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As ELPD and MSU feared might happen, unruly crowds gathered in East Lansing after Michigan State’s 61-51 loss to Texas Tech in the Final Four on Saturday night. The official police report has now come out, showing 23 arrests in total, including 22 misdemeanors and one felony. Two street signs and one police van were vandalized.
According to a news release from the City, “the ELFD and ELPD and assisting agencies responded to 10 small fires in the City. These fires consisted of small pieces of furniture and there were no significantly sized crowds gathered around these fires.”
There were 22 citations in total for open alcohol and disorderly conduct, with the majority of those coming from the large gathering near Cedar Village. The felony arrest was for damage to a police transport van, by a prisoner according to Deputy Police Chief Steve Gonzalez.
In preparation for trouble, ELPD and MSUPD brought in reinforcements from the Michigan State Police, Ingham County Sheriff’s Office, Eaton County Sheriff’s Office, Meridian Township Police Department, Lansing Police Department, and the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office.
The cavalry also showed up, in the form of the volunteer mounted unit.
The Cedar Village area once again represented the epicenter. By the time the buzzer sounded at the end of the second half of the game, there was already a large police presence there. Media outlets from all over the state came to witness events, and throughout the night, a news helicopter could be heard hovering in the sky.
Shortly after the game ended, MSU students began congregating at the corner of River Street and Waters Edge Drive to voice their frustration with the results. At one point, the crowd began chanting, “we want couches, we want couches.”
They did not get their wish. But the largest crowd – estimated by police to number between 1,200 and 1,500 people – hooted and hollered.
The group then began moving north to Grand River where they shut down the entire road for about a half hour.
Drivers, for the most part, didn't seem to care. Some even got out of their cars and filmed, and some joined in with the students. There was no expectation that the road would be opening anytime soon.
Some in the crowd found and ripped down a “road closed” sign and began waving it at the cars that were stopped.
One person decided to tear down the street sign at the corner of Grand River Avenue and Woodmere Street. Once it was down, others passed it around like a championship trophy.
According to the City’s news release, “Soon after assembling on Grand River Avenue, the crowd began to tear down street signs and throw glass bottles into the air, effectively making the gathering a civil disturbance.” Police began to encircle the group. After about a half hour, they were dispersed without the use of chemical sprays.
In Lubbock, Texas – the home of Texas Tech – things got uglier. Cars were overturned, couches were set ablaze and the crowd had to be dispersed with tear gas.
What happened there was more like what happened in East Lansing in 1999. That year, as the Lansing State Journal recently recounted, following MSU’s loss to Duke in the Final Four an estimated five to ten thousand people took to the streets to voice their frustration. One hundred and thirty-two people were arrested, including 71 students, and between $250,000 and $500,000 worth of property was damaged.
Afterwards, the Ingham County prosecutor’s office subpoenaed reporters’ recordings in an attempt to identify suspects. The LSJ and other news organizations refused to comply and the Michigan Supreme Court ultimate sided with them.
In 1999, East Lansing’s City Council passed a law aimed at punishing those who might take photos of fires set at these kinds of “civil disturbances.” In 2016, East Lansing Judge Andrea Larkin declared the law unconstitutional.
Update: this article was updated to reflect changes in the nature of arrests.
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