At least 15 people were arrested late Saturday and early yesterday as thousands of University of Maryland basketball fans swarmed the streets of College Park to celebrate the team's victory over Duke University by setting fires in trash cans and throwing items from rooftops, police said yesterday.
Cpl. Kim Brown, a Prince George's County police spokeswoman, said the 15 to 20 people arrested were charged with assault, disorderly conduct and failure to obey a lawful order, all misdemeanors. She could not say whether they were all students or if they were released on bail.
Mounted police nudge U-Md. students away from Route 1 after the Terrapins beat Duke University in an Atlantic Coast Conference game.
(Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)
A portion of Route 1 alongside the campus was shut for about 90 minutes as fans poured out of bars, restaurants and fraternity houses and clashed with police in riot gear. Police used pepper spray to break up the crowd, which officials estimated at 3,000. A few minor injuries were reported.
Postgame riots have become common at the College Park campus, and a fierce rivalry with Duke led county, state and campus police to step up patrols of Route 1 and Comcast Center, the 17,950-seat arena that is home to the Terrapins.
University officials find themselves dealing with such disorderly postgame behavior among students as U-Md.'s academic reputation is improving. After postgame riots caused injuries and thousands of dollars in damage in 2002, the Board of Regents approved a policy that allows the expulsion of students found guilty of violence related to games.
The school is trying to eliminate other types of objectionable behavior. At Saturday night's Atlantic Coast Conference game, officials gave free T-shirts to fans who walked in wearing obscene shirts and urged students to tone down the language in their cheers, said university spokesman George Cathcart.
Those efforts paid off at Comcast Center, officials said.
"We're really pleased with the way students and fans behaved in the Comcast Center," Cathcart said. "Last night was just pretty much like how we'd like to see it. Lots of enthusiasm, very peaceful."
Even after the victory, fans filled the arena floor but remained well-behaved, said Maj. Cathy Atwell, spokeswoman for the University of Maryland police department.
Not so on and near Route 1. Doris Aigbe, a cashier at the College Park Convenience Store on College Avenue, closed up shortly after 11 p.m., nearly two hours before normal closing time, after she saw students starting fires.
"They get out of hand. They're nasty. They're drunk. Everyone gets worried," she said. "They win, they set fires. It makes no sense."
But several students interviewed yesterday said the police overreacted to what they called good-natured fun. They described a scene in which students ran around cheering, knocking down newspaper boxes, setting garbage cans and couches on fire but not harming anyone or throwing bricks into stores, as they had done in the past.
"No one was really doing anything that bad," said Ryan Breen, a 20-year-old junior, as he sat outside a Route 1 restaurant eating pizza bagels with friends.
"It's school unity, school pride," said his classmate Tyler Edwards, 21. "You definitely can't stop the riots. It's going to happen at any school, especially a big school like Maryland."