Terps Rule! PG County Police Incompetent — First, WOOHOOOO! Go Terps! We'll crush Indiana.
Now… the Prince Georges County Police are fucking idiots. Nationally notorious for their brutality and abuse of power, the insanely militaristic PGCPD badly exacerbated the damage of the College Park Final Four steet celebration. I live about two blocks from the College Park bars on Baltimore Ave. After the game, excited, I ambled down to enjoy the revelry. The street was filled, of course, with happy drunk undergrads peacefully chanting “Let's Gooo Muhra-Lund!,” “We Want Hoosiers!,” and even a gloating round of “Fuck Duke!” I exhanged random high fives and hugs, lit some cigarettes, then made my way into The Cornerstone for some beer.
From the bar patio, I watched a happy bunch of kids crowded in the street, chanting, dancing, and doing their best mam-flashing impersations of Mardi Gras, sans beads. It was fine, doing nothing but blocking traffic. Then some jerks tear down a turn lane sign. Whatever. Then some real Einsteins rip the top off a crosswalk light. Fuckups. But that wan't the overall spirit. People were just happy. The PG Police, however, did their best to ensure that vandalism and agression did become the overall spirit.
First, they sent four riot cops on Steads of War into the throng to guarantee to get things really riled up. One horse just about went batshit from the clamor and started stomping around and charging people. What do you want to do with hundreds of drunk 20 year olds on a tribal testosterone/seratonin kick? Well, attack them of course. The focus of the gathering shifted rapidly from celebration of UMD's victory to the challenge of a fresh arrogant foe. Then the line of shielded stormtroopers descended down Baltimore Ave. Why? Who knows?! I mean, if you've got riot gear and cool shit with laser scopes, you wanna use it, right?
From inside The Cornerstone, we looked at the cops lined up just outside the window, and were treated to multiple angles of the hoopla from the Channel Nine news playing on 14 or so bar TVs. I have absolutely NO idea what prompted it (failure to flee in fear, I don't know) but the Man started firing tear gas into the crowd. The Cornerstone went into lockdown, shutting all the windows, driving everyone in off the patios. The teargas assault quickly dispatched the crowd, right? Well, of course not. Everyone got VERY excited. Now here is a promising story to share with our future children about the time Maryland won the national semifinals and we all got shot with tear gas pellets! WOOO! So the crowd became enthusiastically truculent. If you're going to get shot at, you might as well deserve it!
After about a half hour, The Cornerstone decided it was a good time to not be open, so they made last call at about 1:00 and started kicking everybody out the side door, the front door being blocked by the black army of Mordor. More drunk people into the streets! Strangely, the police made no peaceful effort whatsoever to disperse the crowd. They didn't yell into bullhorns asking/telling people to leave. They didn't send groups of officers into the crowd to subdue the few vandals and protect property. No, the stood stone silent in an ominous line of helmets, shields, and batons, training their laser sights onto the crowd, firing gas pellets willy nilly at anyone who looked capable of rowdiness. It was clear that they had drawn a line: if we can see you and you are not one of us, you are the enemy, and you deserve a pellet in the back of your head. The PGCPD must give specialized courses in how to actively create a climate of opposition and rebellion, because they achieved this with brilliant efficiency. Now students we're just thrilled to have an opportunity make frat house martyrs of themselves. A group of guys stood about ten feet in front of the line, just stood there, back to the cops, saying Fuck You with their proximity. And after a short while, sure enough, the kids were painted with Terminator lasers and fired upon repeatedly, Pop Pop Pop. And they just stood there, enduring the sting and the gas. That's right, fuck you. The crowd roared in appreciation.
The PGCPD established themselves firmly as the enemy, and declared open season on the non-police. And the students, in their inebriated pride, felt it incumbent upon themselves to actively resist, and so began hurling bottles at the shields, tearing down police line ribbons and using them creatively for a bit of limbo in the intersection, all to show that you ain't gonna tell us what to do. A very dumb driver in a white Jeep somehow got into the intersection and turned North up Balto. The Jeep was engulfed by the crowd and began to be violently rocked. That's when I first got riddled with tear gas pellets. When I stepped into the crowd to push against the rhythm so that the Jeep wouldn't go over. It hurts. Two police cars had been parked and abandoned with tactical genius outside of The Smoothie King and The Haircuttery. One had an unlocked door, so it was pillaged for flares which were duly flung at the Ominous Line. Other undergrad criminals ripped from the concrete the benches outside of Council Travel out and threw them through the windshield of the forsaken cruiser. Again, no effort was made to pick out the perps. If you were within fifty feet, you were guilty. I got hit again, in the arm and leg. Coughed up a lung. In front of the Chevy Chase Bank across the street some folks threw a match in the trashcan creating a mighty pyre of ATM receipts. Pop Pop Pop. Shirts over mouths. Nineteen year olds bleeding from the face.
Finally, they set the horses on the belligerent, audacious guys who refused to budge from their spot in the street. And then the line advanced, beating the shields, lasers streaking across the assembled Business and Government majors, who may as well have been Black Bloc anarchists as far as they cops were concerned. More fires. More bottles. Pop Pop Pop. Of course, the individual students who did damage are criminals, responsible for their crimes. But the PGCPD is responsible for astonishing overreaction, responsible for turning a somewhat rowdy celebration into a full-blown riot. The authoritarian style, the unwillingness to discriminate between the peaceful and the vandalous, the total lack of effort to get things done in any way but the most agressive and inflammatory, ensures that the students see them not as public servants out to keep the peace, but a power-mad paramilitary out to assert control.
God, I hope we destroy Indiana on Monday. And I hope the Prince Georges County Police get a fucking clue and learn to let exhilerated kids block traffic for a while. Because now the Hoosiers aren't the only Them to the students' Us. If the cops screw it up Monday like they screwed it up tonight, there will be one last contest of the season, and nobody will go home proud.
[Update: For a terribly facile and uninformative account, try WaPo. They fail to note how the police visibly incited the crowd. And when architecture major Henry Pena says of the police that they were “tolerant” he must certainly mean that they were negligent in apprehending people committing crimes against property, preferring instead to stand in one place and shoot tear gas at everyone. I mean, they could just see the guys carrying the bench toward the cruiser directly in front of them. So, if you're a cop, do you run and stop the assholes and arrest them? NO! You just stand there, 40 feet away, and watch them smash your windshield in. And then you barrage everyone else with gas pellets. Retards.]