Photographer gives first-hand account of Dinkytown riots

Editor’s note: The following is a first-person account by a Daily photographer who covered the riot early Sunday morning.


Diane Cebula

Staff Reporter

I was not a participant in the celebrations after the hockey national championship victory Saturday night, but I was there. I was working.

My magenta-colored press pass was displayed on the center of my chest over my camel-colored jacket the entire night.

I arrived in Dinkytown at approximately 11:30 p.m. and was greeted by four squad cars blocking the intersection of Fourth Street Southeast and 15th Avenue Southeast. I parked and ran to the corner of Fourth Street and 14th Avenue Southeast to meet a reporter.

We walked around to get a sense of exactly what was happening. We saw two Minneapolis police officers outside The Library Bar and Grill and we asked bar patrons what happened following the win.

Around midnight, the bar was full and the line outside was growing longer. More police officers arrived on the scene. One a.m. approached and the establishment closed.

A little before 1 a.m., a crowd gathered outside the bar and spilled into the street. The police pushed the crowd west on Fourth Street and north on 13th Avenue Southeast. Police dispersed pepper spray in the air to move the mass.

I was carrying a Daily camera equipped with a flash and lens most college students could never afford. I crouched between a police officer and the crowd, about five feet from each. I was hit with drops of the spray directed toward the mob. But I wasn’t affected until the officer turned, looked in my direction and sprayed directly toward me.

I turned my head at the last second as the spray hit below my left eye and my hair. It was enough to blind my vision for 10 minutes and leave my eyes stinging for the rest of the night.

By 1:30 a.m., the police had moved back to Fourth Street and 15th Avenue, and the crowd moved one block west. The mass of people refused to leave, and the officers sprayed into the wind to disperse them. People were coughing and sneezing uncontrollably from the high levels of pepper spray in the air.

Soon the police advanced on the crowd. I was on the southwest corner of Fourth Street and 14th Avenue and crossed the street to improve my angle of the officers’ advance. As I approached the north sidewalk, I heard rapid footsteps behind me. I looked back to see an officer – riot stick in hand – about 10 feet away running directly toward me at a full sprint. I turned and ran only to receive a tremendous blow to my back.

I crashed to the ground.

The police officer kicked me, and as a reporter came to my aid, she was sprayed on the right half of her face, forcing her to flee.

The contents of my camera bag – two lenses, film and batteries -were strewn in the street. I anticipated being tackled and arrested by the police but instead, I was allowed to gather my things and leave without incident.

A witness to the event turned around and shouted twice, “Is the lady photographer OK?”

“Yes! I’m fine!” I finally answered as I surveyed the damage. My flash was broken, and I had scrapes on both my hands. I could feel the left side of my body aching from the fall.

I composed myself and got back to work.

Eventually, the police seemed to leave and the crowd rejoiced. The mob moved to University and 16th avenues. I approached and saw a large fire in the middle of University Avenue Southeast surrounded by a swarm of people.

At approximately 3:30 a.m. the police took action and blocked off the blaze for firefighters. The crowd had dispersed onto side streets and alleys only to regroup farther east on University Avenue.

I was running with the crowd through a side street when I saw two co-workers on all fours heaving, screaming and blindly stumbling among cars. I found out later the police had sprayed them from a few feet away. I grabbed my co-worker by the shoulder and dragged him to a nearby fraternity house where they took him in and administered first aid. I went back and brought the other co-worker to the same place.

I returned to the street to discover people throwing snowballs and bottles at the police. The police eventually surrounded the street with advancing squad cars from the east and riot police from the west. People were forced to leave the area or retreat to local fraternities.

As I was standing on the lawn of one of the fraternities, an officer ordered me back to the house. I told her I was on private property and she said, “You don’t want to see what will happen.” I took her picture as she saluted me, and I walked to the stairs of the house.

It was there I met a reporter and we returned to the Daily.

Surveying the damage at the Superblock, I walked home at around 5 a.m. in the silence of the early morning – streets now
deserted. I saw broken street lamps and windows, and poles ripped from their supports in the ground. When I reached home, I tried to sleep. I woke up four hours later sore, scratched up, and I returned to work for another day.

Diane Cebula welcomes comments at
[email protected]