Columbia Fire breaks up large party with ‘thousands of students’ at Orchard Apartments

Columbia Fire breaks up large party with 'thousands of students" at Orchard apartments

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - City of Columbia leaders are reacting after Columbia Fire, Richland County Sheriff’s Department and University of South Carolina police had to break up a party of more than 2,000 people this weekend.

This happened at Orchard Apartments during Saturday’s football game against Auburn.

Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins says he was inside Williams Brice Stadium when his department received a medical call at Orchard Apartments. “When they got there, there was a crowd out there, and they could barely get through,” said Chief Jenkins. “there were people who actually started throwing debris, bottles or cans, at firefighters and EMS workers.”

Chief Jenkins says these students were breaking the governor’s social distancing executive order, as well as Richland County’s mask ordinance. It took more than an hour to disperse the crowd. “We don’t want to shut down a whole university,” he explained. “But obviously, the education time is over. The honeymoon is over, and now we’ve got to get to the serious business of what we’re doing.”

Columbia Fire did not give out any citations because Chief Jenkins says the focus was on dispersing the crowd and not making people stand around longer to hand them ID’s. He says the apartment complex has also not been fined, but Columbia Fire has been talking with management.

“I’m going to go back and do some follow up, and we are going to agree to agree on some stuff that needs to be done,” said Chief Jenkins. “One thing we talked about was having security out there during game days, but this is just a talk. If this happens again, we are going to take further action, even if it means me pushing to have the complex fined.”

Columbia City Councilwoman Tameika Issac Devine says she also received dozens of complaints regarding large crowds without masks in the Five Points District this weekend. “We’ve got to really press upon the governor our freedoms go only so far, and with this type of behavior, and with football season, the fall is coming. We already hear there is going to be an uptick in cases,” said Devine. “We’ve got to look at what worked and look to going back to that.”

Devine says she doesn’t want to shut down the economy, but she wants to hold citizens and business owners whose actions put others in danger accountable.

Councilwoman Devine says she’s also hopeful the university will hold its students accountable. “We rely upon the university to be responsible, as well, and I’m just hoping we can get this under control,” she explained.

Because the governor is allowing restaurants to open at 100 percent capacity, the city cannot enact an ordinance restricting capacity.

We reached out to Orchard Apartments Monday but have not yet heard back.

We also reached out to UofSC, and Director of Public Relations, Jeff Stensland, sent us a statement saying they are still investigating student behavior this weekend. “We have been urging students from the very beginning of the pandemic to conduct themselves appropriately to protect themselves and the community,” he explained. “In instances where students have displayed blatant disregard for public safety, the university has levied interim suspensions and we will continue to take action in the future.”

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