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Penn State students riot after Paterno is fired

Legendary coach addresses students as thousands take to streets

Penn State students flip a television news van during a riot after the announcement that Joe Paterno had been fired as head football coach on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Michael Henninger)

Penn State students flip a television news van during a riot after the announcement that Joe Paterno had been fired as head football coach on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Michael Henninger)
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Thousands of students gathered in State College, Pa., to riot following the Penn State board of trustees' firing of football coach Joe Paterno.

With local police largely outnumbered by students, chants of "We are ... Penn State" filled the air amid violent acts — the toppling of a news van and a light pole, along with stampeding. The air was heavy with tear gas from Wednesday night into Thursday morning, more than two hours after the school officially announced Paterno and President Graham Spanier were relieved of their duties as fallout from a child sexual abuse scandal involving former assistant Jerry Sandusky.

As part of the crowd, one student remarked: "This is ridiculous. I want to transfer back home."

At Paterno's house, the 84-year-old Paterno, who served as coach for 46 seasons, addressed students who gathered on his lawn. He said he wanted to say hello to the students "who I love."

"You guys are great, all of you. When I say guys, you know what I mean — you know I mean girls, too. Hey look, get a good night's sleep, study, all right? We still got things to do," Paterno said.

Before going back into his house, Paterno's final line referenced the situation that eventually led to his ouster.

"Hey, and one thing," he said, "thanks and pray a little bit for those victims."

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