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Ear to the Ground

Paterno’s Exit Sparks Student Riot

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Posted on Nov 10, 2011
Wikimedia Commons / PSUMark2006

Angry at school officials and the media for ousting football hero Joe Paterno, thousands of Penn State students poured into the streets of their college town Wednesday night, clashing with police, chanting and taking their frustrations out on local property and a news van in a show of support for JoePa.

The New York Times:

The demonstrators congregated outside Penn State’s administration building before stampeding into the tight grid of downtown streets. They turned their ire on a news van, a symbolic gesture that expressed a view held by many that the news media exaggerated Mr. Paterno’s role in the scandal surrounding accusations that a former assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, sexually assaulted young boys.

“I think the point people are trying to make is the media is responsible for JoePa going down,” said a freshman, Mike Clark, 18, adding that he believed that Mr. Paterno had met his legal and moral responsibilities by telling university authorities about an accusation that Mr. Sandusky assaulted a boy in a university shower in 2002.

Demonstrators tore down two lamp posts, one falling into a crowd. They also threw rocks and fireworks at the police, who responded with pepper spray. The crowd undulated like an accordion, with the students crowding the police and the officers pushing them back.

“We got rowdy, and we got maced,” Jeff Heim, 19, said rubbing his red, teary eyes. “But make no mistake, the board started this riot by firing our coach. They tarnished a legend.”

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, November 11, 2011 at 12:13 pm Link to this comment

Reminds me of how Hollywood rioted on behalf of Polanski.

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, November 11, 2011 at 10:23 am Link to this comment

I don’t know what things are like at universities now, but back in the day they used to like to keep a few tame Marxists around, I believe as a sort of immunization strategy, or perhaps merely as decor.  Does this matter to anyone any more?

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mrfreeze's avatar

By mrfreeze, November 11, 2011 at 10:10 am Link to this comment

Payson - I don’t think I’ve ever heard it put so well..your words:

“Taking comfort in a financial system that threatens our nation isn’t all that different from taking comfort in a football team led by men who turned a blind eye to child rape.  No one in charge offers any solutions because they have none, so they convince young and/or fearful Americans that protecting the status quo is the only course. It is little wonder that these disillusioned college students
participated in a riot that deified a man who put a lucrative football culture before the safety of children.”

Thanks for that!

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Payson's avatar

By Payson, November 11, 2011 at 9:51 am Link to this comment

Regarding the myth that elite universities are bastions of communism and
socialism:
This conservative myth, in my opinion, has virtually no basis in reality.  Having
graduated from Harvard during the economic boom years, one would have had
quite a difficult time finding another student, let alone a majority of students,
who believed in an anti-capitalist agenda.  Larry Summers was Harvard’s
president when I graduated.  I was treated with curiosity because I chose to be
a public school teacher instead of work in finance.  The Harvard culture
essentially believed that your degree was a ticket to making millions.  Oh, there
is plenty of tolerance and empathy at Harvard, but “liberal” talk is cheap.  The
masterminds of Wall Street’s descent into a legalized gambling den where those
in charge never lose and get to use our money mainly came from Harvard.
The conservative love of trashing anyone from Harvard is an effective ploy to
discredit any scholar who doesn’t support the conservative agenda.  Elizabeth
Warren grew up working class and attended a public university, but
employment by Harvard inevitably leads to accusations of being a treasonous
communist.  Never mind that she has devoted her career to advocating for the
middle class and hasn’t made millions lobbying for corporations.
We have become a nation of labels and everyone gets to establish their own
definitions of what those labels mean.  Those in charge, Democrat and
Republican, remain profoundly influenced by an ivy league insider club of
influence that has learned it can be just as effective with a lower profile.  The
public face of politics is increasingly the idiocy pageant contestants chosen for
us, but the real power continues to come from the Ivy League.  If you are
looking for an academic incubator for progressive action, the last place I
suggest you look is Harvard.

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Payson's avatar

By Payson, November 11, 2011 at 9:27 am Link to this comment

Mr. Freeze:  I wasn’t suggesting that actual “elite” students at “elite” private
colleges and universities have a greater moral backbone, only that I doubt many
of them would lower themselves to the point of participating in a riot.  Apathy
and callous disregard of societal injustices are all part of maintaining a status
quo.  For some, ignoring the plight of the less fortunate enables the privileged
few to carry on with greedy and ultimately dangerous financial policies.  Taking
comfort in a financial system that threatens our nation isn’t all that different
from taking comfort in a football team led by men who turned a blind eye to
child rape.  No one in charge offers any solutions because they have none, so
they convince young and/or fearful Americans that protecting the status quo is
the only course.  It is little wonder that these disillusioned college students
participated in a riot that deified a man who put a lucrative football culture
before the safety of children.  I don’t think this event represents Penn State’s
student body in general and I doubt there was any critical thinking carried on
by the participants.  It is easy for me to be appalled at this behavior and its
apparent catalyst, but I try to remember that tensions in this country are at a
breaking point and in a media culture that fails to establish fact over rhetoric,
the skills necessary to effectively weigh issues before action are not being
taught.

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, November 11, 2011 at 8:25 am Link to this comment

Does anyone know what the rioting students were actually thinking?  I’d like to see some interviews.

