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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Editorial: Clash still raising questions

    Hundreds of fans dashed into State Street in Madison, Wisc., on Saturday night, packing it from sidewalk to sidewalk, screaming and chanting at the top of their lungs.

    In celebration of the men’s basketball team’s victory over the Arizona Wildcats, Wisconsin fans clambered on top of scaffolding, climbed trees and dangled from windows, while members of the University of Wisconsin Marching Band serenaded the crowd. About 30 people even decided to check out the view from the top of a bus shelter, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It was a scene much like the one that was taking place at the exact same moment on University Boulevard on Saturday night. But something was different, and it wasn’t just the jubilant atmosphere.

    In videos of the Madison, Wisc., celebration, there’s not one riot police officer in sight. No batons at the ready. No gas masks. No lines of black-clad officers amassing outside trendy clothing stores. Likewise, although police were present, no arrests were made, and the crowd eventually dispersed more or less peacefully.

    Wildcat fans may remember that the men’s basketball team suffered a loss in the Elite Eight just a few years ago, in 2011. That year there was nowhere near the kind of outburst from fans we saw on Saturday. What made this season, this game, this night so chaotic?

    Of course, the crowd on University Boulevard was declared to be an unlawful assembly because crowd members began throwing beer cans and other objects at the police. There’s no denying that the people who chose to do so were way, way, out of line. But let’s back up. Why the heavy presence of riot police on the street in the first place? Why not have a handful of officers on the street with riot police ready to join the fray if necessary? Why send the message from the get-go that something was going to happen?

    Could the clash with the police have been avoided if it had been just a dozen University of Arizona Police Department officers out there? The crowd on University Boulevard that night was largely made up of college-age young adults. We’re all used to seeing UAPD cars cruising around when the bars let out. Most students have had some contact with UAPD before, and maybe more importantly, UAPD knows college kids. Students who find themselves staring down a wall of police officers in riot gear will act defensively.

    And where are UA administrators in all this? Dean of Students Kendal Washington White sent out an email blast on Friday afternoon asking students to “Bear Down With Pride” and saying the Dean of Students Office was “working closely” with Arizona Athletics, UAPD and local law enforcement to coordinate a larger police presence during the tournament — but there’s been no word from President Ann Weaver Hart. We didn’t exactly expect UA officials to go crowdsurfing on the backs of fans (see: University of Dayton President Daniel Curran after an NCAA victory on March 22), but it’s odd that we haven’t heard anything from our university president, especially since UA administrators apparently had a hand in organizing the police presence on University Boulevard on Saturday night.

    There’s no way of knowing if things would have turned out differently if UAPD officers had been patrolling instead of Tucson Police Department riot police. But we’re not looking for a time machine. We’re looking for answers.

    — Editorials are determined by the Daily Wildcat editorial board and written by one of its members. They are Sarah Precup, Joey Fisher, Katelyn Kennon, and David W. Mariotte. They can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter @DailyWildcat.

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