Hundreds of students gathered in the Grove for a snowball fight on Monday afternoon that led to rushing Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and at least two charges of trespassing as winter weather shut down businesses, schools and roads.
A group message organized on Sunday afternoon via GroupMe called for members to “add anyone and everyone” for a snowball fight in the Grove at 1 p.m. on Monday. The group message garnered over 3,500 members by Monday afternoon.
“We’re trying to make this snowball fight the biggest ever in Mississippi,” read one message from the group owner, who declined to comment.
Of the hundreds of students who attended the snowball fight, few were following city and university COVID guidelines. According to UM’s guidelines for events, there is a 10-person limit indoors and 25 participants outdoors. The university also asks that attendees wear masks, use social distancing and limit physical contact.
Despite the excitement around an organized snowball fight, many of the students present were not throwing snowballs. The atmosphere in the Grove felt similar to that of tailgating at a home football game. One member played music from a speaker for the crowd, which congregated into a circle near the Walk of Champions entrance. Students were dancing, cheering and, at one point, crowdsurfing. Some students were seen drinking alcohol.
“We figured there would be a lot of people there,” said one student, who asked to be anonymous due to legal action against students present at the stadium. “It’s a fun thing to do since we didn’t get tailgating (in the fall).”
Around 1:45 p.m., after the crowd migrated to the Grove stage, students began chanting “Rush the Vaught!” and frantically dashed for Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. While many seemed nervous to jump over the fence, several students made it over a wall between gates 15-25 and into the stadium.
“We got about 35-40 people inside, and then we went right and climbed out the fence on the other side,” said another student who successfully got into the stadium.
Students were still inside the stadium when University Police Department arrived to break up the crowd around 1:55 p.m. A video circulating on social media shows one UPD vehicle driving toward the crowd on icy roads to scatter crowd members. UPD could not be reached for comment about if this decision was protocol or why the officer drove toward the crowd.
“The sirens came, and everybody literally fled like roaches,” one student, who was cited for trespassing, said. “I have the grand idea that I can make it. So I jumped down, and the police officer grabs this girl in front of me. Then two seconds later, he grabs me, and he swings us to the police car, and he’s like, ‘So what was the master plan? What are y’all doing?’”
At least two students were detained by UPD and cited for trespassing in Vaught-Hemingway. According to several students at the event, there was no “master plan.”
“So basically, there was no real rhyme or reason to why we did what we did. It was just being stupid,” she said.