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Editorial: Blarney Blowout one Amherst party that can’t be reformed

It’s time to send the Blarney Blowout packing. Let’s shed a few green tears and celebrate that this year’s event didn’t again turn downtown into a spectacle of public drunkenness.

Then, let’s cue the bagpipes and end the hypocrisy of allowing downtown Amherst bars to promote daytime drinking by students as we all then deal with the raucous partying this certainly helps unleash.

The Blarney Blowout isn’t entirely responsible for the out-of-control party that drew well over 2,000 young people — the number may be closer to 3,000 — to the Townehouse complex on Meadow Street in North Amherst. People began gathering there late Saturday morning, while the Blowout promotion was under way.

But as long as officials in Amherst allow bars to tacitly encourage binge drinking, they are setting the town’s police and fire departments up for trouble. It is certain that some well-oiled students, tweeting and tottering, left the Blowout and headed to the next “it” place.

When police and fire department crews arrived at the Townehouse party, they had to dodge bottles, cans and snowballs. The Fire Department’s four ambulances struggled to keep up with the volume of calls, imperiling public safety. At 4 p.m., the fire chief authorized extra staffing to get another ambulance on the road.

We’ve heard a few students who attended the party say callously that with a party that size, the six arrests police made are insignificant. That misses the point by a country mile. One “problem” per 500 people might seem paltry if we were talking about sunburn.

But the bad behavior unleashed by drinking, drug taking and a mob’s lurching mentality put public safety officials at risk. While only a few people in a mob may have thrown objects at police and fire crews, everyone there is responsible for the cheering and hooting that lends courage to hooligans.

We’ve noted before that only a small percentage of students are responsible for the inconsiderate behavior that causes town-gown conflicts. Many students go out of their way to help others and make Amherst a better community. The Townehouse debacle erodes those gains and goodwill.

The six people arrested have a lot to answer for, from the court system and their dean of students. Amherst police made clear later their focus was to manage the crowd and, as dusk came on, to disperse it, not to make arrests.

Police and firefighters don’t expect to be saluted on their rounds. But they continue to face assault and verbal abuse from young people at parties. That is unacceptable.

We agree with Stephen Gaughan, president of Amherst Firefighters Local 1764, that by working with the Blarney Blowout’s sponsors to reform past excesses, the community appears to put its seal of approval on overindulgence.

Police Chief Scott Livingstone confirms that the pre-St. Patrick’s Day promotion was managed better this last year. The sponsors, Mc­Murphy’s Uptown Tavern and Stackers Pub, deserve credit for that. They have a right to operate their businesses.

But this event comes at too great a cost to the town and its public safety workers.

The top-rated Youtube video on the Townehouse party had been seen by more than 80,000 at midweek. Amherst police account for some of those views, as they work to identify partygoers who broke laws and put people at risk, including officers and firefighters. Parents might be watching too. They should be.

Around the world, we’ve seen the courage of young people who gather to free their countries from repressive governments, often by confronting police. What rights are young people demanding, in this sorry season of the Amherst Spring?

Maybe it’s the right to get drunk and forget your troubles. Or just to transfer them to someone else.

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