Delayed Response: Thoughts on Public Safety from a Frontline Firefighter/Medic
So let me get this straight. For a week before the day in question, the UMass administration sent out emails and publications warning students of the consequences of rowdy behavior. But being rebellious young adults, fresh out from under Mom and Dad's protective wings, you people took this as a challenge.
"They can't tell US what to do!", "We're grownups now!", "We'll show them!"
By ten o'clock in the morning there were THOUSANDS of drunken college-aged youth swarming the streets of north Amherst, both on and off campus. You were knocking over street signs. You toppled lamp posts. You threw snowballs and beer cans at passing vehicles. You taunted the police with profanity-laced chanting. You generally fought for your right to party (and by that I mean you intruded on other people's rights to enjoy a sunny Saturday morning and drive down the road without fearing a flying beer bottle might come through the window).
Now, here's where I get a little confused. Then you cry foul when pepper balls and mace come back at you. Really?! What did you think was going to happen? Isn't that what you wanted? You were posting on Twitter how it's not really a UMass party until the cops show up in riot gear!
Let me be crystal clear. I do NOT speak for the town, the department, the union, the police, the alumni association, the pepper ball manufacturer, or the ding-dong cart that sets up outside the bars every weekend. I'm speaking as a private citizen who got off duty before the shenanigans started and was driving around town in my personal vehicle. Most of what I learned about the Blarney Blowout I learned by watching the national media attention you brought on yourselves by acting like a bunch of monkeys throwing poo at each other.
And now you want an apology from the cops because they were mean to you!? I'm sorry. Did I miss something? Did you apologize to the innocent people you threw snowballs at? Or for the thousands of dollars in public and private property damage you caused that day, or any other weekend for that matter?
I recognize the vast majority of UMass students are good, honest, hard working young adults who try their best to respect their community. But every weekend public safety in this community has to deal with these foolish young self-proclaimed lawyers with an over-inflated sense of importance who think they know how to be a police officer, a fire fighter, or a paramedic better than we do. And they love to tell us how to do our job.
"We're the reason you even have a job. So you're welcome!"
Yes. You're right, you arrogant dweeb. Thank you. If it weren't for you, the people in this town wouldn't exist. They'd vanish into thin air. They wouldn't need police officers or paramedics to keep their community safe from true emergencies like every other community in the nation does. Hell, what would we do without you here urinating on the sidewalk in the middle of the day?
This small group of pompous, disrespectful hooligans who are hell-bent on proving to the world how important they are is dragging UMass' reputation through the mud. They are destroying the value of the degree I earned from this very school. The rest of the campus community should be just as outraged about this as the full-time residents.
"But I didn't throw anything. I was just there."
I don't care. If you fed into this behavior in any way, you were part of the problem. You might not like me for saying it, but it's true.
When a police officer tells you to leave, just leave. When a dispersal order is issued, then it's really time to leave. Get out.
Don't think they have the right to make you leave? Who cares? Leave anyway. If they really don't, deal with it later in a more appropriate setting. Don't risk getting arrested because you didn't feel like going somewhere else to party. Get arrested, fight with the cops, rack up more charges, and it will haunt you for years as you try to start a career and enter the real world.
By choosing to come here, you are choosing to be a part of our community. For some students who come from elsewhere, such as myself, you may choose to call this home permanently. But, at least for a short time, this becomes YOUR community. These are YOUR neighbors. Behave as such.
Party. Celebrate. Enjoy the weather and your youth. Have massive cookouts on the quad with beer-pong and flipcup. You can do these things and still be respectful of the rest of society. This might be the first time some of you have heard this, but this world does not revolve around you.
The police officers who handled the Blarney Blowout of 2014 should be commended for a job well done. The children who caused such unnecessary chaos should be punished accordingly and an example should be set to send a real message to others who view destroying our home as a means of amusement.
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Tom Valle earned his EMT certification in 2000. After graduating from UMass, Amherst in 2001, Tom worked private ambulance in both Springfield and Greenfield, MA while earning his paramedic certification from Greenfield Community College. He continues to work as a professional firefighter/paramedic in western Massachusetts and serves as the secretary for union’s Local. Tom is continuing his education by working towards a Bachelor’s in Fire Science through Columbia Southern University.
Tom can be reached directly at