27 arrested after postgame victory celebrations at U-Md.
Thursday, March 4, 2010; 5:04 PM
Police arrested 27 post-game revelers in College Park after the University of Maryland's basketball win over Duke, officials said.
Accounts varied wildly, with some students saying they were acting peacefully when officers went overboard. Video footage aired by WUSA (Channel 9) showed what appears to be an officer clearly ramming a night stick into a young man's head.
Police officials defended their actions Thursday morning, with one saying students' behavior was "just ludicrous." Top officials from the Prince George's County Police Department are expected to address complaints as soon as this afternoon.
Some of the officers on the scene wore riot gear. Some were mounted on horses.
"We understand people want to celebrate the big win," said Cpl. Larry Johnson, a spokesman for Prince George's police. "But our main concern was the safety of the students and the residents of College Park. We have to maintain order as best as possible to maintain those interests."
Also on Thursday, the university released a statement condemning the "poor behavior of a few" fans. The statement says students involved in the incident face a judicial review and possible expulsion.
Johnson said about 1,500 people poured on Route 1 after the game and "started a civil disturbance."
He didn't know yet the exact charges levied against the 27 people arrested. Three had suffered minor injuries, but he did not know the nature of the injuries. Johnson said several police officers also suffered minor injuries. Police officials said that revelers threw small rocks, snowballs and chunks of crusted, icy snow at officers.
Four law enforcement agencies were on the scene: Prince George's police, University of Maryland police, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission police and the Prince George's County Sheriff's Office.
Eric Nathan, 21, a senior from Columbia, said students were behaving well on Route 1 when police "started attacking people."
"It was really incomprehensible because it was . . . totally unprovoked," Nathan said.
He described an almost comical scene of police directing crowds of students into other police. Nathan said officers repeatedly aimed weapons at students, though he thinks they were loaded with rubber bullets or beanbag-type projectiles.
"We just pretty much walked in circles for an hour," he said.
Paul Dillon, a spokesman for the University of Maryland police department, said many university officers were involved in post-game duties at the arena and were not along Route 1 when the crowd first formed. But Dillon said he eventually made his way down to the scene and said he saw people tossing 12-inch ice projectiles at officers.
"They were just picking up chunks and throwing them at police," Dillon said.
He said officers acted properly. "I didn't see any unprovoked or inappropriate force used by the county police at all," he said.
Several times, police used an intercom to tell the crowd to break up.
"They needed to just get out of the area and go home, and they weren't listening," Dillon said.
After the students were moved off Route 1, packs of them moved back to the campus. "They set a tree on fire on the east side of Montgomery Hall," Dillon said.
It's unclear how the students did so, he said, but they may have wrapped clothes around the trunk and used an accelerant. Campus officers dispersed the crowd around the tree and put the fire out, Dillon said.
From there, students moved to McKeldin Mall, where they set fires inside trash cans, Dillon said.
He said the win was hardly a national championship and was an indication to him that some students were using the victory as an excuse to throw things at police.
"I don't think it's a reason to take over a street," he said. "It's pretty ridiculous. It's immature."
Of the 27 arrested, those who are students will face administrative review and the possibility of expulsion, Dillon said. "It's not going to be tolerated," he said.