COLLEGE PARK, Md. - University of Maryland police say they're investigating why officers used pepper spray to break up a graduation party at an on-campus apartment complex early Saturday morning. Video posted on Twitter by students who were at the party shows a chaotic scene involving several officers and a group of students-- some of whom were screaming and coughing as they ran from the apartment building.
The University of Maryland Police Department released a statement confirming their officers showed up at the party at the Courtyard apartments around 1:45 a.m. for a noise complaint, and pepper spray was used. They say two students were arrested for disorderly conduct, failing to obey orders and obstructing. The department also said it is reviewing footage from the body cameras worn by the officers, and from nearby security cameras. That video has not been released.
After the incident, Twitter users @CEORaph and @_zensei shared video with FOX 5 of what happened when officers arrived.
FOX 5's Alexandra Limon spoke with several students who attended the party. They say they don't understand why their party was broken up when other people were also having graduation parties around campus, or why they got pepper sprayed when they were following officers' commands to leave.
Theo Scoulios, who was a DJ at the party, explained what went down during those tense moments.
"They were being very forceful," he explained. "Using their arms to throw people, and then at that point they start to mace everybody. To me, it seemed as if it was a little-- not a little-- a lot exccessive."
Cell phone video shows a group of people in the building's hallway, and officers trying to get them to clear the area. Naya Frasier, a recent graduate, says she was at the party, and students were trying to comply with the officers' commands.
"I see my friends retreating. I see them pulling each other away from the situation. I see them actively moving away from the officers, which is what they were asked to do. And it's after that point that they begin screaming and they get pepper sprayed-- so that's where my failure to comprehend comes in," Frasier said.
Frasier said she was trying to flee from the crowd when saw heard a friend screaming, and saw others on the ground holding their eyes in pain. In the cell phone video, students are heard yelling and coughing.
The University held graduation ceremonies on Friday, and the students tell FOX 5 parties were happening all over campus. They question if race was a factor in shutting their celebration down.
"This wouldn't have happened if this was a white party, and it makes me sick to say that," said Courtney Humphrey, a UMD graduate.
"How do you have people that are moving away, that are retreating, that are doing what they were asked to do, that are clearing the space-- and as a result, they're assaulted in this way?" Frasier said.
University of Maryland President Wallace Loh tweeted, "We are reviewing video footage from last night's incident at Courtyards. I have asked for a swift and transparent review and assessment."
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On Saturday night UMPD issued the following statement regarding the incident.