Students take to Green St. after Illini loss

Vadim Olen

Vadim Olen

By Acton Gorton

Thousands of fans took to the streets Monday the moment the Illini lost the NCAA Tournament game to North Carolina. Although several arrests and trash bin fires were reported, Monday night’s activities were largely free of the mass riots seen at other schools following tournament losses.

After the game ended at about 10:30 p.m., fans solemnly streamed out of bars and apartments onto the streets.

A large crowd gathered at the corner of Sixth and Green streets. Many students were dispirited, others were vocally angry and upset by the 75-70 loss.

Police could be seen surrounding the crowd, standing on Campustown buildings. However, they did not initially intervene.

A mass of people soon moved down Green Street shouting obscenities, paused at the Alma Mater, then continued on to the Quad.

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    In a scene similar to Saturday’s celebration, the steps and plaza in front of Foellinger Auditorium filled with people. Most in the crowd thrust up middle fingers and chanted “F*** UNC!”

    University Police officials said there had been five arrests made as of 12:10 a.m. Tuesday, ranging from arson, reckless conduct and illegal possession of fireworks. There were also two reports of criminal property damage, 15 fire calls ranging from trash cans to waste bins, four EMS calls, and reports of illegal firecrackers being set off.

    There were additional reports of injuries, including a woman who fell on her head after she leapt from the Alma Mater. The local fire and rescue team attended to her.

    “She was (crowd-)surfing the entire time,” said Mike Gorgo, freshman in LAS. “She just fell on her head. She kept saying, ‘Toss me up! Toss me up!'”

    A second woman was also hurt after being dropped while crowd-surfing in front of the Alma Mater.

    Sarmad Gilani, sophomore in engineering, said the officers were watching the game instead of preparing for the mob of students they were anticipating. Many of the police officers were seen staring at the TV inside local restaurants and from outside the window.

    “They knew this was going to happen,” Gilani said. “They should have been guarding the Alma Mater before the game was over, not after.”

    Gilani said he was mugged near the Alma Mater by a blond, heavy built man who punched him and took his wallet, although police reports were not available.

    Despite the loss, many people saw the gathering as more of a party. Dozens of cell phone lights and camera flashes lit up the Quad as people took pictures of their friends and the large crowd around them.

    “I’m just having a good time taking pictures,” said Paul Okarma, freshman in engineering. “I don’t want to break anything tonight because that’s not what we’re about.”

    Jack Contri, freshman in engineering, climbed down from a tree by the Alma Mater after police arrived.

    “I’m very upset by the basketball game, but I’m very excited with the energy left,” Contri said. “I’m going to stay here with the energy.”

    Kevin McHugh, sophomore in engineering, waved a burning black and teal striped shirt on Green Street shortly after the loss.

    “I just had it, it was the right colors and I just burned it,” McHugh said. “F*** UNC.”

    Monday afternoon, public works employees removed street signs from Green Street and greased street lights to prevent anyone from climbing them and hanging off.

    Other schools have seen more violent reactions to sports games. Last Saturday, more than 60 people were arrested during riots at Michigan State University, after the Spartans lost to the Tar Heels in the Final Four. Michigan State, The Ohio State University and the University of Maryland also saw riots in recent years after sports victories.

    – Vincent Lee, Kiyoshi Martinez, Jeremy Pelzer and Nate Sandstrom contributed to this story.