posted 04-08-2002 05:42 AM
Posted on Mon, Apr. 08, 2002
UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: Hockey fans riot in streets
BY TAMMY J. OSEID and LISA DONOVAN
For more than six hours this weekend after the Gophers hockey team won its first national title in 23 years, a growing mob of students smashed street lamps, jumped on passing cars, and torched furniture in a celebration-turned-rampage.
The rioters, estimated between several hundred and more than 1,000, poured into the streets at the University of Minnesota, hurling full beer bottles and cans, rocks and insults at officers in riot gear who used tear gas to try to quell the crowd.
In the end, the only injury was to a police officer whose shoulder was hurt by a flying object. Police made 25 arrests. The cost of the damage, including broken windows on homes, businesses and vehicles, had not been tallied by late Sunday.
Using cell phones, students called friends to campus to "join the fun" and followed a Minnesota State Patrol helicopter's spotlight to hotspots.
"We're celebrating," said freshman Emily Tinkham. "We're not doing anything wrong."
Minneapolis Police Chief Robert Olson, who took a rock to the foot during the weekend's outbursts, said officers allowed the excited fans to march and cheer in the streets. But when the "youthful exuberance" spun out of control, police here were not about to allow a repeat of what happened at the University of Maryland. After March 30's semifinal and last Monday's NCAA basketball championship victory, Terrapin fans took their celebrations to the streets of College Park, Md., looting stores, burning cars and injuring a fan who lost vision in an eye.
Sports sociologist Merrill J. Melnick calls this "indecent emotional exposure" by alcohol-fueled fans whose celebratory waltz in the streets becomes antisocial, destructive behavior.
"This is behavior off the tracks. Whatever parameters would be in effect, laws of decorum, a certain sense of civility — they're pushed aside in this act of excessive exuberance," said Melnick, who teaches "Sports Spectating in the United States" at the State University of New York at Brockport and co-authored the book "Sports Fans: The Psychology and Social Impact of Spectators." Three chapters discuss fan misbehavior.
The mob mentality, a type of contagion combined with the sense that there's safety, if not anonymity, in numbers, can make the situation worse, said Melnick.
The presence of police and the media can often be provocative to fans who may feel at once threatened and called on to perform.
'A LITTLE UNITY, A LITTLE SPIRIT'
Gophers fans clearly hadn't planned an uprising this weekend. The chaos began just before 10 p.m. and gathered steam after 11 p.m.
About 200 students came together near Northrop Memorial Auditorium to celebrate. Another group worked its way around Dinkytown. Yet another band amassed near University and 15th avenues, near the west end of fraternity row.
"This is just a celebration of us winning. … A little unity, a little spirit," said sophomore Mark Abdel as his fellow students began facing down cops on University Avenue. "Everybody's having a great time."
Then someone on the street threw a bottle at police. "S—-, don't do that," Abdel said. As those in the street screamed for observers to join them and more bottles were hurled at police, the officers began to move toward the rowdy crowd.
By 3:30 a.m., several thousand students had gathered around a bonfire of trash bins, garbage and furniture in the middle of University Avenue. By 4:30 a.m., things had finally calmed down. And by 5 a.m., the police finally felt it was safe enough to leave. In all, about 50 Minneapolis police officers responded to the chaos; the number of university police officers on the scene was not available.
Even though St. Paul hosted the championship hockey tournament, police reported few problems in or around the Xcel Energy Center.
As cleanup of the Dinkytown area — where trash, shattered glass and overturned newspaper boxes littered the area — began Sunday afternoon, university officials considered what's next. Officials are trying to determine whether the student fans who were arrested in the chaos might have violated the student code of conduct, said university spokeswoman Amy Phenix.
Street revelry gets out of hand
Published Apr 8, 2002
All-night parties celebrating the University of Minnesota's victory over Maine in men's hockey spilled into the streets in and around Minneapolis' Dinkytown and turned destructive Saturday night and into Sunday as revelers set fires in the street and launched beer bottles at police officers.
