Spray First, Riot Later

Fans of the Philadelphia Eagles are, by definition, animals. This is not subject to dispute, as I am a New York Giants fan and that’s that.

Recognizing this sad fact, however, does not explain an editorial in the Penn State Daily Collegian.

The Philadelphia Eagles won their first Super Bowl Sunday night, and their fans at Penn State wanted to celebrate.

So naturally, running on alcohol and jubilee, they took to the streets. This hardly would’ve been a problem had they simply just sang the fight song on the sidewalks. But based on other State College riots in recent years, it was safe to assume these celebrations quickly would turn sour.

Students at Penn State behaving badly? Is this even possible? Well, sure, but the leap from possible to “safe to assume” is a long one. It would suggest that there should be some anticipation of problems, perhaps even riots because these are college student Eagles fans and one can’t expect too much of them.

The police departments knew this, and as soon as the students gathered in the middle of the street in Beaver Canyon and stopped traffic, the cops started breaking it up.

They did their jobs appropriately and accordingly, based on how destructive the situation could’ve been. Damages were minimal and no arrests were made.

Breaking it up doesn’t sound particularly bad, given that students had stopped traffic, but they left out the part about how the cops accomplished this task.

However, the police received mixed reviews for the way they put down a riot that could’ve been much worse. Students claimed the police whipped out the pepper spray too soon.

Their eyes burned and their skin was irritated, so it’s not surprising they were angry. Parents caught wind of this and responded as expected: They stood up for their sons and daughters and complained about the quick pepper-spraying trigger.

To “put down a riot that could’ve been,” they pepper-sprayed students? To be clear, when the editorial refers to a riot that could have been, they are saying a riot that did not happen. It might have. It could have. It could even be a likelihood. Except it didn’t happen. Yet the police stopped it from happening by commencing the use of force continuum of OC spray? And how did the college paper take this?

To this mother — and all the other students and parents who are upset with the police — RELAX.

Not just “relax,” but in ALL CAPS, which means it’s really serious.

This wasn’t police brutality. They didn’t target any individual student.

Aside from this line being a non sequitur, as there is not, nor has there ever been, a limitation on police brutality that it target any individual as opposed to randomly attacking large groups without regard to who has engaged in any wrongdoing and who is merely innocently there, yet suffers the same harm, it’s foundationally idiotic. Force was used. It was not used in response to anything, but in anticipation of the possibility of a riot.

More importantly, every student who took to the streets understood the risk of being there, long before the Eagles won the game.

Granted, students celebrating the Eagles’ win aren’t the brightest group, but the notion of some collective culpability for the risk of “being there,” on top of the notion of anticipatory punishment, is bizarre. And not for the sake of human welfare, even though that too would be wrong, but because of the possibility of property damage.

The State College police used pepper spray twice last year to control the riots that followed two major Penn State football wins. And while the pepper spray worked in those situations, the students still caused an estimated $42,000 in damages between the two riots, $30,000 of which came from the first one on Oct. 23, 2016.

Had the police used the pepper spray sooner in those riots, we wonder if the damages would’ve been a lot less costly.

And if the cops just locked up all kids from ages 15 to 25, would they wonder if there would be a lot less crime as well?

We can’t fault the police for assuming the worst was going to happen, which is what they’re supposed to do in every situation. They too knew they risked backlash for pepper-spraying the crowd of students, but they felt a few angry people were worth thousands of dollars in destruction.

We won’t know for sure what would’ve happened had they not pepper-sprayed so early, but their haste definitely kept a raucous congregation of students from getting further out of hand.

That anyone, of any political persuasion, would applaud the police use of force in “haste,” reflects an acquiescence to authority, a trivialization of the use of force, a denigration of civil rights, beyond comprehension. This is the narrative that justifies any authoritarianism by wrapping it up in what never happened because of what was done beforehand to prevent it.

Had this appeared at PoliceOne, it might have been an understandable apologia for the excesses employed by Penn State cops. But this was in the student newspaper, which claims to be one of the best college rags in the nation. And the editorial tells students and their parents who were subject to the use of force for having not yet done anything wrong to relax?

To say a “few angry people were worth” preventing “thousand of dollars in destruction” misses the point. Had it been a few permanent injuries, which easily and often follow police use of pepper spray as people start to flee, trample others, or attack police in response, would it still be a worthy trade-off for some property damage that had yet to happen?

This isn’t to say that Eagles fans can be trusted to not find something monumentally stupid and awful to do to celebrate the only Super Bowl win they will ever enjoy, but for a student newspaper to laud force against people in anticipation of property damage is utterly idiotic. Even in Pennsylvania, this is beyond the pale.

