By now, you’re well versed in the scandal that Penn State is well deservedly drowning in concerning former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky allegedly sexually assaulting young boys. Consequently, head football coach for the last century Joe Paterno was fired as an accomplice after the fact, along with university president Graham B. Spanier – which none of their students seemed to notice, by the way.
I suppose a portion of Penn State’s students decided the university didn’t look bad enough, so they decided the best way to express their frustration with the firing of the man the kids call JoePa (Seriously? That’s his nickname? If you’re 80 and that’s your nickname… change your nickname.) was to riot.
From the New York Times:
After top Penn State officials announced that they had fired Joe Paterno on Wednesday night, thousands of students stormed the downtown area to display their anger and frustration, chanting the former coach’s name, tearing down light poles and overturning a television news van parked along College Avenue.
Demonstrators tore down two lamp posts, one falling into a crowd. They also threw rocks and fireworks at the police, who responded with pepper spray. The crowd undulated like an accordion, with the students crowding the police and the officers pushing them back.
“We got rowdy, and we got maced,” Jeff Heim, 19, said rubbing his red, teary eyes. “But make no mistake, the board started this riot by firing our coach. They tarnished a legend.”
Four girls in heels danced on the roof of a parked sport utility vehicle and dented it when they fell after a group of men shook the vehicle. A few, like Justin Muir, 20, a junior studying hotel and restaurant management, threw rolls of toilet paper into the trees. “It’s not fair,” Mr. Muir said hurling a white ribbon. “The board is an embarrassment to our school and a disservice to the student population.”
They also tore down street signs, tipped over trash cans and newspaper vending boxes and shattered car windows.
One man in gas mask rushed a half dozen police officers in protective gear, blasted one officer with pepper spray underneath his safety mask and then sprinted away. The officer lay on the ground, rubbing his eyes. Paul Howard, 24, an aerospace engineering student, jeered the police.
“Of course we’re going to riot,” he said. “What do they expect when they tell us at 10 o’clock that they fired our football coach?”
Finally, kudos to the New York Times for finding a student who isn’t an idiot.
Mixed in the crowd were a few dissenting opinions. Dan Smith, 21, a junior studying secondary education, said he thought the board was correct.
“The hardest part, because he was a hero to me, is coming to grips with what he did, or actually what he didn’t do,” Mr. Smith said.
If you’re a student or alumni of Penn State, do yourself a favor and distance yourself from these knuckleheads. Write the student government association and alumni association and let them know that they need to get something going with respect to having sympathy for the alleged victims rather than paying tribute to someone who knew about an injustice and didn’t do everything in their power to correct it. That’s why he was fired. The Penn State community knows better than most the kind of power a college football coach wields, and this was a total failure in leadership by Paterno.
Sigh. The riot is the most shocking thing to come out of this whole ordeal. I just didn’t see this coming. I think my favorite student comment was “What do they expect when they tell us at 10 o’clock that they fired our football coach?” It’s pretty disconcerting that a 24 year old thinks that what time of day you learn about the coach’s firing is a factor in whether or not your riot. "Well, if it was right after dinner, we might have been more civil, but it was 10… we’re already drunk by 10…" That’s my only guess at a rationale for that statement.
Let’s look a little closer at some of the actions and comments from the student demonstrators.
"Demonstrators tore down two lamp posts, one falling into a crowd. They also threw rocks and fireworks at the police…"
I can’t say enough about how lucky they were that no one was hurt when the lamp post fell into the crowd – or during any of the other crazy shenanigans. And the students threw things at the police? That’s insane.
"…the board started this riot by firing our coach. They tarnished a legend.”
Pretty sure Paterno did that to himself.
"Four girls in heels danced on the roof of a parked sport utility vehicle and dented it when they fell after a group of men shook the vehicle."
Who owned the vehicle? What did that vehicle owner ever do to anybody?
“The board is an embarrassment to our school and a disservice to the student population.”
No, that would be the protestors. Breaking car windows has what to with Joe Paterno, exactly?
The vandalism… I can’t believe they assaulted a cop with pepper spray. Well done by the police for not tasing or night sticking these knuckleheads. If I told you a group of college kids were committing acts of vandalism while throwing rocks and fireworks at the police and one instance of assaulting an office with pepper spray and the pepper spray guy ended up getting shot, I don’t think no one would be shocked by that outcome.
But this is the moment – now is the time for Penn State to rise up again and say that they made a mistake and they’re trying to correct it. Firing Paterno and Spanier was just the first step, but now this riot has cast a second ugly shadow on the school. It’s time for them to stand up and show the world that football doesn’t run their school, that the rioters are a minority, not a majority of their community, that they are sympathetic toward children who were allegedly abused. They should start this Saturday by not paying tribute to Paterno. That’d be a good first step. Where they go from there to make this right, I leave to them.
Just keep the destruction of public and private property to a minimum.