Riots ‘R Us

6 minute read

I wrote an entry about how our society and, I’m ashamed to say, my generation treats the current state of privilege. In particular, I remarked upon how privileges are now being confused with rights. This, I can safely say, is the cause for the recent riots at U-Mass and in Boston. The vast majority of rioters were either college students or of that age. In other words, they are part of my generation.


After the recent death of an Emerson student at the most recent Boston riot, I can safely say that I’m embarrassed. Sure, U-Mass now has a history of rioting following a major sporting event, but it has never escalated to the point that police were forced into an action that resulted in the death of an innocent bystander. That’s a line that once broken, will give students even out in Amherst some extra pause when they’re about ready to pile outside (to of course chant Yankees suck).

When in doubt, blame the police

Boston police have already taken responsibility and promised an investigation. This is an empty promise, but that’s not a criticism on my part. Rather, I don’t think there needs to be an investigation. In a situation such as a riot, this is bound to happen. A riot by its very nature is violent and holding police to an impossibly high standard while 80,000 people break the simplest, most basic standards in a society is utterly ridiculous. The police officer obviously wasn’t trying to kill anyone. He was trying to maintain his and everybody else’s safety in an incredibly chaotic atmosphere.


Further, I’m not going to outright blame the poor student, but I do have to make a commentary about people that are present at these riots. Everyone knows that following a major sporting event, U-Mass has a riot. Likewise, everyone knew that following game seven of the ALCS, regardless of the outcome, there was going to be a riot at Fenway. That was a given.

This trend has been gaining steam, as far as I can tell, starting with the 2001 Superbowl win by the Patriots. U-Mass had its perhaps most spectacular riot ever. Thousands gathered. Every window face the center of the gathering was filled with yet more. Bonfires were started. Scores of drunken women sat on the shoulders of male friends and showed their breasts. Fireworks were set off (and considering that they were amateur, they were spectacular). Videos of the riot began surfacing on the campus network. The students gathered so suddenly and unexpectedly that the police weren’t prepared. They were fairly overwhelmed. The punchline was that it was a huge party and practically no one got in trouble for it.

This sent a message to the student body: You are not responsible for your actions. My privilege-without-responsibility generation compatriots got the message loud and clear. Rioting had no consequences. Every sporting event became an excuse to riot. It was no longer a spontaneous event. It wasn’t a snap decision shared by thousands as it had been after the Superbowl. It was a given. The following year’s division playoffs and ALCS was a reason to riot nearly every day for two weeks.

This reputation naturally was spread as the media reported the event. Boston college students couldn’t be outdone. Even Westfield, a school dominated by future law enforcement officers and teachers, was infected with this fever, ruining police vehicles. The Pariot’s victory earlier this year set the stage for some awful riots in Boston. U-Mass was expecting something to happen and due to plenty of practice, developed a system involving cameras, lights, and scores of police in riot gear to disperse the crowd if even a hint of violence was shown.

Many U-Mass students still like to visit Southwest to witness the insanity of it all, but few feel the same way about it now that they did at the first riot. Threats of legal action as well as academic sanctions have become an effective deterrant. However, this has yet to be felt in Boston, which is why it was so volatile there. Too many apathetic, disaffected students feel that what they do has no consequence. It’s not a riot born of some real outrage; they are parties.

This is why people still gather, despite the fact that they are putting themselves in a dangerous situation. They think that solely because they are not actively breaking any laws, they are safe from anything happening. The Hobart Hoedown incident of 2003 [2] did not send the message to student in Boston that it did in Amherst. Students that went to Hobart Lane, knowing what would happen, got hurt and then blamed the police for being too reactionary but not discriminating enough. This is exactly like what happened in Boston, only in Boston, someone died.

Going to a riot like these is tantamount to putting yourself in the path of a speeding car. Eventually, one of those cars is going to hit you. This is why I have a hard time absolving Victoria Snelgrove of all guilt. Every time I thought about going down to a riot, I thought about the fact that I might be putting myself in danger. In the heat of the moment, I could be confused for a violent participant and a non-violent one. Hell, I ran the risk of being accosted by one of those violent protestors.

It’s time that college students started acting like the adults that they supposedly are. That includes taking all responsibility for the actions you take. Even the ones that put you in danger and possibly get you killed. It’s time that collegiates are held accountable for breaking things, lighting things on fire, assaulting police officers, and even ignoring officers attempts to get things under control by clearing an area.


Mayor Menino’s proposed solution is a typical knee-jerk reaction that will effectively do nothing about the problem. Prohibiting local bars from serving alcoholic drinks will not keep this from happening again. In fact, the only thing it will really accomplish is to drain profit from those bars that he is blocking from running their business as usual.

I’d like to see a profile of the age of participants of this past riots. A large portion, if not the majority, were underage I bet, not the bar crowd. Rather, I believe that most of the people involved got drunk at home. Shutting down the bars in the area will not even make a dent in the number of intoxicated individuals in Boston following the World Series games. This is of course assuming that alcohol is the reason that riots take place to begin with.

Instead, you’re more likely to see those bar-goers either being displaced to another establishment farther out (forcing them to travel farther to get to Fenway) or to drink at home (which most due already I suspect). Drinking at home exacerbates the problem by making it cheaper to drink as well as easier to get drunk really fast.

I know the mayor wants to do something about this, if for no other reason, to maintain his reputation, but his idea will not have an effect. I can only hope that the death from the last riot will have enough of a chilling effect to keep it from happening again.