Peter Robbins lives a block away from the epicenter of Saturday night’s party-turned-riot. And when he heard police showed up, he said the photojournalist in him kicked in — he needed to document it.
With camera in hand, Robbins headed to the scene. The computer science junior was there for about 30 seconds, he said, when without warning police shot him in the groin with a paint canister and tackled him to the ground.
That was at 11:30 p.m., about a half hour after riot police first came. Robbins spent the next three or four hours in a booking van, zip-tied with six others. Police eventually took him to a downtown police station and charged him with unruly assembly.
“I was never read any sort of rights or asked to give any sort of statements,” Robbins said. “They just sort of took me, didn’t tell me anything and put me in the back of the van.”
Robbins said he was standing still, focusing to take a photograph, when he was hit, about 250 feet from the nearest law enforcement officer he could see. He said he told an officer he was simply there to take pictures.
He had some drinks with dinner, but Robbins said he was “not intoxicated at all.”
“I went to go take pictures because that’s what you have a right to do,” he said. “You have a right to document the situation and that’s what you should do.”
Robbins, who plans to fight the charges leveled against him, alleged police maltreatment of another arrestee. When that other arrestee yelled that he needed to use the bathroom, he said police went into the holding area of the van and pepper sprayed the other arrestee at “point-blank range.”
“I was assaulted, in my opinion, without any cause,” Robbins said, adding that he’ll visit a doctor to get the “very large bruise on [his] inner thigh” checked out.
“Flip that car!”
Renee Landry a 21-year-old Normandale Community College junior , fell victim to the raucous crowd when she attempted to stow her Toyota Corolla behind her house, which was located in the middle of the then-crowded block.
The partygoers caved in the top of her car by jumping on it repeatedly, and a group of people began chanting “flip the car.”
Several people threw cans and bottles at the car, and eventually began rocking it back and forth in attempts to flip it.
Landry’s friend, who was walking beside the car, had to punch multiple people to get them away from the car, she said.
“Some guy pulled a knife on my friend when he was trying to save my car,” Landry said. “He told my friend to ‘stop ruining his fun’”
Kristin Reid , a political science junior who lives at the house with Landry, said her roommates made over 30 calls to police, starting around 8:00 p.m.
Reid and her roommates said that police could have responded much faster to the situation, and could have been much more selective in the people they targeted with their anti-riot tactics.
“I saw a hot tear gas canister hit a kid …” Reid said. “I told the 911 dispatcher that people will get concussions, and this is what will make headlines.”
“It burned my skin”
A police officer sprayed pepper spray inside of a house on the 700 block of 13th Avenue after several girls on the porch asked to take a picture with the officer, who was dressed in riot gear.
The officer yelled at the girls, shot pepper spray through the front door of the house and immediately left.
Dylan Eastman, a 21-year-old Bethel University senior who was hit in the back of the neck with the spray, allowed 12 people to take refuge in the house when police began using force to get people off of the street.
“It burned my skin,” Eastman said. “There were girls crying, and my roommate threw up.”
Police were shooting projectiles near the house, and would have targeted anybody trying to leave, Eastman said.
Regardless of what happened at his house, Eastman said the police action was necessary.
“I felt like [the police] handled the situation as well as they could,” Eastman said. “They needed to exert their authority some way.”
Journalism junior Jacob Svoboda said he was walking with two friends from his house in the Como neighborhood to a Dinkytown bar when he unwittingly met the unruliness and got hit with pepper spray.
When he found himself in the crossfire, Svoboda said police kept telling him to “Get back.”
“We were just going to go around to 13th Avenue, then all of a sudden we’re in a backyard and we see a fire in the middle of the street,” he said.
But then, Svoboda alleges, police pepper sprayed him from 10 to 15 feet away, severely impeding his vision as he held his hands up and attempted to cooperate.
“Before I could even say anything, they just sprayed me right away,” he said. “I was giving the white flag of surrender.”
Though he was in the area until about 6 p.m., Svoboda said he didn’t know things had gotten so far out of control.
“I did absolutely nothing wrong except walking into a riot zone, which I didn’t even know was going on,” he said. “We weren’t the ones in the street burning stuff and throwing glass.”
Svoboda ended up taking refuge in a house on 13th Avenue. He didn’t know the tenants, but he spent a portion of his night, along with others fleeing police, there.
Alec Rosin, a University graphic design sophomore, said police cars on 15th Avenue Southeast were “literally lining the entire street.”
“It’s like a disaster zone or something,” Rosin said.
Jeff Ormsbee , a chemical engineering junior, said the police presence in Dinkytown was, “legit.”
People were jumping on cars, riding in shopping carts and chanting around the fires when Ormsbee arrived in Dinkytown around 10 p.m., he said.
“Parties are cool, but that was nuts,” Ormsbee said.
Erik Donley, a resident of the 1400 block of Seventh Street, said he thought police response was appropriate.
“Usually when that many people get together, something stupid is going to happen,” he said.
—Karlee Weinmann is a senior staff reporter. Devin Henry contributed to this report.
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