We didn’t start the fire?

The rain did nothing to put out the fire of belligerent students in Dinkytown.

University of Minnesota students have done it again âÄî caused late night-drunken havoc in the center of the schoolâÄôs stomping grounds. But whatâÄôs alarming to me is the guff advocated by the students involved. Shrugged shoulders and Spring JamâÄôs drunken fun seem to be an acceptable excuse. But those arenâÄôt exactly excuses at all if you ask me. Before I go any further, I must properly couch myself in my own writing. I acknowledge that I did not attend the riots in Dinkytown on Saturday night âÄî nor was I drunk, nor was I in the area. I do, however, take a stake in my own neighborhood, and know it well. ItâÄôs not uncommon to hear singing or shouting through an open window as students leave the Library at bar close on the weekend, but the last time I saw a fire in the adjacent street was on the news in 2003. Some have critically brought attention to the hype and debate concerning the event, choosing instead to attribute the problem to those âÄúdarn college kids âĦ âÄù But to debate whether a riot actually took place on Saturday night is silly. Some question the event on terms of its published definition. Others, as noted in the commentary following a freelanced video for our very own The Minnesota Daily, debate whether students are simply of proper age to be âÄúaway from their parents,âÄù âÄúout of diapers,âÄù and if they should simply be âÄúsent back to daycare.âÄù Either way, IâÄôm embarrassed for us all. ItâÄôs not merely the negative attention thatâÄôs being brought to our campus, or the tally-mark weâÄôve racked up with the title of âÄúanother party school.âÄù WeâÄôre simply lucky that no one was seriously injured. To make perfectly clear, what happened Saturday night can indeed be deemed a riot. According to legal-dictionary.com a riot is, âÄúA disturbance of the peace by several persons, assembled and acting with a common intent in executing a lawful or unlawful enterprise in a violent and turbulent manner.âÄù And just for supplement my Merriam-Webster also tells me a riot is, âÄúpublic violence, tumult, or disorder or a violent public disorder âĦ a tumultuous disturbance of the public peace by three or more persons assembled together and acting with a common intent.âÄù Disturbance of the peace? Check. Several persons? Or several hundred. Acting upon a common intent and venture? A little sing-a-long fun, sure. But what about starting fires in the middle of the street and throwing beer bottles at any who might not sing along? Attribute it to the cabin fever we experience with a Minnesota winter, or to one too many beers âĦ but donâÄôt shrug your shoulders and pretend like itâÄôs OK. ItâÄôs a known fact: College kids party, college kids get drunk, parties are broken up by the police and go awry. The police do a job for which theyâÄôve been trained when they break up mobs and disturbances and canâÄôt weigh opinions with one another on whoâÄôs participating. While the police are trained in a specific manner, they remain âÄî in the most basic sense âÄî individuals required to utilize personal discretion when on the job. Rubber bullets might leave bruises and marks, but many are left with the same after an afternoon of paintball. I realize mobs like this donâÄôt happen every weekend, but itâÄôs not an isolated event on our campus. However, you donâÄôt have to look back to the âÄô60s to find events almost identical; recall the hockey riots that happened in 2002 and 2003. Certainly the Spring Jam riot was not as violent. When the Gophers won the WCHA title in both 2002 and 2003, the setting a scene was nearly the same. Of course it was even complete with a fire in the middle of the street at the intersection of Fourth and 14th in Dinkytown. A report in 2003 by the alumni publication Minnesota Magazine, âÄúThe riots left the University community with a black eye and outraged administrators, students and the public.âÄù Sound familiar? Billy JoelâÄôs âÄúWe DidnâÄôt Start the FireâÄù certainly does. ItâÄôs about taking the responsibility with the matches youâÄôve been handed. We donâÄôt generally give them to small children because they might burn themselves or the house, or someone else; for as intelligent and competitive as the students at this University are known to be, youâÄôd think they wouldnâÄôt strike a match next to kerosene. Though some were perhaps arrested without proper reason, the University must begin to sift through the stakes. If we merely hand a âÄútime-outâÄù to those involved, itâÄôs like handing the fireâÄôs embers back to those who began it. I advocate that the University use caution and proper discretion as it proceeds in dealing with the riot, but weâÄôve got to find the cold water and wake up sometime. Kelsey Kudak welcomes comments at [email protected]