IUP students have raucous early St. Patrick's Day celebration
Dozens of state and local police converged on Indiana borough on Saturday to rein in hundreds of college students celebrating St. Patrick's Day early.
Indiana police Sgt. William Vojtek said it was the third year for the celebration, and there were numerous arrests for public drunkenness, underage drinking and retail theft. Police also investigated a report of a sexual assault of a woman, but Vojtek did not have details.
Partying by Indiana University of Pennsylvania students began in the afternoon, and he said he expected it to continue through early Sunday.
Police were needed to break up an estimated crowd of 400 students who had gathered on Seventh Street at a Sheetz store and blocked a main artery into downtown Indiana. Sgt. Shawn Fischer, a state liquor control enforcement officer, said some of his agents were caught in the crowd. Fischer said students were antagonistic to the police.
“I had to get to get my officers out of there. I was worried there would be damage to the cars,” Fischer said.
Indiana police were able to disperse the crowd and open the street. Police from Homer City and Punxsutawney as well as state police assisted.
Buildings along Seventh Street leading from campus into downtown were strewn with plastic cups, bottles and beer cans.
Students, decked out in a variety of green, including spray-painted hair, said they were celebrating early because they will be on spring break on March 17. Many carried six-packs of beer and other drinks.
Vojtek said he was happy to hear that by 8 p.m., the local Giant Eagle grocery store was close to running out of beer.
Police said students coming from nearby schools to attend the party added to problems.
IUP spokeswoman Michelle Fryling said she hadn't yet seen police reports from the day but said the school had been encouraging students to act responsibly leading up to the weekend. She said the university president tweeted to students this week what the expectations of students are.
“That they were expected to have lawful behavior on and off campus,” Fryling said. “We talked to students, student groups and tried to promote positive behaviors.”
She said campus police and the university were working with local police to keep all students safe, noting many people taking part were not from IUP.
“We're certainly very aware of the issues and we're working very hard to maintain a safe environment,” Fryling said.
Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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