A Year of Pop Music and Party Riots
We don’t wanna leave, we just wanna be right now, I don’t care, we can’t stop, we won’t stop, we’ll fight ‘til it’s over.
“The subject of a lot of these [contemporary pop] songs is sort of an amorphous, riotous “we” – it’s whoever is there and down to participate... I get the feeling that we’re still a few years away from seeing the really threatening ‘we.’ If there’s to be a revolution in our lifetime, it will be accomplished by 14-year-olds two years from now. True Beliebers.”
— Max Fox and Malcolm Harris, Don’t Stop Beliebing
In November 2011, at the height of #Occupy’s boundless optimism, Max Fox and Malcolm Harris published a provocative dialogue1 that attempted to connect the popularity and demographics of the growing movement with the insurrectionary content of recent Hollywood films and mainstream pop music. According to their theory, the culture industry has commodified revolt so effectively and aggressively that it is spilling back onto real-life, inspiring rebellion and potentially disrupting the stability of other economic sectors. They posit:
Just because capital has brought a thing inside itself doesn’t mean that thing can’t be threatening to it. I mean, it contains labor within itself, it contains communism in itself. It is contradictory, and the condition of its own demise.
If you do a close reading of almost any of these pop songs, especially the better ones, it’s amazing to see the fragments that stick out. The only feeling left for the music industry to sell back to us is crisis, and it makes for really great dance music.
Their analysis included a particularly lofty prediction that in two years time we would see the emergence of a “really threatening ‘we,’” a cohort of all-grown-up “True Beliebers” capable of bringing about a social revolution. While obviously laced with a careful dose of tongue-in-cheek irony, I personally took solace in this romanticized notion of youthful revolt and secretly looked forward to the day I would find other masked youth in the street and wreck shit to the soundtrack of 2013’s futuristic pop music. But, with a few exciting exceptions2, that just simply didn’t happen.
Twenty thirteen came and went in the US, and all we seemed capable of were a series of collective, envious sighs for the contagious riots and insurrections spreading to everywhere but here. Turkey, Brazil, the Philippines, Sweden, Thailand, the Mi’kmaq territory of “New Brunswick,” Romania, Bangladesh, China. While nowhere saw the actualization of lasting stateless communism, and many contexts fell back into the trap of party politics, it all felt so much more interesting than the social peace impasse we couldn’t seem to break through here in these United States.
It wasn’t until the last few months of the year, while doing my weekly Google News searches for “riot -Pussy -Ukraine -Gujarat,” that I began to see a new pattern of headlines emerge from the usual mix of anti-austerity riot porn:
The New Nihilists
“If apathy is sitting on the couch all day, nihilism is setting your couch on fire.”
— Bethy Squires, The New Nihilism
Over the course of 9 months, at least thirteen U.S. college celebrations devolved into large-scale riots resulting in untold numbers of arrests, police injuries, and burning couches. But who were these students, and what the hell were they rioting over anyway? Could this really have been the work of the “True Beliebers” that Fox and Harris predicted almost two years ago? Was pop music really the catalyst that turned block parties into full-blown riots? Even after mulling over hours of bystanders’ smartphone videos, I am still unable to answer any of these questions decisively, but I have a few hypotheses.
I don’t disagree with Fox and Harris’ position that Capital’s latest, greatest recuperation scheme – commodifying revolt and selling it back to precarious American youth – might open some interesting situations for us to explore. They definitely missed the mark, however, when they predicted that some sort of “social revolution” would be built on these contradictions in two years time. Instead, I would agree with the Greek communization collective Blaumachen in presuming that:
“we are entering into an era of riots, which will be transitional and extremely violent. It will define the reproduction crisis of the proletariat, and thus of capitalism, as an important structural element of the following period. By ‘riots’ we mean struggles for demands or struggles without demands that will take violent forms and will transform the urban environments into areas of unrest; the riots are not revolution.”
While I won’t attempt to put a year on when such a social upheaval might actually come to the United States3, it is clear to me that what happened in the spring and fall of 2013 was not some wave of American political revolt, but more close to a nihilistic rebellion precisely in its absence. As Bethy Squires notes in her think piece on the popularity of Icona Pop’s smash hit I Love It:
“The millennials who are getting incendiary think pieces in The New York Times are mad about this, the systemic screwing over of the world via staggering debt on a personal and national level, environmental devastation, culture wars, real wars, and Monsanto. But among a growing population a different take on this shitty situation is being espoused. We don’t care. Nihilism is making a comeback, folks. Not necessarily taken into our hearts but at least shouted back at the world in the face of its indifference. Sing it with me now. I don’t care. I love it.
