While some students have described the tear gas incident from Saturday, April 12 as necessary, other students expressed pain and dismay.
Tear gas was released into a crowd of over 2,000 students on April 12 after police received several disturbance complaints near Western Michigan University and the crowd became hostile, according to a press release from the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety.
One of the participants of the “House Crawl” event was WMU student Gino Borri who said he saw an estimate of 20 police officers in riot gear near Lafayette Street.
“It was crazy. The entire block was covered in tear gas. It looked like an airborne virus from a zombie movie or something,” Borri said.
Borri, and several other students, are now describing memories of pain, fear and confusion from the tear gas incident.
“My eyes and face were burning and my throat closed up… thought I was about to cough up my intestines,” Borri said.”People were being trampled, laying in the street vomiting. I hopped some fence and broke into some random persons house, because I thought I was gonna die, washed my face in the sink for like 15 minutes.”
The marketing major said the police “might have had a right” to use the tear gas, after the crowd became hostile toward the police.
“People were throwing beer cans and rocks at them. Probably didn’t need to use that much tear gas though. They nuked the entire block. Innocent people were getting caught in the smoke,” Borri said.
Another student, Mitch Zink said that the situation could have been handled better.
“Police are [supposed] to protect, not harm. The whole situation could’ve been handled better,” Zink said.
“The police went from 5 cops yelling at us to leave right to a 40 man seat team throwing dozens of canisters of tear gas,” Zink said. “They could’ve have found a better solution before jumping to such extremes. I was down wind from the tear gas and got a face full. My sinus’ felt like they were on fire and my eyes dried up and burnt like hell.
Conor McDonald, sophomore majoring in pre-law and philosophy, was just outside the center of the road and heard the cops getting riot gear.
“I figured they would just walk through and tell people to leave. Then they launched tear gas canisters into the crowd. I didn’t hear any warning before they did it. I was outside the crowd so they barely got me, but the wind carried it and you could feel it all the way up West Michigan. The people who were closer to the center looked pretty bad afterwords,” McDonald said.
Kayla Mott, sophomore in occupational therapy, described the tear gas as the “worst pain ever.”
“My friends and I were all just talking in a group within each other and we [saw] clouds of smoke from far away but didn’t really think anything of it. We started to hear people screaming and running and then I literally turned my head and it just kind of all hit me and all of us at the same time. We started to run but all lost each other because we couldn’t see. Random people were helping others out. Some guy came to me and [helped] me find my friends because I couldn’t see and when you breathe it in your lungs just hurt super bad,” Mott said. “Two of my friends were puking and others were just bloodshot eyes and coughing a lot. But it was cool because everyone helped each other out even when you didn’t know that person. This girl [helped] me flush my eyes out for an hour afterwards too.”
Students weren’t the only ones hit with tear gas. Kyle Hadden said his 8-month-old puppy was tear gassed.
“They gassed my 8 month old puppy,” Hadden said, describing how he “picked her up and ran to see people crying and puking everywhere in my house.” Hadden added that his dog suffered no injuries from the incident.
Alex Rych, junior majoring aviation major, said the tear gas was “very irritating” and it made it “hard to breathe for a couple minutes.”
Rych said that his “eyes all watery and fuzzy, and it made my skin itch…it lingers on your clothes too.”
“It seemed unneccassary. It seems as though them doing that made it worse [because] kids just were waiting around for something else [to] happen,” Rych said.