Knight returns to end campus riots

Students leave trail of destruction from Assembly Hall to Kirkwood



Sunday began with chants of "We want Bobby," continued with broken lamp posts, burning public figures in effigy and police in riot gear, and ended after midnight with coach Bob Knight telling Assembly Hall protestors to go home.

Pandemonium hit campus almost immediately after the 3:15 p.m. press conference, when IU announced its decision to fire Knight. It only snowballed as the night progressed until Knight sent protestors home with a promise to tell students his side of the story in the next few days.

"I think you'll be very interested in hearing it," he told the crowd.

Both Knight supporters and critics turned out early for a rally that started at Assembly Hall. The protest moved down Fee Lane toward the Bryan House, IU President Myles Brand's residence. Brand was still in Indianapolis at the time. The rally grew as word of mouth spread throughout campus.

"I think this is total bullshit," Pete Wesson, a 1999 graduate, said. "I think the 'zero tolerance' policy they put on him doesn't allow him to be a basketball coach. I think he has done a lot more for this University then he has done wrong."

The mass of people assembled peacefully at Bryan House, with police standing guard in front. The protesters then returned to Assembly Hall for a previously scheduled gathering at 6 p.m.

At that rally, George Leach, a redshirt freshman forward for the basketball team, said he was disappointed with the decision.

"I'm here for the same reason everyone is here -- to support coach Knight," Leach said. "Brand just blew us off for a whole year without talking to us, so we were just left in the dark about the whole situation."

Alumni, students, faculty and community members came with signs, bullhorns and homemade T-shirts to show their support.

"They absolutely fired the wrong man," said Val Meek, a Bloomington resident for 20 years. "The person who brought people through these doors was not Brand -- it was Mr. Knight."

But the night then took a violent turn.

During the second march to Bryan House, thousands of protesters became destructive.

It started with tearing down tree limbs, stealing signs and burning an effigy of Brand. Police countered with riot gear, dogs and emergency vehicles.

"The way they are treating us … is inviting problems," sophomore Luke Williams said. "We're not criminals."

As night fell, the tension escalated. The darkness impaired protesters' vision as police pushed back the crowd with helmets and shields. Dean of Students Richard McKaig attempted to subdue the melee with a request to disperse.

"I would appreciate it if you would follow us over to Dunn Meadow," McKaig said from a fire truck. "So that no one gets hurt."

Sophomore Zach Kosenka was handcuffed on the front of a black Jeep in Brand's driveway.

"I feel violated," he said as he was forced into a police car.

Lt. Jerry Minger said he thought three arrests were made, two for disorderly conduct and one for an alcohol violation. Later in the evening, Jim Kennedy, assistant to the vice president for administration, said that four to five arrests had been made.

"When we were trying to move people back because of the pushing and shoving and trying to get people to leave the front of the house, (the people arrested) started pushing back," Minger said. "This is no longer a peaceful demonstration, and it's also trespassing."

No IU Police Department officers used any type of mace or tear gas to control the crowd, Minger said. Officers from the Bloomington Police Department and the Indiana State Police were also on the scene.

"I saw no chemical weapons or any kind of tear gas being used at all," Minger said. "There were officers from other agencies there, but I didn't see any of them using any kind of mace or tear gas."

Some students claimed otherwise.

John Moore, a sophomore, came out of the crowd with a red face and watery eyes.

"We were doing chants, then they were backing us up," Moore said. "Then they got out the shields and mace. I was walking backwards. You can only go as fast as people behind you."

That is when Moore alleged he was hit with some form of chemical deterrent.

Indiana State Police also denied using any spray, and the Bloomington Police Department would not comment.

But Kennedy said one police officer was in the hospital, injured by pepper spray.

After a period of passivity, police finally forced protesters off Brand's lawn into the area behind Woodburn Hall. There they tore down lamp posts and burned a picture of freshman Kent Harvey, the student who had a confrontation with Knight last Thursday.

Meanwhile, another crowd near Showalter Fountain turned over trash cans, broke glass bottles and tore off the IU Art Museum sign. They continued through the Arboretum, trying to destroy more lamp posts and to open a fire hydrant.

Hundreds of people who were standing in Showalter Fountain then uprooted the 1,500-pound metal statues. The Indiana State Police, still in riot gear, could not control the mass and pulled back.

Following the destruction of the fountain, the protesters made their way back up Fee Lane and proceeded to Memorial Stadium. There they tore down the south goal post and were quickly dispersed off the field by police.

Right after the police gave the protesters in the Assembly Hall parking lot 15 minutes to disperse before arrest, "the General" himself, having returned from Canada, took the podium.

"There's nobody who's ever coached that's appreciated the student support as I have," Knight said.

Knight told the crowd he wanted to meet with as many students as possible in the next two days to tell them his side of the story.

He said he appreciates the support, but encouraged the crowd to leave.

"Now let's give these guys a break so they can go home to their famillies," Knight said.

The crowd then dispersed.

Minger said no estimate can be given on the damages from the night until after an inspection by the IU Physical Plant.

"There is no way to charge a group like that," Minger said. "Many times that is why people commit those kinds of crimes, because they can maintain anonymity and a group mentality."

IU Student Association president Meredith Suffron, a senior, said she is very concerned about student safety and the damage to campus.

"Everyone has a right to express their opinions and reactions, but not when it affects and involves the safety and well-being of others and this campus and the destruction of property," she said. "We need to rally as a collective student body to support (the team) and their efforts in representing the Hoosiers this season"

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