Nihilism gets a bum rap as an immobilizing force, but I find it very freeing. It’s less of a ‘why bother’ and more of a ‘why not?’ Your failures have as little impact on society as your successes, so why not go apeshit?”
While each had their own particular nuances, none of these student rebellions were directly the result of some catalyzing political decisions that mobilized our parents’ generation, like a tuition raise or imperialist invasion. If anything, the rebellions thrived precisely within this vacuum of political activism, which has reached an all time low on most college campuses. Within this post-Occupy vacuity, however, we are still being force-fed insurrectionary spectacles like The Hunger Games, Ellie Goulding’s Burn and 2013’s Ukraine. The real life and fictive images from the era of riots have taken on a whole new meaning in the new nihilist’s imagination, and it’s begun to spill over into the unlikeliest of arenas.
The Party Riot
“Every promoter who brings together a great crowd in order to sell them back their own togetherness runs the risk that some of his customers will take things too far and engage in some street sports of their own.”
— CrimethInc. Ex-Workers’ Collective, Expect Resistance
So, what exactly should we call these social phenomena? Some might point out that “sports riots” are commonplace in the States, but even so, I would argue that these events had a markedly different flavor to them; a sizable majority were not provoked by any sort of sports event at all, and those that were occurred regardless of whether the team won or not. Unlike the spectacular sports riots of the 1990’s, these students seemed more interested in just getting hella turnt up with a bunch of other friends than, say, flipping cars. Until cops intervened, that is. And once that cork was out of the bottle, there was no putting it back in. But why would police react in such heavy-handed ways to these crowds?
As history reminds us, public drinking laws only came into existence in 1953 after “bottle gangs,” groups of indigent men who gathered to share liquor on city sidewalks, began to cause trouble for Chicago Alderman Harry Sain. The city needed a justification to criminalize these dangerous crowds of drunken proletarians, and voilà, “Drinking in the Public Way” became a criminal offense.
But it wasn’t until seven years later that another type a crowd, the youth riot, gave politicians the needed justification to introduce these anti-crowd laws on a much larger scale.
As Joe Satrat explains in his article, The Secret History of the War on Public Drinking:
“If Chicago was the venue where public drinking laws made their debut, Newport, R.I., was where they hit the big time. Over the July 4th weekend of 1960, the traditional summer resort for the East Coast elite was the scene of a notorious drunken riot. The town was hosting one of the most important jazz festivals in the country for its sixth summer. But after a popular 1959 documentary about the festival raised the event’s profile, 12,000 teens showed up hoping to see Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie and Dinah Washington perform, only to find it sold out.
While loitering outside the concert, they started drinking. Then they got angry. About 2,000 of them charged the gates of the festival. Newport police tried to hold them back, but the crowd started throwing beer cans and wine bottles. The police called in the National Guard, which dispersed the crowd with tear gas. It was a disaster.”
Much like the youth of 1960 Newport, the 2013 student rioters’ anger escalated only after authorities denied them access to congregate, drink, and enjoy popular music; in a word, party. Although some contexts shared basic commonalities, the two most common threads that seemed to weave through all of these rebellions were an ordinary desire to congregate (and party) followed by an extraordinary refusal to disperse.
As Captain Jerry Schiager insightfully noted of the Colorado State riot:
“We were going through telling people ‘party’s over, time to go’, and we got a lot of cooperation until… we shut the music off. That completely turned the crowd. They started chanting ‘fuck the police’ and basically pushed [us] back down the street.”
This active refusal of police dispersal orders could be found in each instance of what I will call the “party riots” of 2013. The example that perhaps illustrates this best is the Western Washington University #BellinghamBlockParty4. On October 12th 2013, after the police dispersed a unsanctioned block party at a neighborhood apartment complex, a “parade of people” made its way to the corner of Indian and Laurel Street collecting students from other nearby parties on the way. Around 500 people congregated in the middle of the street and nearby Laurel Park and began to throw beer cans and bottles at approaching police cars.
