‘Most violent’ riot ends in 32 arrests
Originally published in the Iowa State Daily April 19, 2004 Main section, front page
The facts were apparent in the hours after a riot erupted early Sunday morning, but accountability was less clear as the Campustown and ISU communities surveyed the damage.
Ames Police Chief Loras Jaeger said during a news conference Sunday afternoon that Ames police received a citizen complaint at 11:56 p.m. Saturday. The complaint was about a party on the 2600 block of Hunt Street that was spilling out into the street. Ames police estimated about 400 people were at the party. The group then moved down to Welch Avenue and two groups began to form — one at the southern part of Welch Avenue and the other at Lincoln Way and Welch Avenue.
A trash can was set on fire in front of the Campanile replica on Welch Avenue, and altercations rose to riot intensity with hundreds crowding Welch Avenue and taunting police by mooning them and shouting phrases such as “Fuck the police” and “No dry Veishea.” Officers held out pepper spray and tear gas in front of them. Lamp posts, parking meters and many storefront windows were damaged or destroyed. Businesses
closed as rioting escalated and many employees were locked in. Jaeger said there were more than 100 officers out by the end of the night.
There were 32 total arrests Sunday morning, with charges including assault of an officer, criminal mischief, disorderly conduct and interference with official acts. The most serious injury reported was a broken foot caused by a falling lamp post.
“I would characterize this as the most violent experience [in my time at Veishea],” said Jaeger, who has seen 13 Veisheas.
Iowa State’s image and Veishea’s future are in question by many community members.
“It’s going to be embarrassing for the school and the students that acted out,” said Nic Stockdale, sophomore in agricultural systems technology.
ISU President Gregory Geoffroy addressed the community’s concerns Sunday.
“I believe that we now seriously have to address the future of Veishea, including a consideration of whether it should continue,” he said.
Some business owners said they hoped this would be the end.
“I would like to see Veishea end,” said Jennifer Doty, former manager of the Ames
Vogue Vision Center. “The kids get drunk, have fun, destruct, and the city and the businesses have to pay for it the next day.”
ISU Police, Ames Police, Story County sheriff’s officers and the Iowa State Patrol used riot control techniques — including pepper spray and tear gas — to push back the crowd toward the Towers residence halls after the crowd damaged several businesses, including Kum & Go, 203 Welch Ave., and Welch Ave. Station, 207 Welch Ave. However, the crowd regrouped on Lincoln Way, gathering in the portion of the street in front of Friley Hall and pushing officers back.
“We’re having fun,” said Derek Weber, of Dike, as he walked away from a lamp post he and others pulled from the ground. “This is about us leaving the bars and them gassing us.”
Several lamp posts and street signs were torn down and thrown across Lincoln Way. A sign was thrown into Welch Avenue Trading Post, 105 Welch Ave., and a fire hose, which was turned on, was also dragged into Copyworks.
The crowds of police and rioters clashed until about 5:30 a.m. Those in the crowds used a number of words to describe the situation: “crazy,” “liberal,” “conservative,” and “fun” being a few. However, one word was prevalent.
“Whatever adjective you use [to describe the riots], put ‘fucking’ in front of it, because it wouldn’t do it justice otherwise,” said Matt Christiansen, senior in political science. “This is mass chaos.”
Many involved in the riots claimed they were victims of police brutality, saying they were sprayed with gas for not moving off the streets and into buildings.
“I was in the bars, and I walk out, and immediately a cop walks out and sprays me, and tells me to get the fuck out of there,” said Tony Feldmann, junior in computer engineering. “After that, I headed to come to Kum & Go and turned onto Chamberlain toward Big Shots, and two cops were standing there, and I got sprayed for a second time, and then they told us to go the other way.”
Other students agreed they were sprayed without cause.
“The left side of my face is burning up. We didn’t do anything. We were just walking away with the crowd [and were pepper-sprayed],” said Andrea Seminara, junior in dietetics.
Ames Police Cmdr. Jim Robinson said Sunday afternoon officers made it clear rioters needed to leave the area.
“Once you’re in a riot situation, all individuals that are within the area of the riot, they are [told] to leave,” he said. “Officers can’t differentiate [between onlookers and rioters].”
Students living in Campustown also made claims of unnecessary brutality.
“It’s unreasonable; they’re charging my yard when we were all sitting here peacefully,” said Tim Rash, junior in computer engineering. “It’s unreasonable to provoke people who are minding their own business. To come into my yard and yell at me and my friends who were all sitting down and minding their own business is a violation of their rights.”
Several students and other attendees attempted to reason with the crowd and police. Two men stood outside of Welch Ave. Station as crowds threw rocks at the building, breaking windows of both Welch Ave. Station and Pizza Pit, 207 1/2 Welch Ave.
“This is not our intention,” said Ezra Kelderman, sophomore in mechanical engineering. “Some people are out of control.”
The men tried to talk to the rioters, but were repeatedly taunted and pelted with objects.
“We just want peace. The cops, they’re kind of making it worse … but people are making it worse too,” said Seth Chicas, junior in psychology.
Comparisons were made to past Veishea riots, such as those in 1992 and 1994.
“I’ve been here for 10 years,” said Tony Sheperd, general manager of Sips and Paddy’s, 124 Welch Ave. “I was here for the stabbing and the other riots, but there wasn’t anything like this.”
Some blamed the past six years of an alcohol-free Veishea as the cause of the riots.
“[Veishea] used to be a blast, just a big house party … then that one kid got stabbed,” said Ben Holtrop, junior in political science. “[The riots are], like, six years of frustration coming out.”
Leah McBride, Tom Barton, Jason Noble, Ayrel Clark, Alicia Ebaugh and Lucas Grundmeier contributed to this article.