Police Use Tear Gas to Break Up Party Near Michigan State Campus

Police early Sunday used tear gas to disperse a crowd at a large party near the campus of Michigan State University after fights broke out and officers were pelted with bottles and cans.

Police said in a statement that 3,000 to 4,000 people had gathered for the Cedar Fest party in East Lansing on Saturday night. Police said 52 people were arrested and 48 others ticketed for various offenses. More charges could be coming after police review videotape taken at the scene.

Some injuries to officers and people at the party were reported by police, but details weren't available. At a news conference Sunday, East Lansing police Chief Tom Wibert described the injuries as mostly cuts and bruises. Wibert said nearly all of the officers working the scene reported being struck by a flying object at some point during the night. Four small fires were reported and windows were smashed on two police vehicles.

Police said the crowd became increasingly unruly after 1 a.m.

Tear gas was fired after 2 a.m. after repeated loudspeaker warnings to leave were ignored, and the crowd had dispersed about an hour later. Police said about 80 officers from area jurisdictions worked to contain the crowd.

"I don't see how we could have dispersed the crowd without tear gas," Wibert said. He said the gas was used as a last resort and that officers showed restraint throughout the night.

Police said many of the troublemakers weren't Michigan State students. Of the 52 people arrested, 28 had been identified as university students. They could face charges ranging from disorderly conduct to inciting a riot.

Wibert said police initially only used loud, smoking munitions without the burning effect of tear gas to try to get the crowd to leave, but only about half dispersed. At that point, he said, tear gas was used.

The city and Michigan State University on Friday had warned people to stay away from the planned event, which was an attempt to revive an East Lansing party tradition that had been ended because of past problems.

The warning came following reports that the social networking Web site Facebook was being used to promote the event at Cedar Village, a student housing complex bordering the northeast side of campus.

East Lansing has been the site of several past disturbances. In 2005, a crowd of more than 2,000 college students and others swarmed downtown East Lansing after the Michigan State men's basketball team lost in the Final Four. Police arrested 42 people. Damage was estimated at $8,275.

In 1999, property damage was estimated at up to $500,000 when the Spartan men lost in the Final Four. Revelers overturned cars, smashed store windows and set fires. Police arrested 132 people, including 71 Michigan State students.

There also were problems during the Spartans' 2003 NCAA tournament run. But large gatherings during Final Four appearances in 2000 and 2001, for the most part, were peaceful.