Rioters are hooligans, not hockey fans

Within an hour after the men’s hockey team won its second-straight NCAA championship Saturday, hundreds of people descended on Dinkytown for what is quickly becoming an annual riot. The hooligans flipped cars, destroyed newspaper racks, uprooted street signs and set trash cans aflame to the chant of “Go Gophers!” and the tune of the “Minnesota Rouser.” Curious onlookers watched the spectacle complete with a Mardi Gras atmosphere and flame leapers; many photographed or videotaped the revelry. Adding to the bedlam was the presence of live television news and helicopters. Sadly, the riot has taken some of the glory from our back-to-back champion Gophers.

Not to be outdone by last year’s activities, this year’s rioters came prepared. Some pocketed matches and brandished baseball bats, anticipating the chaos. Many of the participants were completely unaware that the Gophers hockey team was even in the championship. To be sure, many were not hockey fans, or even students for that matter. They were people who came for several hours of drunken lawlessness. Tony Slavik, a Normandale Community College student, summed up the general attitude: “I didn’t Ö (care) Ö about the Gophers. I just wanted to see people tear gassed. Minnesota normally isn’t this exciting.”

As the alcohol-fueled frenzy erupted, police officers in riot gear dispersed the crowd and tried to stymie the destruction. By 10:30 p.m., the air was filled with pepper spray and tear gas. Rubber bullets were fired at rioters. Dinkytown streets and parts of campus were blocked off. In approaching the crowd, police were cautious. Conscious of complaints about heavy-handed tactics during last year’s riots, police held out as long as possible, before engaging the mob. By most accounts, police showed restraint in dealing with the rioters, despite the beer bottles chucked at them from afar. Although there was rampant destruction, few injuries were reported – something for which police and fire crews should be commended.

To be sure, Minnesota is not the only school prone to post-championship rioting. Students at the University of Maryland, Duke University and Ohio State University have all taken part in similar acts after major athletic victories or losses. This is a problem that plagues many campuses. Big games, it seems, have become an excuse for lawlessness. After a victory, campus communities too often direct their euphoria into acts of wanton destruction. For many, the riot was perceived as a celebration of a united student body. But this manifestation of community spirit harms the image and future of the community itself.

University organizations attempted to prevent the riot by holding alcohol-free events at Mariucci Arena, the recreation center and Coffman Union. E-mails were sent University-wide advertising big screen viewing, raffles and activities taking place throughout the evening. Police assigned a squad twice as large as last year’s. However, efforts to prevent the riot failed. Perhaps there was nothing that could have been done. As University President Robert Bruininks noted Sunday, even the best policies can not prevent a large mass of people intent on destruction.

Here’s to another great victory for the Gophers. And to another shameful loss for our campus community.