- The Washington Times - Monday, April 2, 2001

College Park's mayor said yesterday that revelers who started bonfires in the middle of the street and destroyed property after Maryland's loss to Duke in the Final Four turned his town into a "toilet."
Mayor Michael J. Jacobs said he is upset with the lack of a police presence around the bars along Route 1 and their response to the fiery ruckus, where two persons were injured.
"I am horribly disappointed," Mr. Jacobs said. "It's extremely frustrating when these sorts of things happen."
Mr. Jacobs said when he walked out of a bar near Knox Road five minutes after the game ended Saturday night he was greeted by a fire, but there were no police officers to contain the mischief-makers.
"I didn't know where the police were," Mr. Jacobs said. "The community was not well-served by the police department."
Attempts to reach a county police spokesman last night were unsuccessful.
Police eventually arrived, Mr. Jacobs said, but the first wave of officers was ineffective in dispersing the crowd; the second group of about 10 Prince George's County officers, in "soft" riot gear, got the crowd to break up so firefighters could put out the flames.
But that on-again, off-again police presence made the fire burn longer and hotter than it needed to, Mr. Jacobs said, noting it was almost an hour from the time the melee started to when fire crews got to the scene.
One fire near Fraternity Row was so hot it burned through an overhead fiber-optic cable. Mr. Jacobs said Comcast officials estimate the damage to be about $250,000 to $500,000, and 30,000 Prince George's County residents are without cable service. Route 1 was closed off, police said, because of the problems. "Like everything else, it's not the majority, it's the minority" that caused the trouble, Mr. Jacobs said.
No arrests were made, police said.
Sofas were torched, students burned a blue Duke T-shirt in mock effigy as television cameras rolled, and a huge bonfire near Fraternity Row forced police to close off Route 1 near the 33,000-student campus.
"It was really crazy," said Candice Burke, 19, a freshman from Baltimore. "People were angry about the officials, and they took it out in the bonfire. I didn't see furniture, but a lot of people burned their Final Four T-shirts."
Mr. Jacobs said he will lodge formal complaints with the University of Maryland, the governor's office, and law enforcement agencies who he said should have been better prepared for the post-game mayhem.
"Some investigation ought to take place." Mr. Jacobs said. "The police, while they finally showed up, were insufficient in numbers to do anything." Campus police said the majority of University of Maryland students handled themselves well on the campus after the game.
Maj. Cathy Atwell, a spokeswoman with the school's police department, said the 10,000 or so Maryland fans vented their frustrations in a fairly restrained manner.
"I am really, really proud for students containing their disappointment and anger," Maj. Atwell said of the reactions to Duke's come-from-behind 95-84 victory over the Terps.
Maj. Atwell said there were "no riots," although firefighters were busy late into the night putting out flames as they dodged beer bottles and other objects.
After Maryland's 91-80 triumph over the Blue Devils in February, students lit fires and threw bottles, causing havoc for the usually staid campus.
The 19-year-old male student who went into cardiac arrest suffered first-degree burns but was treated and released yesterday from Washington Adventist Hospital, Maj. Atwell said.
Another student involved in the fracas along Fraternity Row was sent to the hospital with first-degree burns to the hands, Maj. Atwell said.
About 5,000 jovial Maryland fans packed the campus arena, Cole Field House in College Park, to watch the game on TV. Thousands of others watched on TVs in dormitories and fraternity houses.
When the game ended, roughly 10,000 revelers tripped over trash cans and county and college signs, started small fires and split a cable line.
More than 100 police officers, some dressed in riot gear, were ready for crowds to grow violently out of hand. The large gathering of police probably helped keep the situation from spinning out of control, Maj. Atwell said, and cited the Maryland State Police's presence as a factor in keeping the crowds in check.
There were also a number of officers from Prince George's County police and Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Police.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide