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Investigators looking for students who took part in pumpkin festival mele

  • AP
    People stand atop an overturned car in Keene

KEENE, N.H. >> The governor urged the state’s colleges and universities to punish students involved in violent parties near Keene’s annual pumpkin festival that led to destruction, dozens of arrests and multiple injuries over the weekend.

Meanwhile, Keene officials scheduled a news conference for 4 p.m. Monday to discuss the violence, which prompted police trying control the crowds to don riot gear and use tear gas.

The parties around Keene State University coincided with the Keene Pumpkin Festival, at which the community tries to set a world record of the largest number of carved and lighted jack-o-lanterns in one place.

Gov. Maggie Hassan called on the state’s colleges and universities to "take swift action to hold students involved accountable."

College students cleaned up the area Sunday.

Sophomore Mallory Pearce, vice president of the student body, said she saw a car flipped over in a parking lot, another car being destroyed and people being pepper-sprayed.

"It got way out of hand. Everyone I talked to said, ‘I feel unsafe, I’m going home.’ They didn’t want to be part of the riot, and they couldn’t do anything to solve it," she said. "I honestly did not feel safe."

While Pearce was disappointed in the violence, she said her faith was restored when about 200 volunteers showed up Sunday morning to clean up.

"We all recognize that we made a mistake, and we’re going to do better next year," she said. "We’re not going to let this happen again."

A police department log shows officers responded to 235 calls between 2:30 a.m. Friday and 3:30 a.m. Sunday and made at least 49 arrests. Not all were part of the disturbances, but at least 14 on Saturday and early Sunday appeared related to the unruly behavior. Most involved disorderly conduct or alcohol-related offenses.

A crowd overturned a car, street signs were torn down and fires burned in the streets. Police also investigated reports of people throwing glass bottles and fireworks, jumping off a roof and banging on cars.

One group of young people threatened to beat up an elderly man, and another resident heard someone "threatening to kill officers," according to the police log. About 20 injured people were taken to hospitals, Keene Fire Chief Mark Howard told New England Cable News.

Student body president Bobby Graham said he was disgusted by the destruction he saw and believes most of the perpetrators were not Keene State students.

"We are devoted to our community and very much engaged with our community," he said.

Eammon Flynn, who was among about 30 students visiting for the weekend from Castleton College in Vermont, said he didn’t participate in any destruction but "went out and joined the mayhem."

"The parties ended up being boring, and the riot ended up being wild," he said. "It was fun to be around."

College President Anne Huot said in an emailed statement that the festival has been promoted by others "as a destination for destructive and raucous behavior" and the college had tried working with the city and campus to prevent unruly conduct.

Officials are reviewing photos, videos, media coverage and social media postings to identify those responsible, Huot said, and the most serious offenders could be expelled.

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