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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Students refrain from rioting

Savannah Douglas
Savannah Douglas / The Daily Wildcat

While last year’s Elite Eight loss saw police officers declare an unlawful assembly on University Boulevard, there was a significant difference in the way students and police officers reacted to the Elite Eight loss this year.

Filbert Barrera, UAPD public information officer, said UAPD officers are adept at being a part of a crowd and part of celebrations at the university.

“A lot of our officers had a lot of good comments from the public about how friendly we were, how friendly the atmosphere was — and that was the plan,” Barrera said. “Cops are fans too, and we want the ’Cats to do well, too, and that’s what we were doing.”

The 2014 Elite Eight loss to Wisconsin produced a less friendly atmosphere. According to Daily Wildcat reporting from last year’s riots, at least 15 people were taken into custody. Fans threw smoke bombs and beer bottles at the police. Riot police joined the already 80 officers on University Boulevard and responded by dispersing pepper canisters and shooting pepper balls at fans. The riots lasted more than a hour and were cleared out by 9:30 p.m.

Michael Polakowski, an associate professor at the School of Government and Public Policy, said he offered his opinion to two assistant chiefs for the Tucson Police Department and suggested changes that he thought were more appropriate for such events.

“I also made these issues known at a Faculty Senate meeting last year,” Polakowski said. “I have no idea if any of my suggestions were used as the basis for the changes or if they would have happened upon them themselves due to the research the department was conducting.”

Issac Ortega, ASUA president, said he worked with Jacob Borcover, the ZonaZoo executive director, and the UAPD to put out a video that encouraged UA students to “Bear Down with Pride.”

“Bear Down with Pride pretty much started last year with Chief of Police Brian Seastone wanting to promote and have a responsible celebration, to promote that overall bear down with pride theme and really act like we’ve been there before, which we have in basketball,” Barrera said.

The Bear Down with Pride campaign is an ongoing effort between the athletics department, the department of communications, the dean of students and the UAPD, Barrera said.

Jonathan Benaroch, a pre-business sophomore, said people were really upset after the UA lost the basketball game last year in a game that came down to the wire in overtime.

“People were really upset that we lost and made their way down to University to see what was happening.” Benaroch said. “It was really rowdy, and people were really heated. That’s why it ended with riots. This year, on the other hand, the cops were really friendly on University and were talking to students about the game, and understanding why Wildcat nation was upset after losing to Wisconsin for a second year in a row.”

Barrera said it was not the UAPD but the TPD that set up the police video tower on University Boulevard. He said UAPD officers were engaging with students and took it a step further by handing out wristbands that said “Bear Down with Pride.” Barrera also said the department had “Bear Down with Pride” hats made specifically for March Madness, which were incorporated into the officers’ uniforms.

“I can’t speculate on what caused the riot [last year], but what I can say is that this year, with our presence out there, I think really helped promote a safe environment — a fun environment — because our officers had a blast,” Barrera said.


Follow Brandi Walker on Twitter.

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