32 thoughts on “Spray First, Riot Later

  1. Richard Kopf


    Your continued affection for those who engage in dirty dancing is proof positive of your depravity. After all, it was the fans of the Eagles–by the way, our country’s heroic symbol of supremacy–who had the times of their lives. And they will do it all again.

    All the best.


  2. albeed

    Ah, the self-deception and delusion of a Giant’s Fan. Most refuse to seek the help that they need.

    If it was the Giant’s who won and their fans began to even assemble, rubber bullets and water cannons in sub-freezing temperatures would be most appropriate – and I am not the biggest fan of LE.

    We won’t even go to the thought of what would be appropriate if Nebraska had an NFL franchise which won the Super Bowl. It may make Waco look like a tea party.

          1. wilbur

            Wow, a lot of painful memories for this Bear fan. Bears QB Bobby Douglass (from Kansas) was said to be able to throw a football through a brick wall – if he could hit the wall. He and Greg Landry, the Lions QB in this clip, were two of the best running QBs ever. I’m guessing this game was in 1972.

            I remember watching the Bears-Lions game in 1971, where Lions player Chuck Hughes died on the field of heart failure. Seeing him face down on the field, I immediately said to my father “That guy’s dead”. You could just tell. Very sad.

        1. Noel Erinjeri

          Yeah! The Lions went 0-16 YEARS before those poseurs in Cleveland managed it!

          2008 was a great time to be a Lions fan…at long last, it was absolutely 100% certain that things couldn’t get any worse.

    1. Kathryn Kase

      Nebraska may not have an NFL franchise, but, as we KU alums observe, it sure does have professional football.

      1. Richard Kopf


        Yes, indeed, we have professional football. NU now has the best team that money can buy, agreeing to pay Scott Frost $35 million and guarantee him a job for seven years. After yesterday’s signing day, where Herbie Husker signed a top 25 class, and the spring game sold out–about 90,000 people will attend the scrimmage which will be televised on ESPN–one can now proudly proclaim again that “knowledge” begins with N.

        GBR. All the best.


          1. Richard Kopf


            That ship has sailed. After all, because you can change a tire, “they” (notice I am using the gender-neutral singular pronoun), aka Brandon Calvert 🌹, who has a way with words, called you an “asshole” because you refuse to rid yourself of toxic masculinity. Consider yourself lucky that you have not (yet) been summoned before Governor Rickett’s Admiral’s Mast.

            All the best.


  3. B. McLeod

    In short, “No journalists were harmed in this use-of-force episode.” Move along, nothing to see here.

  4. Osama bin Pimpin

    It’s a logical conclusion of the BLM led “narrative” on police brutality being entirely a problem of bigotry. Why I am constantly told that I am enabler of it because I see it primarily a problem of police unions and the public that broadly support them.

  5. MollyG

    As a PSU grad an a current resident of State College I would like to add my perspective.

    First, the local police have a very good reputation for not engaging in excessive force. As a local activist, I have been trying to keep my ears open for reports of excessive force or other misconduct for years and have heard nothing. I will try to look into this more.

    The Penn State Daily Collegian has never impressed me and they are very deferential to the administration. This editorial from them is not surprising. Investigative journalist or ones to speak truth to power they are not.

    For the most part, Penn State students only care about drinking, football, and curing kids of cancer (THON). This the least activist campus I have seen.

    1. SHG Post author

      And so? What about what happened here, anticipatory pepper spraying? You kind of skated all around that, completely avoiding the only thing at issue?

      1. MollyG

        I agree that anticipatory pepper spraying is excessive force and should not be tolerated. I was trying to give insight on the perspective of the editorial writer. Their acceptance that the anticipatory pepper spraying was reasonable disturbed me.

        1. SHG Post author

          The editorial writer was some kid who, when he grows up, will look back at this editorial in shame. But even for a kid, this was some serious shade.

  6. Billy Bob

    PA/Philly suck, they really do. Been there, done that. It’s caught in a time-warp between the North and the South. The Mid-west and the Atlantic, aka Nu Joysey–Bring Springsteen-breath. They got great strip clubs tho:
    “Closed by Order of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board for Criminal Violations.”
    No, they didn’t! Yes, they did. What a shame, and the rest is HiStory.
    From Patriiot’s Territory: Congrats, Eagles. You fought the good fight. No hard feelings, Rocky Balboa-breath. However, the Pats are still the best in the East, notwithstanding the current loss, that’s how we is. We are easy/gracious to get along with,… As for pre-emptively pepper spraying the poor, defenseless stewdents, is anyone really suprised? This is hardly worth a headline.

    Sounds to me like there are two many stewdents with too much time on their hands, when they shoulda been studyin’.

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