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Party turned ‘riot’ prompts ban on dances at ballroom

Bay City News
Tuesday August 28, 2001

A weekend riot at UC Berkeley has prompted school officials to ban all dances at the school’s main dance hall for the semester, the university announced Monday. 

But some city representatives and business leaders are wondering whether the incident could have been prevented, especially since it shares some similarities with a similar event that happened after police disbanded an overcrowded party held by a different organization last October. 

Police say the most recent disturbance happened at about 2 a.m. Sunday morning, and capped an otherwise benign dance that the Iota Phi Theta fraternity had thrown Saturday inside the Pauley Ballroom, at the intersection of Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way. 

According to police Lt. Cynthia Harris, after the dance ended, some 300 people spilled out onto the street. Some of them then went out of control, vandalizing four businesses in the area near the campus. Cars were also vandalized, and some of the looters broke down doors and rushed into the private residences of people who live nearby. 

In response, university officials Monday announced the creation of a task force that will be charged with finding ways to improve the auditorium’s operations, and to find better access into the venue, which has a 1,000 people capacity. 

But Councilmember Kriss Worthington, in whose district the incident occurred, wondered whether the incident shows a lack of communication between the university and city police departments. This and other questions are the same as those raised after looting happened last fall. 

“These are not new questions,” Worthington said. “I think we’ve been asking these same questions for years, and the UC people are always blaming somebody else.” 

Worthington criticized the campus police department, saying that it has a policy of “dumping” partygoers from the ballroom unto city streets after events. He also wondered whether the campus police notified city authorities promptly once they realized the situation was getting out of hand. 

Worthington said business owners along Telegraph Avenue are dismayed about what happened, and added that the city manager’s office is working to coordinate a meeting among all of the affected parties. 

No one from the university’s police department was available to comment on Worthington’s allegations. Both city and university police are investigating the incident.