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Posted at 02:34 PM ET, 11/09/2011

Penn State students rally to support coach Joe Paterno

There are numerous opinions on how Penn State should respond to allegations that several top officials knew about accusations that former coach Jerry Sandusky was molesting children and failed to intervene. Sandusky has denied the charges.

But the collective opinion of the hundreds of students who rallied on campus Tuesday night boiled down to this: They want President Graham Spanier out of office. And they have unconditional support for football coach Joe Paterno.

Throughout the night, mobs of students moved through campus and State College, Penn., often under the watch of police who appeared prepared for a riot. They tweeted their movements and crossed paths with Paterno and Spanier, neither of whom have been criminally charged.
Penn State President Graham Spanier, left, and head football coach Joe Paterno chat during warmups before a home game against Iowa in October. (AP Photo/Gene Puskar)
Early in the evening, students gathered in front of Paterno’s house and chanted, “We want Joe!” The longtime coach finally came outside and responded “And I want you!” He went on the say: “It’s hard for me to tell you how much this means to me. You guys have lived for this place. I’ve lived for people like you guys and girls. I’m just so happy to see that you feel so strongly about us and about our school.” (This morning, Paterno announced he will retire at the end of the season.)

Late in the evening, students gathered in front of the administration building Old Main in hopes of getting a similar response from Spanier, who has come under fire for expressing ”unconditional support” for two administrators who were charged with perjury and failure to notify police. At one point, the crowd chanted, “Come out Spanier.”

Just before midnight, Spanier’s office light went out, a Penn State journalism student tweeted. The president slipped out a side door, declined to answer questions and got into a van, according to the Daily Collegian. The blog Onward State tweeted: “General consensus among students at Old Main is that Spanier's exit is a sign of cowardice at a time when PSU needs leadership the most.” (Last night, university trustees announced that a special committee would investigate the charges. Several media outlets have reported that Spanier is expected to resign.)

I could not have followed last night’s rally and the unfolding news today without a constant stream of informative tweets from @dailycollegian and @onwardstate, plus the host of the journalists and students who tweeted using the hashtag #PSUCharges.

Following are some of the tweets that caught my eye.

I dunno, JoePa. Encouraging an impromptu pep rally in your front yard is not really what I'd have suggested tonight. #PSUChargesWed Nov 09 04:05:34 via web

Crowd is about 300-400 standing on opposite sides of beaver just west of locust. Clapping and chanting "Joe Paterno" #psuchargesWed Nov 09 03:17:59 via Twitter for iPhone

We need to support the BoT and let them get to bottom of this instead of ruining the University's image with anger and impulse. #PSUchargesWed Nov 09 03:46:30 via web

Students forced to clear streets from police efforts. #PsuchargesWed Nov 09 03:48:47 via txt

What in god's name is going on at Penn State right now? #PSUChargesWed Nov 09 03:52:24 via web

#psucharges is blowing up right now. Armed state troopers downtown. This is really really sad for everyone in the blue and white family.Wed Nov 09 03:55:00 via Twitter for iPhone

This "riot" is utterly shameful. Are you stupid? Every single one of you is a disgrace to this University. So embarrassing. #PSUchargesWed Nov 09 03:55:06 via web

#PSUCharges You help absolutely nothing if there's a confrontation with police tonight. You only hurt the university.Wed Nov 09 03:56:26 via web

RT @DailyCollegian: Police have pulled out megaphone, likely to prepare to make an announcement of some sort. Students chanting "We won' ...Wed Nov 09 04:01:59 via web

I hope all ends well on campus tonight and no one does something stupid. Remember everyone is watching at the moment. #PSUChargesWed Nov 09 04:02:00 via web

can hear chants and cheers from my apartment #psuchargesWed Nov 09 04:04:05 via web

Students broke the structure set by police; are rushing en masse down McAllister Street. #PSUCharges Nov 09 04:05:50 via Twitter for iPhone

some students holding signs, one says Remember Joe for 409. #PSUchargesWed Nov 09 04:07:24 via txt

Thousands marching on college ave to old main #PSUchargesWed Nov 09 04:09:29 via Twitter for BlackBerry®

Wow. Students marching en masse. Not sure if this is exuberance or anger. Wild sceneWed Nov 09 04:07:48 via Echofon

@YahooForde not to sound like your mom but be careful Pat. #psuchargesWed Nov 09 04:09:31 via Twitter for Android

Go to old main. Call for Spanier. Be logical but in control. Stop this Beaver Canyon nightmare and if you can't, go home #psuchargesWed Nov 09 04:10:06 via web

Rioting in support of JoePa? He kept a child rapist in hiding. PSU students are dumb #PSUChargesWed Nov 09 04:10:34 via web

#PSUcharges To those defending PSU and specifically Paterno...Have you read the Grand Jury Report?Wed Nov 09 04:10:38 via web

Crowd has now moved back to Old Main for the second time tonight, picking up what appears to be hundreds of additional students. #PSUChargesWed Nov 09 04:13:05 via Twitter for iPhone

the students wouldn't be rioting if Penn State hadn't put together the worst crisis management team ever. #PSUChargesWed Nov 09 04:18:08 via TweetDeck

'Fire Spanier' and 'We Want Answers' chants seem to be the theme now. If they can stay under control, this may just work. #PSUchargesWed Nov 09 04:19:31 via TweetDeck

Students are filling Old Main lawn. Lots of police on the steps #PSUcharges Nov 09 04:21:21 via Camera on iOS

It's not a riot. It's a rally... a rally for the boys forever harmed, for Joe Pa's legacy, and for the University community #PSUchargesWed Nov 09 04:23:51 via web

#PSUCharges - Spanier STILL INSIDE OLD MAIN!Wed Nov 09 04:24:00 via web

All my Penn State friends are changing their default photos to the university's seal or Nittany Lion #PSUchargesWed Nov 09 04:30:02 via web

Aaaaaaaaand they're back in Beaver Canyon. #PSUCharges. People cheering at honking cars driving byWed Nov 09 04:30:52 via TweetDeck

the only riot i will participate in is one on Graham Spaniers front lawn if Joe resigns and he doesnt #PSUchargesWed Nov 09 04:25:31 via web

Crowd chanting "Come out Spanier" in front of Old Main. He's yet to make a public statement since his controversial one Sunday. #PSUchargesWed Nov 09 04:25:45 via txt

Hearing students calling for answers is what we need. Those families and victims deserve answers #PSUChargesWed Nov 09 04:40:48 via Twitter for iPhone

I realize emotions are high tonight but please, people, be safe #PSUchargesWed Nov 09 04:34:11 via web

Crowd is confused and aimless. Fitting considering conflicting emotions. #PSUchargesWed Nov 09 04:32:58 via Twitter for BlackBerry®

The light in Spanier's office just turned off.Wed Nov 09 04:38:40 via UberSocial for BlackBerry

What do you think of the rallies last night? Do you agree with the sentiments of the crowd?

By  |  02:34 PM ET, 11/09/2011

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