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Penn State Students Riot Over JoePa’s Firing

Penn State Students Riot Over JoePa’s Firing
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Students from Penn State University clashed with police last night but not for the reasons that UC Berkeley students seeking to occupy Sproul Plaza. Enraged at the firing of legendary coach Joe Paterno, thousands of Penn State students stampeded down the streets of downtown State College, tearing down lamp posts, overturning a television news van and chanting Paterno’s name and nickname, “JoePa.” Students threw rocks and firework at police in riot gear, who responded with pepper spray.

Other students stood around the statue of Joe Paterno outside Beaver Stadium and sobbed.

Paterno and Penn State President Graham Spanier were fired on Wednesday night by the university’s Board of Trustees, in the wake of the arrest last Friday of Jerry Sandusky, a long-time assistant on Penn State’s powerhouse football team. Sandusky has been charged with 40 criminal counts of sexually abusing 8 boys in the football facilities of the university, over a period of 15 years. Timothy M. Curley, Penn State’s athletic director, and Gary C. Schultz, its interim senior vice president for finance and business, had already stepped down earlier this week and face charges of perjury and failing to report the child-abuse allegations to the police. Paterno and Spanier have not been charged with any crime but have been deeply implicated in the scandal, Paterno because of what he says he knew, or did not know, about allegations of abuse of a boy in 2002.

Relatives of the alleged victims have been deeply upset by the riots. The sister of a boy who was 11 when Sandusky allegedly molested him in one of the school’s showers says:

— “I’ve been going to minimal classes, because every class I go to I get sick to my stomach. People are making jokes about it.” Others, she said, have coined the verb “Sanduskied.” You can imagine the context.

— The young woman also says that the scenes in State College, Pa., last night of students rioting in the streets because they’re angry about Paterno’s firing, mean that “if there was any pride left at PSU, it’s gone now.”

“I’ve just been really upset about it all,” she added, “because a lot of people aren’t focusing on the victims in this. And instead they’re focusing on other things, like football.”

Penn State students proclaimed it unfair that Paterno has been drawn into the scandal:

“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….

“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.”

Students — some of whom said they needed a way to vent their anger — attacked and overturned the TV van because of anger at the media, whom they accuse of tarnishing Paterno’s name by dragging him into the scandal. Aerospace engineering student Paul Howard said “Of course we’re going to riot. What do they expect when they tell us at 10 o’clock that they fired our football coach?”

Howard’s comments capture the emotional fervor and passionate loyalty that students feel about college sports. They also reveal how deeply the whole Penn State community, including faculty, have associated the prowess and reputation of the Nittany Lions with the university’s fortunes.

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Photo of statue of Paterno by nviziondotnet

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88 comments

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8:45AM PST on Nov 18, 2011

I hope Pen State and the football program go the way of the kooko bird - it is time society starts glorifying things of importance instead of a stupid game - and imagine the ignorance of a statue of a coach! Despicable and disgusting and the world is watching and you pathetic pieces of shit that support that corruption are just as bad!

8:31PM PST on Nov 15, 2011

people who riot over a coach being fired but not over children being exploited and abused are disgusting, pathetic excuses of people

this is an example of why I lose faith in the world, more time and energy is devoted to trivial matters by so many people than caring about things that truly matter

6:59AM PST on Nov 15, 2011

what a shame. I can understand why these young people are upset. Paterno was more than just a coach, he was an institution. He brought in a lot of money to the university, but also a lot of respect. He kept the bar high for players. He definitely failed here, but I'm not sure if dragging him through the mud is necessary. We don't know what was said behind closed doors. If he indeed did report what he knew to the administration, then it is possible he did nothing wrong. Not to be...ageist, but I think perhaps someone who is 84 is not going to think like someone born in the '80s/'90s. Not that that excuses an action, but it might indicate that he saw things in a different way.

I'm not defending, just questioning. What I am completely *not* defending is the absolutely ridiculous reaction from these rioters. What a way to make the student body look like a bunch of thugs who think that sexually abusing people is okay. Idiots.

To the previous poster who noted that all Penn Staters are loud, foul-mouthed drunks, well, there's no proof here to oppose that, but, as an alumna, I would like to say we're not all idiots, thanks. I have never shouted 'we are Penn State,' but I certainly have never gone around accusing people of having NO morals. Even if Paterno failed to act as he should have, I don't think that wins him the honour of being completely without morals. Obviously this is an emotional topic, but I don't think that means we need to resort to stereotyping and oversimplifi

5:04AM PST on Nov 15, 2011

ooh. who wants to playfully harass the butthurt morons who are upset he got canned and not over what he did.

raise your hands, and find them for me.

now if only we can force them to read or look at things.

5:57PM PST on Nov 13, 2011

thanks

12:28PM PST on Nov 13, 2011

I cannot believe the students are not thinking about the victims! What pathetic souls!

10:13AM PST on Nov 13, 2011

I have been to Penn State four times in my life. EVERY time I've been there the students have been loud, foul mouthed drunks!!!!!! I can't believe that anyone would riot over a "legendary" coach being fired. He may have done what was required of him, but he knows as well as everyone else that he should have done a lot more!!!! Everything was pushed under the rug because if it would have came out it would have hurt their precious football program. Football and Joe Pa mean everything to Penn State. It's absolutely disgusting that people put winning a stupid game over the lives and safety of a child. I have NEVER been a fan of PSU and I NEVER will be. I can't believe that people defend a person with NO morals. I'll bet if it was his son or grandson he would have done things differently. I despise PSU and I hope their precious football program goes down the tubes!!!! They have no one to blame, but themselves. All of the morons that say "We are Penn State" need to stop and think just what that means and I wouldn't be proud to say that!!!!!!!

10:02AM PST on Nov 13, 2011

It's too bad Joe has to go out like this.

8:44AM PST on Nov 13, 2011

I can't believe that these students would riot over a football coach. If it was me, I would be rioting if they DIDN'T fire him.

2:44AM PST on Nov 13, 2011

I can't believe that students were rioting over this. Anyone who was responsible for watching out for students and did not report that abuse was going on, deserves to lose their job at the very least.

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