No Strings Attached? Campus fellowship sponsored event goes awry leaving six arrested and many injured
By Lauren Mineau
Albany Police arrested six individuals at an event on August 31 at the Polish Community Center hosted by University at Albany social fellowship group Groove Phi Groove Inc. and fraternity Iota Phi Theta.
At approximately 11:40 p.m. officers responded to a call at the community center, located at 225 Washington Ave. Extension, for a report of a disorderly crowd.
Upon arrival roughly 700 people were observed outside the community center looking to gain entrance to the event, according to police reports. Police reports also say officers arrived on the scene to find a group attempting to shove past security in attempts to gain access to the event and over the course of the incident, a large window in the rear of the community center was damaged.
The report states that once the outside group was cleared, event security asked officers to intervene with fights that occurred inside the venue. Police then shut down the event and ordered people to leave the building. As the individuals were leaving the venue, fights broke out in the parking lot but were dealt with by police, the report says.
The police report stated no injuries were reported at the event, however many students have come forward saying the crowd was sprayed with pepper spray and the poor organization of the event may have been the cause of the out of control situation.
Zuri Beadle, UAlbany junior attended the event with some friends and said he feels the event was out of control mainly due to lack of organization. Beadle said upon arrival to the event, he noticed a lot of people standing outside but no barricades or any sort of organization.
“They [security] pushed girls to one side and guys to another but that was impossible due to how many people were there,” he said.
The “No Strings Attached” event was intended to be an end-of-summer style theme bash with local DJs and was described as a pre-Labor Day celebration. No alcohol was served.
After waiting in line for over an hour and a half, Beadle and his friends decided to leave but due to the massive crowd getting out wasn’t easy, he said.
“It was never a riot, there was maybe one altercation that I saw. No one was throwing things or getting mad, it was a lot of pissed off college kids who wanted to get into an event they paid for,” he said.
After finally getting through the crowd, Beadle realized his cousin who had come to the event with him wasn’t with him He decided to wait outside the crowd until he found his cousin again so they could leave together.
As he was waiting, he noticed some police coming down to the scene. He said they began to spray pepper spray onto the crowd without warning. Beadle
caught some of the blast and fell to the ground.
“Even though he didn’t intentionally spray me, I still got hit with it. The cops immediately told me to get up and leave,” he said, adding that he couldn’t get up due to the pain and being disoriented after being hit.
“I’ve broken a few bones in my life but that [pepper spray] was the worst pain I have ever felt in my life. It’s 30 minutes of hell,” he said.
Laquer, UAlbany sophomore was also his with the pepper spray blast but was not hit as bad as his friend, Beadle. Laquer heard Beadle screaming from pain and went over to help.
“It’s a different kind of pain, it just wouldn’t go away,” Beadle said. He added that the next day he was still in tremendous pain and couldn’t speak.
Laquer tried to ask the police for help because of his concern for his injured friend and was told an EMT was on the way and they were forced to leave.
When Beadle could open his eyes again he said he tried to find the officer that sprayed the crowd but was met with animosity and force from the police, which his friend Kwaesi Laquer videotaped on his phone.
“The cops were shouting at us to leave,” Beadle said. He said he asked one officer for a badge number and was rejected and threatened with being arrested for trespassing.
“They don’t have the right to arrest you for asking for a badge number and it should be in plain sight,” Beadle said, “I have the right to those things and I felt like my rights were not represented and we were mistreated.”
Steve Smith, public information officer for the Albany Police said drugs and/or alcohol do not appear to be a factor in the incident. He also said no wrongful use of pepper spray or injuries have been reported.
Charles Newton, account executive at the Polish Community Center was at Saturday’s event.
“It was a tremendous crowd, people wouldn’t back out of the way and it was out of control,” he said, adding that Groove Phi Groove has held events at the Community Center two other times but everything ran smoothly.
The event was hosted by Groove Phi Groove, a national fellowship founded at Morgan State College as an alternative to mainstream black fraternities. According to their Facebook page, the UAlbany “Great Dane” chapter of Groove Phi Groove formed in 2007. The following is an excerpt from their mission statement, “to perpetuate the Fellowship’s purposes, the National Office encourages affiliate chapters to participate in and support community service and civic programs aimed at youth mentoring, academic tutoring, scholarships, and activities that address the problems of homelessness, drug abuse, and alcoholism.”
The group is involved in many community outreach programs, including mentoring local children and being positive role models.
Laquer inquired about with Groove Phi Groove about a refund for his tickets and was told it was out of their control and was met with a lack of sympathy for the injuries they suffered.
Members of Groove Phi Groove did not respond to a request for comment.
“You know how many tickets you sold, wouldn’t you at least plan for the crowd you expected?” Beadle said. Laquer added he feels like he was scammed out of his ticket money and probably wouldn’t attend another event hosted by anyone involved in Greek life.
“It wasn’t just a house party or something, I heard about it at orientation,I feel like I was robbed,” Laquer said.
“It’s sad because a lot of people were excited for this event, people were looking forward to it for months,” Beadle said.
Student Association President Francis Agyemang encourages anyone who was at the event and would like to share their concerns to message him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He hopes to bring the concerns forward in a meeting with the Chief of the Albany Police.
“While I do not condone all of the actions by students that night, as the President of the Student Association, I am very concerned that innocent student bystanders were placed in harms way by the actions of the Albany Police Department – in particular the use of a crowd control type of mace that was sprayed at the entire crowd – not just directed at individuals. It is the feeling of many students that the force used by the Albany Police Department exacerbated the situation exponentially creating far more danger than the initial situation. If true, this type of behavior should not be tolerated,” he said.
Albany Police said no further investigation will occur on their part, and the Albany County District Attorney’s Office may conduct further investigation. However, the District Attorney’s office said they would not comment on the case because it is still open.
“I just feel like the Albany Police have no respect for us,” Beadle said.