10.30.2005

Report from the front, part two; or, the riot that never was

It'll be called a lot of things. But it definitely cannot rightly be called a riot.

Things started to get interesting about 1.30 am. A large knot of people gathered outside The Pub and was getting... excitable. Football chants ("Eat sh*t - F*ck you!" and that one crazy soccer chant) were prevalent. There was another knot of people farther down the street toward campus - roughly near Steve and Barry's and Brats. Two horse units of about 6-10 riders each would ride through our knot, followed by a number of officers on foot. At one point, there was some smoke, but even from a higher perch, I couldn't see a fire. Nor did I see any arrests taking place.

Around ten to two, the police started a new tactic. They formed up the horses with foot police behind them, and marched up the street, clearing partiers onto the sidewalks, but leaving a vaccuum behind them, into which revellers poured. The police formed up their horses again, looking to come down the street. By this time, a solid us-versus-them attitude had taken hold: every time the police moved away from the crowd, the students cheered and jeered at the police. We moved to a more strategic location - the open area connecting Langdon and State Streets, next to Potbelly's.

The police made a couple more passes through the crowd - by this time, it was the only knot of people - before switching to a new tactic around 2 am. Leaving some of their forces on the upper side of the street to hold that crowd back, they marched the other part down State St, moving partiers back. They came to a hald just in front of us, because they didn't have the forces to be able to block off the open area as well. Then the horse started pulling back.

Then a strange thing happened. The foot police started dissipating too. Groups of about a dozen would jog back towards Brats, turning off by the outdoor patio. No one knew what to make of it, but the students quickly swarmed back into the streets, chanting.

Suddenly, we saw police flashing lights coming from up the street, and we saw the police in their full riot gear. And they were shooting bursts of some kind of gas - either tear gas or pepper spray, I'm not sure which. That's when people started running. I turned to get one last picture of the riot cops, and caught a mouthful of the gas. It made me wretch something fierce, with a powerful burning sensation in my mouth... actually, I just noticed blood on my pantleg. I was gagging pretty good.

So that was that. There was a long period of time in which the "party" could easily have become a riot, but the police seemed to have it in hand. In fact, when they split their forces so that they didn't leave a vaccuum on either side of the street, they really seemed to have control of the situation. The riot cops seemed extremely heavy-handed. But that was the method the police chose this year for preventing a riot.

Pictures to follow in the next post.