Last night my girlfriend and I were watching some foreign horror and afterwards I quickly hopped on MSNBC.com while she went to get a drink or something. Of course, the news that Osama bin Laden had recently been killed was all over. A quick look at facebook had a number of mentions that Penn State was “rioting” over it.
I’ve been to a couple Penn State riots. Usually they involve a lot of drunk people being destructive until cops on horseback come and force people to leave, sometimes macing everybody until they disperse.
We decided to go check this out though. I drove down to College Ave which was relatively peaceful and found a parking spot. But once we started walking towards Beaver Ave you could hear the roar and buzz of a huge crowd.
Thousands and thousands of Penn State students and State College residents were crowding the street. The police had given up on trying to stop it and had road blocks to reroute traffic around the street. In general the people were in a happy, celebratory mood. There was no fighting or anything, although there were people climbing on things. The street lights and the occasional tree were filled with kids. And people were being crowd surfed down the length of the enormous crowd. This included a guy dressed as Captain America and a guy wearing an all blue vinyl suit (ala Green Man).
The best parts were when the entire crowd would spontaneously start singing the Star Spangled Banner. This happened more than once, including one time when a guy on one of the balconies pulled out an alto sax and began blasting out the song while everybody joined in and sang. Pretty cool.
Overall, the mood was happy. I didn’t see anybody that was obviously drunk (finals DO start this week after all) and people weren’t being rowdy or destructive. I mean apart from the rolls of toilet paper that were constantly being flung around the crowd.
There were some fireworks being shot off, and I saw a kid walking around with a lit Lady Liberty torch. And a cheerleader did a backflip over a fire in the street…
I’m glad I checked it out for myself.