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Students feel UCPD used excessive force in response to Undie Run

Police patrolled the area around Landfair Avenue after students participated in the Undie Run early Thursday morning. (Courtesy of Andrew Tudor)

By Nico Correia

March 31, 2014 1:48 a.m.

University police broke up rowdy parties in the North Village after the quarterly Undie Run using pepper balls and other crowd control methods that some students thought were unnecessarily forceful.

After the Undie Run, an unofficial university tradition held during final exams where students run in their underwear through campus, about 400 people gathered in large groups in the streets around North Village apartments, UCPD spokeswoman Nancy Greenstein said in a statement.

After UCPD received several calls about noise disturbances in the area, officers announced over a loudspeaker at about 2 a.m. that students needed to break up the unlawful assembly, Greenstein said in the statement.

UCPD officers asked the groups near the corner of Landfair Avenue and Ophir Drive to move out of the street, but the students did not obey instructions, Greenstein said.

Numerous people at the parties said large groups of people left the area after police called for people to disperse.

Isabella Rhodes, a second-year student at Santa Monica College, said she saw chaos outside her apartment in the Co-op housing complex on Landfair Avenue.

Rhodes said hundreds of people gathered on the front yard of her apartment complex, blocking the street and jumping on cars. Members of the crowd also heavily damaged a car parked on the street outside the complex, she said.

People began pushing their way inside the apartment complex, intending to use an apartment for a party, Rhodes said. People climbed through windows to get into the building because it was so crowded, and someone in the housing complex called the UCPD to disperse the crowd, she said.

“I don’t think it was handled well by either party,” Rhodes said. “I was definitely nervous before the cops came.”

About 20 to 30 officers came on to the scene, using protective gear such as shields and helmets.

Several people responded to the officers’ announcement by throwing bricks, rocks and bottles at the officers, Greenstein said. One of the officers was hit by a rock, she added.

Claudia Varney, a third-year world arts and cultures student, said she saw police from her room on the fifth floor of the Co-op after she returned from the Undie Run.

She said she saw about 15 to 20 officers walking down Landfair Avenue to clear the crowds while people were running and screaming down the street.

Varney added that police warned those in the street and watching from their balconies to leave or they would be hit with pepper balls.

When the crowd did not disperse, officers formed a line and aimed pepper balls – pellets filled with the same powder found in pepper spray – at balconies and at the ground to get people to leave.

Jonavan Colon, a second-year student at Santa Monica College who lives in the Co-op housing complex on the corner of Landfair Avenue and Ophir Drive, said police shot pepper balls into his bedroom from the street after officers asked him to go into his room from the balcony.

Colon said he was coughing and sneezing several hours afterward from the powder in the pepper balls.

Some students said they felt the police response was too forceful, despite the overwhelming crowds.

Jacob Ashendorf, a fourth-year economics student who was trying to cross the street to get home said the police did not allow him to do so, and later shoved him forcefully when he again attempted to communicate with the police.

“It was absolutely excessive. I was not exhibiting any sort of aggressive behavior,” Ashendorf said. “The police were the ones challenging my safety, not the crowd.”

Ian Cocroft, a second-year political science student with Ashendorf said he asked why the assembly was illegal and why he had to leave, but the police refused to give an answer other than “because we said so.” He asked police to identify themselves and for their badge numbers when he was later pushed by an officer, but they refused to do so.

Other students said they felt police frightened them.

Greenstein said officers remained stationed around the North Village apartments until about 2:30 a.m. No arrests or major injuries were reported before that time, she added.

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