U of M "Big Bash" Radisson party transforms into Mace-riddled chaos

On its Facebook page, creators of the "Big Bash" event promised a crazy time. By all accounts: mission accomplished.

But that's probably the only way in which the 16+ party went as planned. Held at the Radisson Hotel near the University of Minnesota campus, the event ended unceremoniously with police using Mace to clear out droves of young attendees.

For months, the party has been advertised all over the Twin Cities as "the biggest 16+ bash in Minnesota of 2011." Brayshaun Gibson, one of the promoters, says the ideas was to give young people a safe and chaperoned place to have a good time.

"We just give them an atmosphere where they can enjoy themselves and have fun and do what they like to do without any chaos," says Gibson.

Exactly how things went so wrong depends on who's telling the story.

According to U of M police, hordes of guests began frantically self-evacuating the hotel just after 11:00 p.m., some screaming there had been a shot fired inside the party. Police entered the hotel ballroom to find a chaotic scene had already broken out.

"There were reports of fights, people fighting inside of the ballroom," says U of M Police Deputy-Chief Chuck Miner. "That's when the chemical was sprayed by officers, when attendees started refusing to leave and heading back towards the ballroom."

Here's video from before the party went awry, which shows how many guests packed the hotel ballroom (promoters estimate about 900):

Gibson's memory of how the chaos started is in stark contrast to Miner's. He says the party was completely calm before police showed up and started indiscriminately Macing everyone.

"It was about 20 to 30 cops that just kinda swarmed their way into the event," says Gibson. "They came in here with tear gas grenades, which caused all the kids just to scream and panic and run out without even thinking about it."

Miner says there were no tear gas grenades. Police did use pepper ball guns -- gumball-sized pellets that emit pepper spray -- but only outside the hotel, he says.

Both Gibson and Miner do agree on one detail: there is no evidence that a gun was ever fired.

"It was never verified," says Miner. "One theory is that it was a balloon popping."

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