Western Washington was a chaotic scene even to veteran Bellingham police officers as riots broke out by hundreds of college-aged partygoers taking to the streets, causing big-city mayhem. All of it, within sight of the university’s campus.
“Everyone’s swarming the cars, started dancing, and people jumped up on top of the cars,” said Jared Cortnik, a WWU senior. Cortnik was inside his house when the revelers from a party that had been shut down moved to Indian Street. Within an hour, he said, hundreds more people had arrived.
However, when officers showed up, Cortnik said, they didn’t move in.
“So then people started mooning people, and the cops didn’t do anything,” said Cortnik. “They felt empowered even more so. So it got to the point where they started throwing stuff; to the point where it was just beer bottles and chairs.”
He estimated it took another hour for SWAT officers to arrive. They used tear gas and flash grenades before gaining the upper hand. By then, Indian Street was barely recognizable to those who live there.
“The entire street was just shimmering,” said Emma Smith, a WWU junior. “It was just a street of glass. It was crazy!”
After it was over, Smith, her roommate and several other students voluntarily cleaned up the neighborhood. Freshman Ian McKee from Kirkland said they wanted to do something to counter ”the bad publicity.”
Gordon Brackett, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1975, said he and his wife, Betty Conlan “are ready to go somewhere else.” The riot isn’t sitting well with them.
“The police were put in a very bad position because they were totally outnumbered and had to deal with a riot in the middle of our street,” Conlan said. “This is our neighborhood.”
Bellingham police tweeted early Sunday morning that they are continuing their investigation; continuing, too, to look at all those videos.
Western Washington University President Bruce Shepard and Western Associated Student Body President Carly Roberts released a statement Sunday afternoon on the incident:
“Last night, in the vicinity of our campus, several hundred people refused to obey a lawful order to disperse.
The extent to which university students may have been involved has yet to be determined. Of the three arrests made, none were Western students.