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Clark University is suspending the use of off-duty Worcester police officers and its policy requiring the presence of a police officer at large student events.
In a joint statement to the university community, President David Angel and President-elect David Fithian said four Clark students were arrested during a protest in the campus neighborhood Monday night, where they said police in riot gear used pepper spray.
"We do not at this time know the full circumstances or details of these events," the statement said. "What we do know is that the police actions we have witnessed are unacceptable and a source of dismay to all within our community. We share the anger and concern over these actions."
Worcester police provided a very different version of events.
In a press release, the department said that Chief Steven Sargent and numerous police officers marched with protesters during a peaceful demonstration in downtown Worcester.
More than hour after the peaceful protest dispersed, officers observed "a separate, unruly crowd of about fifty to seventy people."
Police said officers "ordered the crowd many times to disperse." According to the police, several individuals threw glass bottles and other objects at officers. At one point, the police statement said, the crowd surrounded a police cruiser. Police said that one officer was struck in the head with a piece of concrete, others with rocks.
Police said other individuals threw fireworks and Roman candles at officers, adding that one officer's uniform and skin was burned after he was struck in the chest by fireworks. A cruiser caught fire after being hit with a Roman candle and others were damaged by thrown objects, according to police. Several buildings were also vandalized.
The police statement said numerous cars were driven at officers in the street, and that dumpsters were set afire and pushed towards officers.
An hour-and-a-half into the disturbance, police said they used smoke grenades and pepperball rounds to disperse the crowd.
Nineteen people were arrested, including a man police said was armed with several Molotov cocktails.
“Yesterday I proudly joined the protest over the death of George Floyd and stood in solidarity with the protesters," Sargent said in the statement. "The rioting that took place later in the evening was separate from the peaceful rally that I attended earlier. These individuals were not delivering a message but rather promoting violence. They were putting the citizens of our city at risk, along with our officers who came under attack."
One of the arrested students, Olyvia Crum, said in a series of facebook posts that she was a bystander.
"I watched Lyndsay be dragged and repeatedly punched by officers while he was already laying on the ground as I was dragged away," Crum said of another arrested student, Lyndsay Demanbey.
In his own facebook post, Demanbey said he was taking video of police when he was arrested.
"Then before I knew it, there were 4 or 5 cops on top of me, pressing on my back, someone's knee on my throat, my arms pinned down, and then dragging, them dragging me across the ground," Demanbey said.
Angel and Fithian said they are offering full support to the students. They promised to conduct their own investigation.
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