While the police waited for assistance to arrive, the crowd began chanting “fuck the police,” stripping, and ripping out traffic signs that were dragged into the street to block vehicle access. As more police arrived, the crowd began to improvise by throwing lawn chairs, cinder blocks, and stockpiles of dishes (looted from a Goodwill donation truck) at police cruisers.
After about one hour of consistent projectile attacks by the student rioters, the police responded by driving a SWAT “bearcat” armored vehicle into the crowd and – according to witnesses – fired teargas, pepper balls, flashbang grenades, and beanbags at the remaining students. The crowd quickly dispersed into neighboring streets and yards and eventually was quelled around midnight but according to residents, the war-torn neighborhood was almost unrecognizable. “The entire street was just shimmering,” said a WWU “It was just a street of glass. It was crazy!”
Can’t, Won’t, Don’t Wanna
“If you’re not ready to go home,
can I get a ‘Hell, no!’?
‘Cause we’re gonna go all night,
‘til we see the sunlight, alright…
And we can’t stop.
And we won’t stop.
Can’t you see it’s we who own the night?”
— Miley Cyrus, We Can’t Stop
“We don’t wanna leave, no.
We just wanna be right now, r-r-right now…
Strike the match, play it loud, giving love to the world. We’ll be raising our hands, shining up to the sky.
‘Cause we got the fire, fire, fire. Yeah we got the fire, fire, fire. And we gonna let it burn, burn, burn, burn.”
— Ellie Goulding, Burn
Although these block-party-turned riots certainly are not a novel phenomenon5, it’s important to note that 2013 was the first time they became so generalized, even predictable to some degree. In a desperate attempt to explain something completely outside their frame of reference, several media outlets speculated that this or that party riot may have been inspired by the 2012 Hollywood film Project X. In the film, which grossed $100 million worldwide, a group of high school students accidentally throw a house party that becomes so uncontrollable that riot police are forced to retreat before the neighborhood eventually goes up in flames.
A few students have stated explicitly that their inspiration for “throwing epic parties” came from Project X6. But this film is but a single meme within a much larger media trend of romanticizing chaotic gatherings and the militant refusal to disperse, which defined the disturbances of 2013.
The same year that saw Burn, I Love It, We Can’t Stop, and Can’t Hold Us reach #13, #7, #2, and #1 respectively on US pop charts also saw the emergence of total chaos is the face of police intervention. Surely this is no coincidence. No longer were parties resigned to a $50 noise ordinance and submissive compliance. Instead, partygoers set new precedents – namely, a collective negation of direct police orders: We don’t wanna leave, we just wanna be right now, I don’t care, we can’t stop, we won’t stop, we’ll fight ‘til it’s over.
Language of the Inarticulate
“Of course there’s also a kind of aphasia though, an inability for these songs to say what they’re about. Instead we have evocations of desires, specifically the bringing about of chaos, the control necessary to destroy control, running through the street, etc...
You could say they’re dancing around the issue. And yeah, a lot of those fragments happen to be nominally about dancing, but it’s pretty startling how much they sound like they’re singing about smashing shit up and taking over the streets, as joyfully as if it were a night at the clubs.”
— Max Fox and Malcom Harris, Don’t Stop Beliebing
Much like pop music’s illegible desires, the 2013 party riots were almost completely incoherent to university administrators and student politicians alike, and offered no straightforward way to recuperate their energy into a “democratic process” or “healthy dialogue.” In a statement to the press following to epic unrest at Western Washington University, President Bruce Shepard and student government President Carly Roberts issued a joint statement of dismay, admitting that they were “all straining to understand why something like this happened.”
This, of course, is not to say that students did have strong, coherent political ideologies and refused to voice them out of contempt for the expectation to articulate demands, as was common during the 2008-2009 student occupations. It’s more likely these riots were the rupture of buried anxieties resulting from Capitalism’s unfulfilled promises of freedom and communion. This cognitive dissonance – which develops between the unmitigated joy in videos like Rihanna’s We Found Love on the one hand and the shitty reality of cops shutting down your party on the other – produced a collective urge that was not only uncontrollable, but also unnameable by its own participants.
If ghetto riots are indeed “the language of the unheard”, as Martin Luther King Jr. once famously insisted, then it is apparent that party riots are the language of the inarticulate. One only needs to look to actual quotes in the media from student rioters to understand exactly how vague, yet communistic, their desires really were:
“There should be riots here. There should be people in the streets. We’re not trying to flip cars, burn cars. Come on, let’s be real. Obviously, we’re going to be excited for everyone here.”
