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Students Riot After Michigan State Victory

2:50 PM, Dec 8, 2013   |    comments
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Police in East Lansing vowed to press charges against unruly revelers after more than a thousand people flooded the streets and set fires to celebrate Michigan State University's Big Ten Championship football win over Ohio State.

And MSU's administration, led by President Lou Anna Simon, warned of additional consequences for anyone affiliated with the university found to have broken the law after it reviews the events of early Sunday morning.

East Lansing police called the incident, which started shortly after midnight when MSU topped then-undefeated Ohio State 34-24 in the conference championship game, a "large civil disturbance" that resulted in multiple arrests. Authorities released a brief statement Sunday, but did not respond to messages seeking additional information.

Authorities responded to the student-populated Cedar Village area, which includes River and Cedar streets, for reports of large crowds and bonfires. The disturbance was shut down by about 3 a.m. Sunday.

Authorities said no one was injured and no tear gas or other chemical agents were used to disburse partiers.

A police statement said no additional details would be available until Monday morning.

Police did not release the number of arrests, nor say whether any of the arrested people were MSU students or otherwise affiliated with the university. Property damage estimates, and any costs to the city for overtime and other expenses, were not disclosed.

In a statement, Simon expressed disappointment at the behavior Sunday that followed a solid run by the university's football team.

"I am very proud of (MSU football head coach) Mark Dantonio, (MSU athletic director) Mark Hollis and our football program. They consistently represent Michigan State University with passion and class," Simon's statement said.

"At the same time, the behavior last night on campus and in East Lansing by both students and non-students was disappointing," Simon added. "Unfortunately, the behavior of a small number casts doubt on many. These incidents will be reviewed within the appropriate legal and university processes and individuals willbeheld accountable. I ask that you join me in reinforcing that Spartans honor the success of our teams by celebrating with class."

Hollis, who was in Indianapolis for the game, said via text early Sunday: "People need to celebrate in a responsible way. I am proud of the performance of our football team. There is no place for destructive celebrations. I hope our fans and campus are safe."

Police in riot gear eventually retook control of River and Cedar streets, clearing them of more than 1,000 students who celebrated the Spartans' football victory amid three large bonfires.

Beginning at about 2:30 a.m., a group of at least seven East Lansing police officers moved in on the largest bonfires in the middle of River Street, forcing celebrating students to move away from the flames.

Just minutes earlier, students had been feeding a bed mattress into the flames along with other wooden items - including large branches from a nearby tree - that caused flames to reach at least 20 feet high. Earlier, they sent couches into the flames.

After surrounding the bonfire, officers then marched slowly down the street, forcing the large crowd of students to disperse. At that point, many students seemed to heading home. By 3 a.m., Cedar Street also was cleared of students.

Police arrested nearly a dozen disruptive revelers Sunday, subduing them and taking them away in handcuffs, according to reporters at the scene. MSU police, Michigan State Police and the Ingham County sheriff's office assisted.

During the height of the excitement, students danced near the bonfires and shouted in revelry at the football win that will send MSU to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1988.

"It's more tradition than anything," said Joe Sheena, an MSU senior. "We're not a school of pyromaniacs."

By daybreak, the Cedar Village area was quiet. Charred remains from bonfires, smashed pumpkins and some broken glass were still on the street in some places along River and Cedar streets. A car was overturned in the parking lot of an apartment building on Milford Street.

At least one business attempted to capitalize on the events.

Mattress Factory Outlet, based in Farmington Hills, tweeted early Sunday: "Burn your mattress?? $50 off any mattress tomorrow for #MSU students! #EastLansing #Cedarfest."

"We made sure we put out the message late enough where it wouldn't have condoned any additional behavior," said Shay Berman, the store's marketing manager, adding that the store received a few calls by Sunday afternoon. "We weren't condoning in any way the events that were taking place, but we did want to let people know we were there."

East Lansing authorities said in a statement they are "actively pursuing charges" against anyone who participated. Anyone with information, or who can identify people in photographs, should call police at (800) ELPD-TIP.

Lansing State Journal reporter Scott Davis and Detroit Free Press reporter Joe Rexrode contributed to this report.

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