In The Face of Violence, We Are
It all started with a brick. Then one brick turned into handfuls of rocks, bottles and assorted debris being cannoned against the side of a WTAJ news van.
“Fuck the media,” yelled one student.
“Yeah, fuck the media,” yelled another student as he smashed the driver’s side mirror with a determined blow from his elbow.
As the glass of the van splintered, so did the calm of those who–up to this point–were peacefully protesting the termination of Penn State football coach and icon, Joe Paterno. But with each new dent came more violence. More violence translated into new dents.
Belligerence hung thick in the air along with glass splashing from shattering windows. Slowly the voice of reason, the begs from students to fellow students to halt the destruction, was over powered by the unified cry, “tip the van.”
What started as a feeble effort grew as stagnant feelings of aggression turned into physical action. A few rioters gathered on the driver’s side of the van, rocking it back and forth. As cheers slowly got louder and louder, more rioters joined in. Some pushed from the side while others risked life and limb by hanging from roof racks.
Just as the encouraging screams of bystanders grew to a deafening level, the collective weight of roughly 15 rioters brought the van crashing down on its side. The crowd erupted into shouts and fist pumps. Those who were physically involved emerged from a ground full of glass and debris, raising their arms in signs of triumph to an eerie hysteria of blood thirsty protesters.
As the van laid on its side, crowds gathered around the shell of what once was a mobile news room for cellphone snap shots. Some students even climbed on the van and were subsequently interviewed by ESPN. Smiles and laughter outnumbered disgust. There existed a sickening pride and the distinct smell of leaking gasoline.
As riot police caught wind of the destruction, they rushed onto the scene. Pepper spray spouting from canisters caused some to quickly retreat to sidewalks, painfully rubbing their eyes and coughing. But for others it appeared to be like adding Mentos to Diet Coke.
From there lamp posts were toppled, other cars were vandalized and “fuck the police” chants contagiously spread as debris was hurdled at rows of riot troopers. More gathered as news of violence spread through tweets, text messages and word of mouth. Mob mentality trumped reason. Disorder crumbled peaceful gathering.
What began as pointless protest further lost relevance as anger was diverted from the Board of Trustees to the men and women in uniform who were–in their own words–only there for the student’s safety. Even more hypocritical was the aggression towards WTAJ, a local news station, who in no way was responsible for perpetuating negative media towards Joe Paterno–the person most of the protesters were gathering in support of.
Zombie Nation is an adopted fight song for Penn State. Last night the student protesters were just that, a zombie nation. College educated adults morphed into hoards of mindless hate-spewing miscreants on a mission to dismantle the beautiful town that their beloved Joe Paterno has called home for over 60 years.
For no apparent reason, it became more important to destroy private property than to uphold the moral icon of our university. Without any rational purpose, it became the goal of protesters to vulgarly denounce law enforcement and the media rather than the corrupt Board of Trustees who fired Paterno by phone while Athletic Director, Tim Curley, remains on paid administrative leave.
This morning students, faculty and alumni are waking up to scenes of violence and misguided belligerence on local, national and international news outlets. More importantly those students, faculty and alumni will have to walk down the tattered streets of State College wearing their best blue and white as people locally, nationally and internationally shake their heads in shame.
It was disgusting to hear the infamous “we are” chant being shouted from throats rasping with pepper spray. This violence is not who we are. We are much bigger than this whole scenario–from the scandalous actions of Jerry Sandusky to the protesters throwing rocks through car windows. We are the ones who have to pick up the broken glass.