- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 2, 2002

City workers yesterday removed street signs, newspaper vending machines and other objects from streets near the University of Maryland at College Park in preparation for possible riots after the NCAA championship basketball game last night between the Maryland Terrapins and the University of Indiana Hoosiers in Atlanta.
In addition, campus police along with Prince George's County police, Maryland State Police, Greenbelt police, and Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning police prepared for the worst, regardless of whether Maryland won or lost the championship.
Prince George's County Police Chief Gerald Wilson pledged that officers would be "very visible very early" on the streets of College Park.
County police had the responsibility of protecting the city of College Park, which took the brunt of the damage from hundreds of revelers Saturday night after the Terrapins beat the University of Kansas Jayhawks in the Final Four semifinal game.
The windows of two county police cruisers were smashed, along with those of several storefronts on Route 1, as police squared off with a crowd of about 2,000. Police made two arrests and dispersed the crowds using pepper spray pellets.
Yesterday city workers removed just about every item not bolted down that could be used to smash windows and vehicles.
Plywood boards covered the plate-glass window of a Subway sandwich shop that was smashed Saturday night. As early as 5 p.m. a half-dozen private-security guards in yellow T-shirts had gathered in front of an off-campus hangout, the Cornerstone Grill.
While Chief Wilson would not elaborate on his deployment plans, he did say that he planned to set up a command post at about 8 p.m., and that police would bring "enough riot gear to keep ourselves and the community safe."
He said in addition to parking restrictions in College Park between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., police would likely close Route 1 in front of the university during the second half of the game. He said officers would not break up the celebration as long as it was orderly.
"We're not restricting the length of the celebration, hopefully," Chief Wilson said. "As long as they want to be out there, we'll be out there with them."
University police spokeswoman Maj. Cathy Atwell said 100 officers from five jurisdictions many of whom would be outfitted in riot gear would guard the campus, putting special emphasis on Fraternity Row and Cole Field House.
Police expected about 1,500 students, faculty and staff to watch the game on a giant screen at the 14,500-seat stadium where the team plays its home games.
Saturday about 400 watched the game at Cole. About an eighth of the student body was on campus, but by last night most of the university's 33,000 students had returned from spring break.
Maj. Atwell said the main things police were preparing for were fights, bottle throwing and bonfires.
"We will stand by as crowds form and not take any action as long as the crowd's activity doesn't represent any danger to people or any danger to property," she said.
Students on Fraternity Row yesterday said it could be a violent night.
"No matter what, win or lose, something's going to happen," said Brian Schabdach, 20, outside his Phi Kappa Tau fraternity house.
"I think everyone deserves to go crazy if they win," added fellow fraternity member Ransom Johnson.
But Mr. Johnson, 20, said fans weren't justified in starting a riot after the Terrapins' loss in the Final Four last year that caused $500,000 in damage, most from a bonfire that damaged overhead cable-television lines.
The Metropolitan Police Department also took precautions last night, dispatching uniformed and plainclothes officers to business thoroughfares nearest to College Park.
The officers were looking for underage drinkers, and for bars that sold beer and alcohol without asking for age identification, or for selling alcoholic beverages to obviously drunken customers.
"If they do that, they can lose their ABC license," said Lt. Patrick Burke, commander of the detail.
The Downtown Cluster of Congregations appealed to University of Maryland President C.D. Mote Jr. to impose programs that would discourage student drinking. The organization of 38 congregations works in D.C. communities to overcome substance abuse and achieve public safety.
"Sporting events are used as an occasion by youth particularly to engage in drinking-related activities. The recent tragedies this year of drug-related deaths on campus highlights this concern," said Terrance Lynch, executive director of the cluster.
Arlo Wagner contributed to this report.


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