The roving crowds, described by police as riotous mobs, stalled traffic, overturned large trash bins and paper stands and burned couches and Dumpsters at several locations from about 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. The group swelled to more than 600 people at times, police said.
Police arrested a reveler.
"These were supposed to be celebrators," Inspector Rich Stanek of the Minneapolis Police Department said Sunday. "Heck, their team won, they didn't lose."
More than 75 Minneapolis police officers and more than 25 state troopers and University of Minnesota police officers repeatedly tried to disperse the crowds and to keep them off the streets, only to have them regroup.
Dressed in riot gear, police used chemical irritants and arrested 35 to 40 people, mostly on suspicion of disorderly conduct, Stanek said. Some were arrested on suspicion of rioting, a felony. By Sunday afternoon, most had been released, police said.
Stanek said no damage was done to businesses in the commercial district. He attributed the disturbance to a mix of heavy drinking, large groups of people, mild weather and elation about the game, which ended a good three hours before bars closed.
Fans set shirts afire.
"It was a mob mentality," Stanek said. "This was a riot."
Still, there were many who tried to stop the bottle-throwing and destruction, he said.
"To the students' credit, there were many of them who clapped and praised the officers," Stanek said, adding that some people apologized to the police for others' behavior. "They were trying to police themselves, which was really encouraging."
Shortly after the game ended in St. Paul about 9:30 p.m., crowds began gathering outside of campus bars around Williams and Mariucci arenas and fraternity row along University Avenue SE.
Reveler swings from a traffic light
Police received their first call about a rowdy crowd of bottle-throwing people, many of them intoxicated, about 9:45 p.m.
The crowd at 19th and University avenues SE. moved west between SE. 4th St. and University Av. SE., Stanek said.
"At a couple of different points, they were burning tires, couches, Dumpsters -- anything they could find," Stanek said. "They were setting fire in the streets."
Some people jumped on the hoods of squad cars as a State Patrol helicopter with a search light hovered overhead. Some shot off fireworks. The windows of about four squad cars were broken, Stanek said.
Flames from one fire reached 40 to 50 feet, creating concerns about damage to power lines. Ambulances stood by, but no serious injuries were reported.
Stanek said some people in the crowd assaulted each other. Other witnesses observed men and women exposing themselves.
About four officers were treated for minor injuries.They had been hit on the hands and neck by bottles, rocks and chunks of concrete, Stanek said.
As officers moved the crowd down the streets, firefighters put out the fires.
A morning mess
By 5 a.m. Sunday, police had taken control of the area. Officers stayed in the area until about 8 a.m.
In the morning, front-end loaders moved large pieces of debris blocking streets. Street sweepers cleaned up most of the broken bottles and other items that littered the streets.
Sunday afternoon, trash containers on fraternity row still reeked of smoke. Part of a half-ripped fence lay on the ground. Some bottles and debris remained.
Charolette Baierl and Holly Wautier, both first-year students at the university, were walking around campus taking pictures of the aftermath Sunday afternoon.
They had been walking to their dormitories Saturday night when they ran into the rowdy crowds.
Baierl, who said police sprayed chemical irritant at her, said people were swearing and trying to incite the police.
"People there were looking for a fight," she said. "I would have been an angry police officer last night."
Wautier said the crowd didn't appear to be violent. "It seemed like everyone wanted to celebrate, but it just went too far."
Jason Smishek, another witness, said he thought that police acted conservatively, trying not to incite the crowd, but that they were too liberal with chemical irritants.
The Gophers hockey players had returned to Dinkytown late Saturday to celebrate when they found the streets mobbed.
"We had to fight our way through campus," senior forward Erik Wendell said. "It was really tough to get through. We were trying to avoid the areas where the police were. It was unbelievable to see all those people."
After 18 years of service in the department, Lt. Stanek said the events of the night before were a first for him.
"It was a long night," he said. "I've seen a lot of things. It was an eye-opening experience."