DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Dayton Police and the University of Dayton Police responded to Lowes Street in the South Student neighborhood on reports of a massive crowd.

University officials said the crowd gathered around 11 p.m. and began throwing objects and jumping on cars. Students said they were celebrating the cancellation of classes due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Police in riot gear fired several pepper balls into the crowd. Units from across the city were also called in to help after verbal orders to disperse were ignored. University Officials said at least one person was hurt by a thrown bottle.

University officials also said the crowd dispersed after 2 a.m. It is not clear how many arrests were made.

Rumors circulating on social media claimed that the crowd had gathered to protest the steps the university had taken in response to the coronavirus, but university officials say those claims are untrue:

There were some social media reports and rumors that this was a protest against our coronavirus measures — those reports are inaccurate. Indications are that the students wanted one last large gathering before spring break and the size and behavior of the crowd required police to take action.

UD Police Chief Savalas Kidd released the following letter to the campus community Wednesday evening, saying:

To the campus community: 

Last night, University and city police responded to a large, disorderly crowd of about 1,000 people blocking Lowes Street, preventing emergency medical access, damaging property, jumping on cars, and throwing objects in the roadway, at officers and at others in the crowd, resulting in at least one injury.

I am writing today to correct misinformation circulating widely on campus and social media about the incident. The facts are:

Officers at the scene issued orders for the crowd to disperse based on the size and behavior of individuals who were putting officers and civilians at risk. These orders were ignored. 

Because these orders were ignored, police were forced to deploy pepper balls into the crowd. Pepper balls are a standard police tool for crowd management, which deliver a non-toxic, irritant powder that disperses quickly. The active ingredient is similar to what is found in hot sauce.

Tear gas, rubber bullets, paintballs and gas canisters were never used.

As police officers, we try to support a campus environment where students can gather and celebrate safely. Last Saturday, we were on the scene when more than 2,000 people gathered after the College Gameday broadcast to have fun and enjoy each other without police intervention. But last night, the crowd created a dangerous situation, ignoring messages we have shared in the past and as late as last week to obey police orders, keep city streets clear, and refrain from damaging property and throwing objects.

In the future, we will continue to support responsible celebrations and intervene when dangerous situations arise. 

Thank you,

Savalas Kidd

Executive Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police

2 NEWS is working to learn more about this developing story and will keep you updated when more information is available.