Authorities, U of M Somali Student Group Differ Over Response to Event Friday

The University of Minnesota says police officers from the school and other agencies responded after fighting broke out following an event sponsored by the school’s Somali Student Association Friday night.

But in a statement, the organization said the police response to its 2018 Somali Night event held at Northop Auditorium was unwarranted.

University spokesperson Evan Lapiska said large groups of 30 to 40 youth began fighting each other inside Northrop, and multiple people were assaulted and at least one robbery occurred.

“Officers on scene called for assistance from neighboring police agencies to deescalate the situation and maintain a safe environment,: Lapiska said in an email. “The fights continued and spilled into surrounding areas of campus for approximately one hour. Responding officers used minimal force and some chemical irritant was dispersed in an effort to maintain safety.”

Lapiska said the University’s police department maintained a presence at the event, as it does for all large events on campus. He said organizers estimated a crowd of roughly 2,500.

“We share the frustration of the organizers that an otherwise positive event and celebration was marred by the actions of a small group of attendees,” he said in his email. “UMPD is still gathering information on the fights and asks anyone with information to come forward by contacting 612 624-COPS.”

However, the Somali Student Association released a lengthy critical statement, claiming excessive force was used.

“This does not make sense as 10 the two, three-minute fights that broke out occurred after the event and officers present refused to break them up and 2) at least six police cars were visible on Northrop’s east entrance as early as twelve minutes after the event had ended. It appeared that the police were called to the scene in advance of any disruptions,” read a portion of the statement.