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Police prep for potential hockey riots

After championship wins in 2002 and 2003, students took to the streets.
After the Gophers won the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Championship on April 6, 2002, rioters overturned cars, started fires and looted stores.
Image by Thomas Whisenand, Daily File Photo
After the Gophers won the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Championship on April 6, 2002, rioters overturned cars, started fires and looted stores.

The Gophers men’s hockey team has to win Thursday before it can advance to the championship round of the NCAA Frozen Four in Tampa, Fla., but the University of Minnesota has already made preparations for the possibility of potential riots in the event the Gophers win Saturday.

The national championship wins of 2002 and 2003 sparked University students, along with other Minneapolis residents, to riot in the streets.

Rioters overturned cars, started fires and looted stores, University police Chief Greg Hestness said.

The 2003 riots alone resulted in 27 arrests — 12 of them for felonies like arson, Hestness said. About half of the arrestees were nonstudents.

Now that the Gophers have another shot at a national title, the University is making preparations for another potential riot.

“We are prepared”

Since most of the activity was off-campus in previous riots, Hestness said the University police are working with Minneapolis police to develop a “fairly significant police deployment plan” in all areas of campus, fraternity row, Dinkytown, Stadium Village and Marcy-Holmes neighborhoods.

Both University and Minneapolis police have increased staffing in these areas to prepare for the semi-final game Thursday night, University police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner said.

“Make no mistake, we are prepared,” Minneapolis police Lt. Bruce Jensen said in a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

Hestness said at the press conference that although about 80 officers worked during the 2003 championship, “they just weren’t coordinated, and there wasn’t a unified command like there is in this occasion.”

If the Gophers win Thursday night, law enforcement from other jurisdictions, like Hennepin, Ramsey and Anoka counties, along with St. Paul police, will join University and Minneapolis police to spread throughout the area for Saturday night’s championship game, Miner said.

The officers will provide an increased visible presence early in the evening, which Miner said has been successful during previous sporting events with the “possibility of civil unrest.”

“Just by having large numbers of officers positioned in the area we feel has prevented problems, so that is our primary mission,” Miner said.

The police will also utilize surveillance cameras and plant additional mobile cameras on and around campus, which is something they have not had in the past, Miner said.

He said the cameras will be useful for later “investigative purposes” and for commanders to see what is or is not occurring in real time.

Vice Provost for Student Affairs Jerry Rinehart said people who think their behavior is anonymous tend to get out of control, so increasing cameras will help eliminate the anonymity.

“No one is going to be invisible,” Rinehart said.

Alerting students, neighborhoods and businesses

Rinehart said people interested in seeing any potential riots are better off watching from their TV at home.

“People who go to watch what’s happening are what’s happening. There is no such thing as ‘watching a riot.’ If you are there, you are part of [the riot],” Rinehart said.

Rinehart said members of the University group Student Neighborhood Liaisons will be knocking on doors in Marcy-Holmes to promote awareness of the games and to encourage responsible celebration.

The University isn’t hosting any viewing parites for the tournament because attendance for similar events in the past have been low, Rinehart said.

President Eric Kaler sent an email to University students Tuesday morning, clarifying there will be “zero tolerance for disruptive behavior and property damage.”

The email also reminded students the student conduct code also includes certain off-campus behavior and “specifically prohibits destructive behavior in connection with a University event.”

Matt Levine, program director of the Office for Fraternity and Sorority Life, sent an email to greek life chapter presidents to make them aware of potential riot behavior.

The email also asked chapter presidents to tell their members not to participate in or watch the riots and to remove anything from their porches and patios that could fuel potential fires.

The Minneapolis police have notified local businesses about the event in an email describing how to prepare for a potential riot.

The Library Bar will have their entire staff working during the games. But otherwise, the bar is leaving it up to the police, said Joe Berg, the bar’s general manager.

“I have total confidence in the Minneapolis Police Department that they know what’s coming and they’ll be enough of them down here in Dinkytown to control whatever it is that happens,” Berg said.

“We hope the hockey team wins the championship and at the same time, we hope students celebrate respectfully and obey the law,” Miner said.

-Jenna Wilcox contributed to this report.

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