UMass probes riot after 1st Sox win
8 hurt, 5 held in melee on Amherst campus
A spontaneous celebration after a Red Sox victory Saturday night erupted into violence at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, as students pelted police with rocks and bottles, set fires, and nearly flipped over a car with a woman trapped inside.
"People were throwing beer cans and beer bottles. People were getting hit left and right, and they'd just pick them up and throw them again," said freshman John Tattersall.
Rioters also overturned two empty cars and broke into a dining hall, police said. One student had his teeth knocked out by a hurtling bottle.
The chaos broke out minutes after Trot Nixon's 11th-inning homer saved the Sox from playoff elimination. Students flowed from their dorms in the Southwest section of campus, and it took three hours for police to disperse the crowd, which UMass Deputy Police Chief Patrick Archbald estimated at 800 to 1,000.
Police arrested three students yesterday and were using surveillance video, police video, and pictures taken by students to identify more of those who incited violence. Two other people were arrested over the weekend, neither of them UMass students. Five police officers and three students were injured, none of them seriously, Archbald said.
The violence was a black eye for a school struggling to redefine itself and build a reputation as a serious research university, and UMass officials quickly sent an e-mail to the student body promising "zero tolerance" in response to this and future confrontations.
"These consequences will be enforced in a manner previously unprecedented on this campus," wrote Michael Gargano, vice chancellor for student affairs, who said the university would press criminal charges against any students who broke the law and take disciplinary action that could include expulsion.
The past few years have seen an increase in aggressive crowds at UMass, Archbald said. Students rioted after the Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2002 and have had other violent confrontations with police this year, both on and off campus.
The school is not alone: Also on Saturday night, as many as 3,000 people rioted at Minnesota State University after the school lost a homecoming game. Last April a crowd of 4,000 rioted in Durham, N.H., after the University of New Hampshire lost the NCAA ice hockey championship, triggering a recent conference at UNH on how to prevent student rioting.
"Most of us are now taking steps that recognize this as a problem to be managed, rather than an accidental event," UMass-Amherst chancellor John V. Lombardi wrote in an e-mail to the Globe yesterday.
The violence drew a backlash on campus, including a column in the student paper scolding the rioters. "Do you really want it to be worth nothing when you apply for a job, because your potential boss laughs when he sees that you graduated from UMass-Amherst?" columnist Paige Cram asked yesterday in the Massachusetts Daily Collegian. One junior had 90 digital photos of the melee on his web page yesterday, but pulled them off the Internet when told the police were using them to identify perpetrators."It was not something I would promote," said Tattersall, the freshman, who said he was just an observer. "It was just something to do on a Saturday night." Rioters did an estimated $20,000 in damage to the dining hall they broke into, and police overtime for the weekend amounted to $8,000, Archbald said. In preparation for last night's deciding playoff game, the school's entire force of more than 50 officers was on duty.
Marcella Bombardieri can be reached at email@example.com.
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