Content warning: This piece contains descriptions of physical violence. If you would like to speak to Counseling and Psychological Services, please call (609) 258-3141.
On Sunday, Oct. 3, Nica Evans ’24 arrived early to the backyard of Quadrangle Club, where she and several friends gathered at the front of the crowd, behind a large metal barrier separating students from the stage. As a sophomore whose only Lawnparties experience to date had been a controversial virtual performance by Jason Derulo, she was excited to attend her first in-person Lawnparties and see headliner A$AP Ferg and student opener Naaji Hylton ’22, professionally known as J. Paris, perform.
Well before A$AP Ferg took the stage, however, Evans found herself in a dangerous situation: the surrounding crowd of students had become a mob.
“I was being crushed against the barricade that was about to give way,” she wrote in a statement to The Daily Princetonian. “I was genuinely terrified that it would break, and I might die from being trampled by all the aggressive students behind me.”
Evans told the ‘Prince’ that she experienced bruising and “intense pressure,” eventually beginning to feel faint. She finally gave in and allowed security guards to carry her over the barrier so she could leave the venue, eventually traveling in an ambulance to McCosh Health Center.
“The entire time, we were all screaming and crying for help, and no one seemed to care,” she said.
Several other students who attended Sunday’s Lawnparties directly corroborate Evans’ account or report similar experiences. The students requested anonymity, due to the sensitive nature of their stories.
One female student, a member of the Class of 2025, reported that she became partially trapped between metal pieces of the barrier, causing a “really deep cut” to her arm.
“It was bleeding everywhere,” she said in an interview with the ‘Prince.’ “I had to use my face mask to try to stop the bleeding.”
“There’s still blood on my shoes, blood on my dress,” she added.
“I didn’t quite want to leave. But then, the shoving got so bad that there was nothing you could do about it,” she recalled. “One of the security guards was like, ‘You need to get that treated.’”
She told the ‘Prince’ she was eventually carried over the barrier and brought to an ambulance, where she witnessed other students recovering from their experiences. By the time they arrived at McCosh, she remembered feeling “panicked.”
“It was really scary and honestly a little traumatic,” she said.
One member of the Class of 2024 who witnessed the above events recalled that security guards were “fighting” to keep the barrier in place, while students around her fell down and were “stepped on,” unable to get up.
“I am unsure how someone started bleeding, but their blood was all over some of my friends due to the close proximity,” she wrote to the ‘Prince.’ “[I] started to have a panic attack and had to be lifted out of the front … the majority of my friends had also been pulled out after being trampled, fainting, or also experiencing severe anxiety attacks.”
The sophomore explained that the crowd conditions also extended to verbal abuse.
“Some of our male friends who tried to keep people from trampling us were threatened,” she wrote. “They recall one student telling them that he would ‘beat the shit out of them’ because they would not let him through [to the front].”
“A lot of the sentiment near us,” she added, “was that we ‘shouldn’t have gotten into the front if we couldn’t handle it.’ No one should feel like their fellow students are forcing them to [put] their lives … in danger.”
One senior, who was also near the front of the crowd, confirmed that the barrier in front of the stage was broken, that students around them were “passing out” and “panicking,” and that friends were in danger of being “trampled.”
“Drunk students yelled around me as I attempted to help friends or simply breathe,” they wrote. “Others would chastise students who repeated the instructions of public safety and security.”
Throughout the event, staff members urged students to cooperate with requests to move back from the front of the stage. Memorably, Social Committee member and Class of 2024 Social Chair Lauren Fahlberg ’24 shouted, “For the love of God, stop talking!” while directing students to listen and obey safety instructions.
Efforts at crowd control remained largely unsuccessful.
“Most of the time, I had no control over my own body,” the senior wrote. “Others’ movements controlled the direction in which I was going, or whether I was being brushed up on accidentally [or] intentionally by another person.”
The first-year student whose arm was injured told the ‘Prince’ that when students were asked to “move back,” some took the sight of their retreating peers as an opportunity to move closer to the stage despite security’s attempts at dissuading them.
“I thought the security guards were doing their best,” she said. “They were literally keeping barriers from falling. I think it really just kind of fell on the student body to be responsible. I don't think people realize just how bad it was.”
“If they did,” she added, “no one would want to be pushing their way to the front.”
Ultimately, several students expressed disappointment that despite arriving early, enduring unsafe conditions, and experiencing violence, they missed much or all of A$AP Ferg’s performance.
“[The dangerous crowd conditions] occurred during the student opener,” the sophomore told the ‘Prince.’ “Most of us did not even get to stay in the front for the headliner that we came for.”
Deputy University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss told the ‘Prince’ on Monday that the Undergraduate Student Government plans to survey students about their experiences at Lawnparties, as in previous years. He also stated that ODUS staff met with “a small group of students who had concerns about the event” on Sunday evening.
“We are planning to review the operation of Lawnparties as part of our continuing effort to promote the health and safety of our students,” Hotchkiss wrote. “That review will include looking into the failure of part of a barricade, placed in front of the stage by non-University vendors, that made managing the crowd more difficult.”
Hotchkiss did not say how many students were treated at McCosh, or if any plan to take legal action based on their injuries.
Evelyn Doskoch is a Head News Editor who has reported on University affairs, COVID-19 policy, student life, sexual harassment allegations, town affairs, and eating clubs. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @EvelynDoskoch.