Thousands of students flooded the streets outside the administration building after learning coach Joe Paterno and PSU president Graham Spanier were fired on Wednesday.
“We are Penn State,” the collective crowd shouted.
The peaceful demonstration soon turned rowdy, and then violent.
Officers lost control of the mob around midnight. Protesters brought down lampposts, one of which fell into a group of students. Police tried using mace to control the crowd, to which some students responded with rocks, cans of pop and road flares. Other students blew vuvuzelas and air horns and a reveille was heard from a trumpet. Some were shouting “Tip the van!” and “Flip it over!” in regards to a news van which was subsequently dented and toppled. For many it was a target of their anger.
PSU freshman Mike Clark explained that by telling university administration about Jerry Sandusky’s alleged shower assault, that the coach met his moral obligations. “I think the point people are trying to make is the media is responsible for Joe Pa going down,” the 18-year old said.
As he was dodging a cloud of pepper spray, Greg Becker told the New York Times, “This definitely looks bad for our school,” he said. “I’m sure Joe Pa wouldn’t want this, but this is just an uproar now, we’re finding a way to express our anger.”
“Of course we’re going to riot,” another Penn State student said. “What do they expect when they tell us at 10 o’clock that they fired our football coach?”
In defense of the termination,“I’m not sure I can tell you specifically,” vice chair John Surma told reporters of the immediate firing. “In our view, we thought change now was necessary.”
Not all students agreed with protesters. One told reporters on the scene, “The hardest part, because he was a hero to me, is coming to grips with what he did, or actually what he didn’t do.”
Others just wanted to witness the action. “My friends were like, ‘I don’t want to get maced,’” Kevin Goff said. “I was like, ‘I don’t want to miss seeing this, so I guess that means I do kind of want to get maced.’”
Read more about the Joe Paterno controversy.