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Riot on Fairfield Way

Masses of students take to the streets after men’s basketball Elite Eight win, one student arrested

By Alban Murtishi and Kathleen McWilliams
On March 31, 2014

  • UConn Police arrested a student on Fairfield way, beside the student fires started in the celebrations burn. Courtesy of Sarah Walewski

If UConn's rise to the Final Four after defeating Michigan State was the catalyst, then the subsequent riot that erupted on Fairfield Way shortly after the victory was the reaction.
While the celebration in Madison Square Garden erupted shortly after the game was won, it was around 5:00 p.m. when the on campus celebration began. The fanfare began at North campus, with UConn students tweeting pictures of muddied and shirtless fans cheering in front of North Dining Hall. The small crowd then made its way down to Fairfield Way, and at the center of campus, the sheer noise of the cheering students reverberated throughout the south end of campus.
"When it got down to the last 2 minutes and they were neck and neck we started live streaming it on our computers," Sara Walsh, 6th semester Political Science and Human Rights major. "After winning you could hear the entire campus screaming and cheering out their windows."
By 5:30 p.m. the scene had descended into an chaos. While the circular driveway in front of the Union and Gampel had become a shoulder-to-shoulder congregation, UConn police and security trailed the perimeter of the crowd.
Students cheered "Final Four!," "I believe that we will win!" and the UConn Chant. However, this school spirit was juxtaposed with chants of "Cancel school!" and "Flip the van!" referring to the News 8 van parked on the driveway.
"As a senior, it was incredible to be with other UConn students on campus celebrating the Elite Eight victory-- it brought memories of when we won the 2011 championship flooding back," Sarah Wylie, an 8th-semester Political Science major said.
Throughout the riot, the air above the students was just as crowded as the ground they cheered on. Among the projectiles jettisoned from the crowd included beer cans, toilet paper, basketballs, footballs, bras, shoes and even crowd surfing students. Then suddenly, above the heads of the crowd an unknown hand was thrust into the air gripping a flaming copy of The Daily Campus. Another student proceeded to carry in more copies as fuel for the fire that would soon erupt in the center of the crowd.
"At one point someone lit a rolled up copy of the new paper on fire like a torch, and like mosquitoes to the light we all gathered closer jumping up and down"
The crowd began to disperse as the surrounding UConn police filed into the crowd in order to quench the flames and arrest the suspected arsonist. UConn police has yet to comment on the names and charges of the suspect.
However, after the arrest, the crowd gained new energy and a rush towards the center of the smoldering remains began. Students began to circle the embers and wipe the floor back and forth ceremoniously.
The ground was littered with the burning remnant of the paper and the crowd circled around it, got low and started to sway in rhythm as the energy built." Walsh said. "Then all at once they surged in towards the left over burning mass. All sides of the circle coming together. We were pushed forward and packed so tight as people jumped and shoved all around, it was exhilarating terrifying."
After the fiery climax of the riot, police began to disperse the crowd, all of whom willingly left the scene. Although many students had been thrown up into crowd surfs, hit in the head with basketballs and beer cans and the one arrest, the actual riot had caused no major injuries or destruction of campus property.
"We were all smiles, soaked in beer, screaming our heads off, jumping up and down as the crowed raged on," Walsh said.
For some, the exciting and sometimes terrifying event resulted in a new perspective of UConn culture and UConn sports.
"Celebrating a UConn basketball win is as good a reason as any for me to 'riot'-- but I also couldn't help thinking that if the student body came out in full force like that in response to other events and issues, we could get some real change accomplished on this campus," Wylie said.

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