Below is an account of the police intervention that took place early morning May 21 at a Courtyards party from the perspective of those affected, shared with The Diamondback. The student authors asked that their names be withheld, to protect personal privacy given the sensitivity of the situation. Some points of the letter have been omitted pending confirmation.
Dear University of Maryland community,
Those harmed by the incident decided to write a detailed account of the police attacks that occurred on May 21, 2016. Although President Loh published a statement covering the events of that night, we believe that it is imperative for us to retell the incident from our perspectives. By sharing our experiences, we hope to provide a more comprehensive and transparent version of the police attacks to share with the campus community.
On Friday, May 20th, 2016, a graduation party was taking place at one of the apartments in the Courtyards apartment complex. The party had been going on for about an hour when a group of people knocked on the door and tried to get into the party. Those hosting the party did not know who these people were and asked them to leave. The individuals left the party but remained in the Courtyards community. Around approximately 1:45AM on Saturday, May 21, 2016, a false 911 call was made by the individuals who were rejected entry into the party with the intent to get the party shut down. They falsely claimed that there was a fight going on in the party and people were using bats as weapons. Soon after, police arrived banging on the door of the apartment. No RA was called prior to the police arriving.
After the apartment had mostly been cleared out, [an officer] came further into the apartment and held the door waiting for the rest of the people to leave. Residents and witnesses tried to gather their things, however, the officers were rushing them out and told them that they could come back later to get their belongings. At this time, the DJ and some of the witnesses were left in the party. Residents and witnesses were told that they were trespassing if they did not leave. When other Courtyards residents heard all of the raucous, they also came out of their buildings to see what was going on.
Arguments escalated between police, residents, and witnesses outside of the apartment when everyone was trying to clear the area. The police then proceeded to mace the entire crowd without warning. The first five people to get maced were walking away when it was released as they were told to do. After people were maced, more police officers began laughing and shaking their mace bottles to continue spraying even though people were on the ground screaming and crying. The party goers were scattered at this point. Two people who did not attend the party but were there to help control the situation proceeded with other witnesses to a grassy area away from the apartment in Courtyards. As they proceeded to leave the area back up officers then came from the same direction they were walking. It was then ordered by an officer to "Arrest those two" while given a description of what they were wearing. The two witnesses were forcefully tackled to the ground, while the officers put their knees and elbows in their backs and necks to keep them down. They were then both taken away to cop cars.
Those who had been initially maced eventually got medical help, and had their eyes flushed out. During the large altercation in the parking lot, a male was maced who was helping some of the young women who were getting pushed down to the ground by police. Simultaneously, a woman who was not at the party attempted to help another group of women that were laying on the concrete temporarily blinded by the mace. She was then forcibly grabbed around the neck by a male cop who proceeded to detain her. Several surrounding officers asked her and other members in the crowd "do you want to be arrested" and then released her to her friends. Police were still trying to make the crowd vacate the premises, but people were helping those who were maced. People then went home, and to different apartments.
That night excessive force was used by the police multiple times and the trauma that was inflicted on the victims is something that cannot be undone. Victims went to bed that night shaking out of shock of how a night of celebration turned into such chaos. Two arrests were made and one person was sent to the hospital. We ask that everyone be mindful of the sensitivity of this incident especially for those involved. Although we wish to share our accounts of the police attacks, we would like for everyone's individual privacy to be respected.
What we hope will come from this incident is a better response from the UMD police force in future situations like these and sense a unity within the campus community. Furthermore, we would like for ALL charges to be dropped against students involved in the matter and for the police officers and agitators to be faced with criminal charges. Other possible outcomes are a town hall meeting to create constructive dialogue throughout the University of Maryland campus community and more intensive training for the UMD Police.
Those affected by the incident