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20 arrested during Penn State riot

Crowd reached 4,000 following Temple game

Sunday, March 25, 2001

By Tom Gibb, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The final whistle in Penn State's loss to Temple in the NCAA tournament was the opening gun for State College's third riot in 21/2 years -- a three-hour melee with 20 arrests and a mob that was larger and surlier than before.

Just after midnight yesterday, a mix of rioters and rubberneckers swarmed East Beaver Avenue and jammed apartment balconies above. They let fly with taunts, bottles, firecrackers and loaded beer cans.

Police estimated that the crowd started at 50 and swelled to 4,000.

"It was very scary," said Penn State University spokesman William Mahon, who watched with police until he was caught in a rain of debris. "I saw people run past, bleeding. It was a larger crowd than the other riots, much more aggressive. I was amazed by the level of restraint by police."

Mahon and State College police Sgt. Scott Ohs said the riot was fueled by alcohol, not anger at the end of Penn State's run in the NCAA basketball tournament.

"This was going to happen whether Penn State won or lost," said freshman Matt Petroff of State College. He witnessed the riot from a friend's balcony.

In a move to head off trouble Friday night and early yesterday, Penn State scheduled post-game, alcohol-free activities on campus. At the same time, a mix of 60 regional police, state police and Centre County deputies, all with riot gear, were on standby.

The precautions were made as Penn State's basketball team played Temple University at the NCAA South Regional in Atlanta. State College residents watched on television, then many took to the streets after the Nittany Lions were beaten, 84-72.

Police warned people to clear out and used pepper spray when they didn't, Mahon said.

Police said a woman required stitches when she was hit by debris thrown by a rioter. Two helmeted officers were hit by beer bottles, Ohs said.

Police said 14 of the 20 people arrested were Penn State students. All arrests were for misdemeanors, such as disorderly conduct.

With their faster, smarter reaction, Ohs said, police avoided a repeat of a midsummer 1998 riot in which a crowd of 2,000 people caused an estimated $150,000 damage, much of it in toppled street lights.

Another riot in the State College business district occurred last summer.

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