Hockey win fuels another riot in Dinkytown

University President Robert Bruininks said the “U” is considering a zero-tolerance policy toward student rioters.

TBy Dan Haugen, Emily Johns and Paul Sand
The smell of cigar smoke, burning plastic and pepper spray filled the air Saturday night as several hundred people rioted following Minnesota’s men’s hockey team’s 5-1 NCAA championship victory.

In an alcohol-fueled frenzy, rioters smashed windows, burned trash bins and toppled items throughout Dinkytown, Stadium Village and parts of the East Bank campus.

University officials were still assessing the damage when University President Robert Bruininks met with members of the news media Sunday afternoon.

“We don’t really have enough facts,” Bruininks said. “You can be assured that we’re going to turn over every stone to find the people responsible for this.”

Riots and fires ignite

As the game ended at 8:35 p.m., house parties along Fourth Street Southeast and University Avenue Southeast emptied onto the sidewalks.

The group grew in numbers as it moved toward Dinkytown, where high-fives quickly gave way to heaves and hoes as students tipped benches, smashed newspaper machines and uprooted street signs.

The mob eventually congregated in the intersection of Fourth Street Southeast and 14th Avenue Southeast, where it lit a large bonfire using empty boxes, furniture and other items, including a straw sombrero.

“People were just going insane,” University first-year student Laura Swenson said. “I went crowd surfing, which was completely awesome.”

After letting the spectacle play out for more than half an hour, police cleared the intersection, pushing the crowd in three directions.

Rioters hurled bottles toward the police officers dressed in protective riot gear. Others shimmied up traffic poles for a better view of the bonfire.

The crowd continued to light fires along Fourth Street Southeast. Rioters rolled trash bins from nearby parking lots, tipped them into intersections and set them on fire. Crowd members also flipped over a small silver sports car at the intersection of Fourth Street Southeast and 11th Avenue Southeast.

A third-year University student named Seth, who declined to give his last name, said he pushed three trash bins from sorority houses near 11th Avenue Southeast into the fires.

“I’m not doing it to be destructive,” he said. “I just can’t stand police brutality.”

At approximately 10 p.m. in the parking lot behind the Dinkydome, rioters smashed and flipped cars. At least three burned to blackened skeletons before firefighters could calm the blazes.

The car fires also set off more aggressive tactics from police, who began using tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets to sweep the crowd from the lot.

“Stay side by side and don’t drift,” one police officer warned, as authorities marched toward the mass.

Crowd members migrated back to the Dinkydome parking lot, setting another overturned car on fire at approximately 11 p.m.

Huddled next to two fire trucks and an exploding car, a small group of rioters sang the “Minnesota Rouser.”

Halfway through the second verse, the group was chased away by more than 10 police officers walking toward them and yelling, “Let’s go!”

Fraternity members guarded vehicles parked behind their University chapter houses.

Rioters also attempted to ignite trees and shrubs around the McNamara alumni center but were unsuccessful after several crowd members extinguished the flames.

At 11:50 p.m., rioters threw a bicycle rack through the front window of U Liquors at 901 Washington Ave. S.E. Crowd members crawled through the window and began looting – grabbing cases of beer and bottles of liquor.

Police stormed east on Washington Avenue toward the liquor store, sending people sprinting across Huron Boulevard. Police also marched through the Burger King parking lot and launched tear gas into the crowd.

University Board of Regents Chairwoman Maureen Reed later offered her condolences to U Liquors owner George Medich.

“I am very disappointed and very angry,” Reed said as she surveyed the damage in Stadium Village.

At approximately 12:30 a.m. the crowds had largely dissipated, leaving a small number of trash bin and shrubbery fires still burning.

“This is not the behavior of hockey fans. This is the behavior of hooligans,” University Provost Christine Maziar said as she assisted police in routing pedestrian traffic away from 15th Avenue Southeast.

After learning of the situation from phone calls and television reports, Maziar and other University administrators stood sullen-looking late into the night with police in Dinkytown.

Police response

For the second year in a row, students clashed with both University and Minneapolis police in the Dinkytown area, raising comparisons between how police handled the situation this year and after the riots a little more than a year ago.

University Police Chief George Aylward said he met with the Minneapolis Police Department to plan the law enforcement reaction to this year’s riots.

“We made a decision this year to restrain from use of force as long as we could. We tried not to create an artificial confrontation,” Aylward said.

When police and rioters clashed April 6, 2002, Minneapolis police were criticized for being too aggressive and fueling the crazed crowd into riotous behavior.

Police blocked streets in Dinkytown shortly after the victory, but the tension was raised and tempers flared when people began breaking bottles and throwing rocks. Police responded with eye and skin irritants.

University President Robert Bruininks said, as of Sunday afternoon, there was no cost estimate of Saturday night’s damage, but he believes it is less than last year.

However, Minneapolis Fire Department Capt. Max Sanroman and students said this year’s riots surpassed the damage done last year.

“This is many times worse,” Sanroman said, as he finished extinguishing a fire outside the Civil Engineering Building loading dock shortly after 1 a.m.

Sean Ball, an economics first-year student, said people were striving to make the 2002 riots pale in comparison to the celebration this year. He said students agreed things needed to be set on fire in order to outdo last year’s riots.

“I heard they were kind of weak,” Ball said.

Mark McSherry, an economics senior, said the police presence made the damage worse.

“People burn stuff because the cops keep chasing us and they keep Macing us. We’re going break stuff until they quit chasing us,” he said.

McSherry said this year’s riots were worse because a lot of people, including incoming first-year students, saw riots on television last year and wanted to participate.

“Riots are some of the top three memorable college times of my life. When else do you see all these students come together to do one thing?” he asked.

Many students, however, believed the police were more controlled and handled the situation better this year.

“The police showed a lot of restraint,” mechanical engineering junior Jed Heisserer said. “I’d say they erred on the side of not hurting people.”

Of the University’s 38 police officers, 31 were on duty Saturday, combined with 27 Minneapolis officers, Aylward said.

The University police made no arrests Saturday night, but Aylward said he believed the Minneapolis Police Department arrested nine people, although he was unsure of the final number.

Aylward said only one University officer was hurt in the riots. He had an abrasion on his arm from a rock.

Zero-tolerance policy

At a press conference Sunday, Bruininks said the University is considering implementing a zero-tolerance policy toward students for riotous behavior.

Citing policies existing at Michigan State University and the University of Maryland, Bruininks said students found to be involved in riots could be forced to do community service or expelled from school for up to a year, depending on the degree of involvement.

He said the administration plans to work aggressively with the student leadership to find appropriate consequences for students.

“You need to get the facts; you need to find out who’s responsible,” he said.

However, he said, sometimes situations like the riots simply cannot be prevented no matter how many rules a University has against it, and no matter what its policy is.

“I don’t know that you could ever prevent anything completely. You can have the best policies in the world and still have something break out like this,” he said.

“On the heels of something that was so important to celebrate, these behaviors won’t be tolerated,” he said.

In New Hampshire, disappointed university students also swarmed into the street and wound up in a confrontation with police Saturday night after the Wildcats lost the hockey championship. Several people were wrestled to the ground by police and at least 10 were taken into custody. It was not known if anyone was arrested or hurt.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.