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By Big B, November 11, 2011 at 6:15 am Link to this comment

Every protester that supports JoePa should be made to watch some illegal snuff film of a child being raped.

Everyone who stands with JoePa now is supporting the penetration of small children by dirty old men.

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By Paul McGuire, November 10, 2011 at 4:05 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ah, foo’ball, the apex of homoerotic jock culture. ‘Tis
the best of raucus gang bang shows complete with time
outs and beer boy ads with a mountain-bustin’ two-story
pickup mud truck or two full of real boys thrown in to
heighten the fever! What is to be made of this game,
what with its split ends,tight ends, wide receivers,
piling on,gang-tackling,bum bumping celebrations,pats
on the lower cheeks and the rest of it. Just a simple
character-building innocent game among alpha males
right? sure.

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mrfreeze's avatar

By mrfreeze, November 10, 2011 at 3:26 pm Link to this comment

Payson - I really appreciate your point about who’s privileged and who isn’t in this country; however, I just want you to know that all of my CONSERVATIVE friends are the ones who despise public universities (and all those “liberal/commie” elites) and would pull the plug on public education if they had a chance…...

Colleges (with some exceptions) are some of the most apathetic places in the U.S. so what’s disturbing about Penn State is exactly what you wrote: football (sports) has become a religion on college campuses. Would that the students cared a little more about our failed political system than who’s quarterback this year…

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Payson's avatar

By Payson, November 10, 2011 at 3:05 pm Link to this comment

“Privileged elite?”  This is Penn State we are talking about, not U Penn, Harvard,
Yale, etc.  Hate the privileged elite all you want, but the vast majority of actual
“elite kids” are taught enough manners to know that rioting in the street over the
termination of a football coach who helped to cover up the rapes of children isn’t
a worthwhile outing.
Penn State caters to the middle class, many of whom view football as part of an
American religion.  Many members of the diminishing middle class, especially
college students, are both angry and dumbed down—a dangerous combination.  I
don’t see a lot of critical thinking skills on display with these kids.  If your college
experience revolves around football I seriously doubt you can be counted among
the privileged elite.  The elite kids are at Harvard preparing for professional
gambling careers on Wall Street and laughing at the anyone who isn’t obsessed
with making money.

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Billy Pilgrim's avatar

By Billy Pilgrim, November 10, 2011 at 2:53 pm Link to this comment

So when I was in high school we protested against the
Vietnam War. The country had a draft then and the
children of the wealthy could always get out of it.
Now we have a country without a draft and the children
of those who protested the war are now protesting the
firing of a football coach. Penn State should cancel
the rest of the season and forego any Bowl invitations.

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mrfreeze's avatar

By mrfreeze, November 10, 2011 at 2:44 pm Link to this comment

Bacilo de Koch - Tragically, I think your idea might possibly be the solution to our national comatose state..

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By jingledjango, November 10, 2011 at 2:23 pm Link to this comment

Know will you believe me when I say America has an unhealthy obsession with football?

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By Ann, November 10, 2011 at 2:19 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

the cops show relative calm(pepper spray)during violent rioting by white college sports fans, yet OWS protesters are beaten-up for peaceful protesting.  what is wrong with this picture….

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By Bacilo de Koch, November 10, 2011 at 1:59 pm Link to this comment

mrfreeze,

You just gave me a great idea.  Lets make elections a football match between
Dems and Reps.  It can be like the Superbowl but only every four years.  The
winner gets to run the country.

Sadly, people would probably pay more attention to that.

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By Tobysgirl, November 10, 2011 at 12:53 pm Link to this comment

If Paterno is such a great guy, why didn’t he tell his supporters to accept what happened and behave themselves?

I lived for too many months in Columbus, Ohio, home of sports hooligans.

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mrfreeze's avatar

By mrfreeze, November 10, 2011 at 11:54 am Link to this comment

I won’t accuse the students of being privileged, spoiled, (probably mainly white) elite-offspring….but I will say this:

After years of institutionalized corrpution, graft, bribery, (yes, even sexual scandal) surrounding so many of our private and public institutions, the young people in this country seem comotose and incapable of great passion until THEIR FOOTBALL COACH is fired??????????

Perhaps the new title of our leaders should be: Coach Obama, Coach Boehner, Coach CEO (whoever), etc.. Then, when one of them fucks up (you know, by tanking whole western economies, bankrupting millions of citizens, foreclosing on many others and starting illegal, phony wars) perhaps then the youth in this country will get off their apathetic asses and protest against some truly evil men (usually men).

I see the “outrage” from these students as emblematic of how far our empire has fallen….it’s absurd really.

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By Larry Dawson, November 10, 2011 at 11:20 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Sorry boys and girls, the legend tarnished himself.

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By TheEnd, November 10, 2011 at 11:13 am Link to this comment

“Of course we’re going to riot,” he said. “What do they expect when they tell us at 10 o’clock that they fired our football coach?”

So if you haven’t figured it out yet, Americans are willing to assemble and act violently if sports are involved.  This makes me want to go see a Laker game.  Sigh. - TheEnd

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By berniem, November 10, 2011 at 11:06 am Link to this comment

Ah, the anger of the offspring of the privileged elite on display! Football Uber Alles!

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