Super Bowl Celebration Turns Violent
Associated Press Writer
Monday, February 1, 1999; 2:20 p.m. EST DENVER Police marched in riot gear and tossed tear gas at fans who celebrated the Broncos' Super Bowl victory by turning over cars and benches, lighting bonfires and breaking windows.
``It was like following the path of a tornado,'' said Andrew Hudson, a spokesman for Mayor Wellington Webb. ``It was just a really ugly scene by a lot of obnoxious people who were drunk ... we are lucky no one got killed.''
There were 20 arrests in Denver and damage was estimated at $160,000, Hudson said. He added that windows at historic Brown Palace were broken and trash Dumpsters were set on fire.
Police also reported problems with revelers in other cities statewide. In some instances, youngsters wore surgical masks, gas masks and bandanas to ward off tear gas.
It was far quieter today, with fans milling around Civic Center Park awaiting the arrival of the team. The Broncos arrived at Denver International Airport just after noon, two hours before their victory parade and rally.
On Sunday night, bars in downtown Denver emptied after the game and fans started bonfires and set off firecrackers. When the estimated crowd of 1,000 would not disperse in Larimer Square, police threw tear gas canisters at taunting youths and pounded their shields with clubs. Some youths threw bottles at the officers.
Fans scurried away in the smoke, some collapsing on the street.
``They didn't give us any time,'' said John Giomin of Denver. ``This really hurts. I've never been gassed before.''
Police had predicted problems from rowdy fans, based on trouble that erupted in 1998, when the Broncos won their first Super Bowl.
This year, they blocked access to downtown and banned parking along some streets.
In Greeley, police also used tear gas to break up a crowd, calling the revelry much worse than a year ago. Near the University of Northern Colorado, fans pelted police officers with rocks and bottles.
In Boulder, several hundred fans danced and cheered around a small bonfire.
Fort Collins police used tear gas to break up a crowd in the old town area. Some fans threw rocks and bottles at officers, while others climbed light poles.
In Grand Junction, authorities used fire hoses, pepper spray and dogs to control several hundred fans along a main street.
``It's disappointing to see some of that, that we can't celebrate without taking it to the extreme,'' said Webb.
Gov. Bill Owens said: ``Colorado has so much to be proud of tonight ... it would be a shame to mar it with any more violence.''
In several spots downtown, officers on horseback kept crowds in check. Around downtown, people waved special newspaper editions, climbed poles and waved Bronco pennants.
Downtown bars were havens of orange and blue. After the 34-19 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, many fans took their drinks and celebrations outdoors.
Last year about 30,000 people gathered downtown after the Broncos beat Green in the Super Bowl. There were more than 25 arrests and 50 people were overcome by tear gas after vandals smashed shop windows, overturned cars and set fires in Larimer Square.
``Most law-abiding people found the people that were doing that pretty disgusting,'' Hudson said of the latest disturbances. ``It's idiotic. It's that kind of behavior that is going to get people hurt and get people arrested.''
On Sunday night, police say they warned the crowd before tossing tear gas.
Jeff Sherwood, 29, who moved to Denver two years ago from Burlington, Iowa, said he and his friends were caught off guard by the police response.
``We came down right after the game,'' he said. ``I walked up next to a policeman. He said, `Do you think you are safe?' Then they tear-gassed us.''
Latit McKnight, of Denver, called the police actions ``unnecessary.''
``People have to celebrate,'' he said. ``This was (quarterback John) Elway's last game!''
© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press