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Conflicting Stories In Clash Between Police, Attendees At U's Somali Night

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Two groups are telling conflicting stories about what happened at the University of Minnesota last week at an event meant to honor the Somali culture.

On Friday night, Northrop Auditorium hosted the Somali StudentAssociation's annual celebration of culture and heritage. The event featured fashion, music and dancing.

However, discrepancies remain over how police responded to reports of a fight.

According to University of Minnesota spokesperson Evan Lapiska, a large group of 30 to 40 youths began fighting during the event on Friday night.

Multiple people were assaulted, and at least one robbery occurred, police say.

The fights continued for about an hour and spilled onto other areas of campus.

Lapiska said police used minimal force and some chemical irritant to maintain safety.

The Somali Student Association is telling a different story.

In a written statement, they claim police used excessive force, swarming the auditorium as people were leaving, even physically assaulting attendees and pulling a woman by her hijab.

One student, Halima Elmi, said she left before any of the commotion and saw some police officers there.

"I saw some that were over by the door at Northrup, but nothing happened as I was leaving," she said.

It is standard for the university to have a police presence at large events on campus.

Organizers estimate the crowd was about 2,500 people.

The Somali Student Association is hosting an event Monday at the student union for people who need to get their belongings that were left inside the auditorium.

It's also a chance for them to have an open conversation about what happened after the event.

The event is slated for 6:30 p.m.

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