.
Thousands wandered the streets with beer, liquor bottles and other open containers at both parties. Most houses’ parties took place in the front yards, with people playing beer pong, standing in the grass or sitting on roofs, until Columbus Police ordered them to get down so they wouldn’t fall, police on the scene said.
In May 2011, police also used pepper spray to break up Woodfest. Two OSU students and one other man were charged with assault on a police officer, according to reports.
ChittShow was not broken up with pepper spray in 2011, but three people were arrested, according to multiple reports.
Police shut down Woodfest 2012 at about 1:30 a.m. Saturday by dispersing pepper spray, which affected people as far away as two blocks south of East Woodruff Avenue.
Dina Hocevar, a fourth-year in strategic communication and resident of Woodruff Avenue, said she didn’t get sprayed, but the pepper spray came toward her house and “everyone was coughing.”
“I heard the first house that got pepper sprayed was because someone threw a bottle at a cop,” Hocevar said. “Police came up to our porch, told us to go inside, lock the doors and turn the music off.”
Hocevar wasn’t sure why the party was shut down.
ChittShow was cleared out by police officers telling partygoers to “go inside or go home” over a loudspeaker at about 12:30 a.m. on Sunday. Police released pepper spray about 15 minutes later.
People throwing cans off a balcony of an apartment complex on Chittenden Avenue near North Pearl Street caused the police to remove every non-resident from the complex at about 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, about one hour before the rest of the houses were cleared. Police said residents were told to go inside their homes.
Some Chittenden Avenue residents, like Patrick Donohue, a second-year in exploration, said while their houses were not directly sprayed with pepper spray, they still felt the effects.
“I just started coughing, and then I looked around and everyone was coughing,” Donohue said. “I didn’t hear any warning from police before they sprayed.”
Donohue said he heard commotion down the street toward North Pearl Street, and he assumed something had occurred to cause police to release pepper spray, although he wasn’t sure.
Kevin Hoag, a fourth-year in molecular genetics, said he also didn’t know why the police used pepper spray.
“I think ChittShow was actually less rowdy this year than it was last year,” Hoag said. “I would say there were about half the amount of police this year and I don’t know why they used pepper spray. All I saw were cops shining flashlights at people to get them out of the street.”
Hoag said he was pepper sprayed last year at Woodfest 2011.
“I was not about to let that happen again,” Hoag said. “So when I saw a long arc of pepper spray across the street, I ran.”
Hoag said neither he nor anyone he knew heard a warning last year at Woodfest before the police used pepper spray. He said he took in a breath of pepper spray as he was trying to run away, and his eyes burned for about 10 minutes.
Joe Burkhammer, a third-year in civil engineering, said he walked through a cloud of pepper spray and saw others coughing it up and closing their eyes this year at ChittShow.
Burkhammer said the party was pretty much what was expected – people threw bottles, the police told people to leave and everyone left.
“The term ‘ChittShow’ describes it well,” Burkhammer said. “There were a lot of people there who aren’t from OSU, which was irritating.”
According to police on the scene, Woodfest got out of hand because non-OSU students showed up. Pepper spray was used to break up the large fights and to combat people who threw bottles and cans at police, police said.
There were thousands in attendance at both Woodfest and ChittShow, and dozens of police on bicycles, on foot, on horses and in cars patrolling the streets at each event.
Police at ChittShow said they were notified in advance about the parties and attended to make sure nothing got out of hand.
When the chemical agent was released at ChittShow, police horses were present with nothing appearing to cover their mouths or noses, only protection for their eyes.
On Thursday, Javaune Adams-Gaston, vice president of student life, issued an email to students warning them “to be safe, smart and responsible with (their) celebrations and gatherings.”
Adams-Gaston’s email included warnings and tips for staying safe at parties.
“If police issue an order to leave the area (disperse), this is not a suggestion. It is a command, and failure to follow it is a violation of the law. It is not OK to stand on the lawn, porch, roof, etc. to watch,” Adams-Gaston said.
She reminded students that participating in crowded parties could harm their reputations as well as get them in trouble with police.
Several attempts to contact the Columbus and OSU police departments following Woodfest and ChittShow went unanswered.
According to the University Police Department’s website, they assisted Columbus Division of Police at the intersection of Frambes Avenue and Indianola Avenue Saturday at 2:28 a.m. The intersection is one block away from Woodruff Avenue. According to a report from Columbus Police, one non-student was arrested for disorderly conduct early Saturday morning near Woodruff Avenue.
A representative from OSU’s Wexner Medical Center declined to comment on whether any patients were admitted for any injuries related to pepper spray.