“A frustrated student didn’t want to pay $4 for a Big Bopper ice cream sandwich. The student said to me, ‘How about we get it all for free and we flip the truck?’”
“When we got back from the Blackstone, I saw this thing engulfed in flames, and hundreds and hundreds of people were acting like banshees around it. One of the best moments in my life.”
“I see it as a great thing. Things happen but we’ve gotta be optimistic that people are out here together, in spirit, enjoying themselves in celebration.”
It’s worth noting that this inarticulate communication is exactly what Italian insurrectionary anarchist Alfredo Bonanno theorized of the capitalist near-future in his 1988 pamphlet, From Riots to Insurrection. According to his analysis, the future of class relations would be defined by an imposed language gap between the excluded and the included strata of the proletariat. This gap, which would serve to further divide the two strata in order to prevent mutual collaboration against Capital, would eventually reach a point of perfection where communication between the two would become impossible.
“We are speaking here of a possible regressive development that would deprive the excluded of the very possibility of communicating with the included. By greatly reducing the utility of the written word, and gradually replacing books and newspapers with images, colors, and music, for example, the power structure of tomorrow could construct a language aimed at the excluded alone.
Reformism is therefore in its death throes. It will no longer be possible to make claims, because no one will know what to ask for from a world that has ceased to interest us or tell us anything comprehensible.”
It’s important to clarify that none of the 2013 party riots fit neatly into Bonanno’s binary of included or excluded; instead, they seemed to carry elements of both inside of them. While it is likely that these students occupied a somewhat elevated position in society in order to even have access to higher education – which one might expect from the included strata – it is also worth noting that none of these riots occurred at private universities or at a U.S. News’s Best Colleges. That is not to say that all of these students hail from some romanticized revolutionary working class of yesteryear. Rather, it seems as though there has been an unpredicted contamination of a new social strata that Capital has invested into and counted upon heavily – both for exploitation and social stability – and points to a future of uncharted territory, defined by what Claire Fontaine has termed the human strike:
“The human strike is a movement that could potentially contaminate anyone and that attacks the foundations of life in common; its subject isn’t the proletarian or the factory worker but the ‘whatever singularity’ that everyone is.”
This new “whatever singularity” falls somewhere outside the simplistic included/excluded binary; they are the occluded – those given promises of stability and inclusion only to find that are doomed to the same future of generalized anxiety, alienation, and precarity.
Occupying this middle ground affords this group some vocabulary and grooming of the included – notably, an understanding of social networking and new technologies – while barring them from the tools to analyze and articulate their own common afflictions. This void has been filled with the “images, colors, and music” of the excluded – The Hunger Games, Burn, et cetera – and the language of the unheard is quickly becoming adopted by the inarticulate.
This perfect storm of cognitive dissonance, apprehension of the future, “I Don’t Care”-esque nihilism, insurrectionary media spectacles, and a healthy amount of alcohol is all it took to push these occluded students to negate the social expectations associated with their social strata and take extraordinary criminal risks (Inciting a Riot, Arson, Assault of a Law Enforcement Officer, et cetera) towards self-sabotaging their own careerist futures.
Of course this unintelligibility and irrationality didn’t come without uneasiness on the part of the authorities. In almost every case of rioting, university officials and police issued face-saving press releases alluding to automatic expulsions and threats of felony convictions when describing their desperate efforts to identify rioters in online photographs. “In this day in [sic] age of the abundance of social media,” wrote Bellingham Police Chief Cliff “no one can partake in this type of violent behavior and remain anonymous.” Although several token arrests have been made based on social media postings, it seems the police are not as confident as they have postured themselves. “This is a big undertaking,” said Geoff Huff, a spokesperson for the Ames Police Department. “The mound of images and videos is enormous.”
In addition to their efforts of ex post facto repression, Bellingham police also promised to preemptively defuse future rebellious parties by using their mobile booking unit (or “party bus” as students refer to it) to conduct “emphasis patrols” and “make dozens of arrests … at noisy parties.” It’s worth noting this particular tactic is a play right out of the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing’s Guide 39: Student Party Riots. The guide, which was published in 2006 in response to a slowly escalating pattern of drunken campus unrest, gives a 27-point list of tactics for reducing the likeliness of drunken gatherings reaching riot-“flashpoints.”
