Police Clear Crowd of Over 1,000 Ohio College Students After Campus Closes Over Coronavirus

March 11, 2020 Updated: March 11, 2020

Police officers in riot gear were called to an Ohio college campus after a crowd of about 1,000 students refused to follow orders to disperse.

A large crowd gathered on Lowes Street in a neighborhood near the University of Dayton (UD) on Tuesday night shortly after the school made an announcement saying that all in-person classes will be canceled until after spring break and that housing will be closed. The move was made in an attempt to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19.

“A large disorderly crowd that grew to more than 1,000 people gathered on Lowes Street starting around 11 p.m., throwing objects and bottles in the street and at police, and jumping on cars,” UD officials said in a statement obtained by Dayton Daily News. “Police gave verbal orders to disperse which were ignored.”

A video posted to Twitter by UD’s student newspaper Flyer News shows a massive crowd blocking a street and chanting.

After the crowd ignored orders to disperse, police launched non-lethal pepper balls that “contain powder with an irritant that disperses quickly,” a tactic that was unsuccessful, the university said. About 2:15 a.m. on Wednesday, additional police forces arrived and again ordered the crowd to disperse and eventually cleared the street, during which at least one person was reportedly injured by a thrown bottle, university officials said in a statement.

“What took place last night was NOT a protest,” the student newspaper wrote on Twitter. “Students were treating it as a potential last party of the semester.”

As of Wednesday, four people in Ohio have been tested positive for COVID-19. Three are in Cuyahoga County, where Cleveland is. The latest case is a man in his mid-50s in Stark County. It is the first instance of community spread of the virus in Ohio, according to the state’s health department.

“I’m not ordering to close schools. We may get to that point—but not today,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said on Wednesday following a coronavirus update from health officials. “If it comes that, we’ll work with the legislature and schools to seek to waive testing requirements if schools need to be closed.”

“What we are seeing with #COVID19 is predictable, and we have the ability to control risk,” DeWine said. “The goal is to minimize deaths.”