Some of these admittedly brilliant schemes include: strategically placing media in different locations to attract and divide crowds, requiring students to get city permits for parties, pressuring landlords to evict problematic tenants, and “sanitizing the gathering location.”7 Although these suggestions have proven to work in specific, isolated circumstances, it’s worth noting that this guide is relatively obscure, slightly outdated, and probably has not been distributed to very many college-town police departments. In all likelihood, many of these departments have not yet even heard of “party riots”. Time will tell if these extinguishers will keep up with the contagion of couch fires yet to come.
Postscript: 2014, The Year of the Riot
“The year of the riot continues! It’s not just huge sports games. Not just Final Four victories and losses and National Championships. Riot culture has pervaded its way all the way down to normal house crawls. No campus is safe. No ice cream truck is safe. It’s total mayhem in our country’s colleges. I dare somebody to have a normal old fashioned party without it turning into a full scale riot with rubber bullets and pepper spray balls flying. You can’t.”
“We give it to the people, spread it across the country.
Can we go back, this is the moment
Tonight is the night, we’ll fight ‘til it’s over.”
— Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Can’t Hold Us
At the time of finishing this text, all hell has broken loose. The “year of the riot” officially kicked off on March 8th, when the annual University of Amherst “Blarney Blowout” celebration oh-so-predictably devolved into what police captain Jennifer Gunderson described as “one of the worst scenes we have ever had with drunkenness and unruliness.” According to an Associated Press article (College Towns Struggle To Deal With ‘Extremely Disturbing’ Behavior At Parties) published the following day:
“Police from the city and university and state troopers in riot gear converged on a crowd of about 4,000 people at an apartment complex shortly after noon. Authorities said people were destroying things, and as officers began to disperse the crowd, they were pelted with glass bottles, beer cans and snowballs. After quieting the disturbance, several thousand people assembled near a frat house. That gathering became dangerous and out of control, officials said, and when officers tried to clear the crowd, they again were attacked with bottles, rocks, cans and snowballs. Pepper spray was used to disperse the crowd because of the size and ‘assaultive behavior,’ police said. Three officers were hurt when they were hit by bottles, and one was injured while attempting to make an arrest, Gundersen said.”
Since the official start of spring, there have been at least 11 major party riots on 10 different campuses8 and the media spectacle is finally being forced to acknowledge a pattern arising from once seemingly isolated occurrences. Huffington Post blogger Tyler Kingkade posted a piece hilariously entitled Why is Every College Party Turning Into A Riot?, that tried and failed to answer his own question with weak theories about small rioting schools having “little brother syndrome,” eventually concluding with “So is the college riot really the new normal? There doesn’t appear to be a clear answer.”
Then, in April, The Wall Street Journal published a piece entitled Students Deploy Riot-Ready Social Media with far more interesting sociological observations of this latest wave of rebellion:
“‘This is new as far as I can tell,’ [Ohio Northern University sociologist Robert] Carrothers said. ‘It used to be the winners go out and celebrate and the losers go home and sulk, but that’s not true anymore. Now the losers are out there celebrating. We don't even have a name for this yet.’”
"‘It used to take a lot more work to generate a gathering,’ said Gary Margolis, who manages the National Center for Campus Public Safety. ‘Now one tweet and you’ve just reached 40 people. Everyone has their own mass communications device in their pocket.’”
“Mr. Carrothers chalks some of the new behavior up to expectations generated by media. Crowds emulate each other. The behavior reinforces itself. Expectations to act a certain way amplify. ‘People have a pretty good idea of what they’re supposed to do,’ he said. ‘You go out in the street, you turn things over, you take selfies.’”
These new developments and observations beg new questions about what might be next for “the year of the riot.” Will these rebellions continue to spread to universities without celebrated sports programs or strong party cultures? Will social media companies and State collude to generate blackouts in order to dissuade large crowds from even gathering? Will future participants begin to take more active roles in rioting or continue to produce incriminating selfies that reproduce the notion that rebellion is a spectacle to be passively consumed?
Perhaps the question most pertinent to those interested in intervening in party riots, is: What the hell should we expect this fall? It’s worth noting that only thirteen party riots occurred in 2013, and 2014 has already seen eleven come to pass in the first half of the year alone. That being said, it’s safe to assume that the summer break will give the police a much-needed head start on implementing new repressive “soft-policing” strategies that will be experimented on the usual suspects this fall, but it’s also possible to imagine a scenario where extreme repression against future party riots could act as a catalyst for more generalized unrest. In March, one day after the heavy-handed police brutality against UMass Amherst student at the “Blarney Blowout,” a spontaneous protest of over a hundred people marched through campus, with one student explaining: “…the police have militarized to some extent around the UMass Amherst area, and all the videos show that there was a rash use of police force against unarmed students.”
If, hypothetically, a student was to suffer serious head-trauma from a “less-than-lethal” weapon (as Scott Olsen did during an Occupy Oakland police raid), or even worse, to be “accidentally” shot by an active duty officer (as Oscar Grant was in an Oakland subway tunnel), it’s easy to imagine a scenario where the notion of rioting could be re-re-appropriated by party rioters to direct outrage not just the immediate police presence, but at our repressive, alienating society at large.
A Digital Timeline of Events
March 17, 2013 – University of Dayton
- “University Of Dayton’s St. Patrick's Day Party Ends Early As Police Arrive In Riot Gear” Huffington Post
April 6, 2013 – Penn State Altoona
April 19, 2013 – Kent State University
“Several Police Departments Respond to Riots at Annual Kent State College Fest” News Net5
“College Fest 2012 from a photojournalists view” Youtube
April 20, 2013 – Bloomsburg University
- “Bloomsburg Block Party 2013 - Riot Vehicle, Tear Gas” Live Leak
April 27, 2013 – Colorado State University
- “15 Charged in Fort Collins Block Party Riot” CBS Local Denver
May 4, 2013 – West Chester University
“Students Arrested After West Chester House Party, Riot” Fox Philadelphia
“Caught on Cam: Police Bust Party, Partygoers Flip Over Car” NBC Philadelphia
May 4, 2013 – University of Southern California
- “Over 70 LAPD Officers Show Up In Riot Gear To USC Party, Leading To Charges Of Racial Profiling” LAist
September 1, 2013 – University of Albany
- “Riot Leads to Six Arrests During College Party” Hudson Valley TWC News
September 9, 2013 – University of Delaware
- “3 People Were Arrested After Thousands Of University Of Delaware Students Rioted In The Streets” Business Insider
October 12, 2013 – Western Washington University
- “WWU President 'Stunned' Students Threw Bottles And Twerked On Police Cars In Riot” Huffington Post
October 30, 2013 – University of Amherst
- “15 Arrested at UMass Amherst Following Red Sox World Series Win” BostInno
November 16, 2013 – SUNY Cortland
- “College Students from SUNY Cortland Partied So Hard This Weekend They Destroyed A Neighborhood” BuzzFeed
December 7 – Michigan State University
- “At least 12 students arrested in riots at Michigan State after school football team's first EVER Big Ten Championship win” Daily Mail
March 8, 2014 – University of Amherst
“UMass Amherst students, police in riot gear scuffle in Blarney Blowout melee” Mass Live
“College Towns Struggle To Deal With ‘Extremely Disturbing’ Behavior At Parties” [Huffington Post]http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/09/college-towns-parties-st-patricks-day_n_4931991.html)
March 22, 2014 – University of Dayton
“The University Of Dayton Goes Nuts After Syracuse Win, School President Crowd Surfs” Huffington Post
“UD students’ celebration prompt police presence” Dayton Daily News
March 29, 2014 – University of Arizona
- “Photographer catches students posing for selfies during University of Arizona riots” NY Daily News
April 5, 2014 – University of Cincinnati
“Riot police called in to end University of Cincinnati off campus party” WCPO Cincinnati
“Police report reveals how riotous ‘Staffordpalooza’ crowd got out of control” WCPO Cincinnati
April 6, 2014 – UC Santa Barbara
- “‘Deltopia’ Spring Break Party Morphs Into Riot In Santa Barbara” NPR
April 7, 2014 – University of Connecticut
“‘The riot has begun’: UConn students celebrate in defiance ‘Derek the RA’” Twitchy
“UConn Had a Very Turnt Riot After Making It to the Final Four” Brobible
“UConn Riot: Light Pole Goes Through Window” Youtube
April 8, 2014 – Iowa State University
- “Ames police handle more manageable crowds Wednesday after Tuesday VEISHEA riots” The Gazette
April 8, 2014 – University of Kentucky
- “Kentucky Fans Set Couch Fires And Face Tear Gas In Lexington After NCAA Tournament Loss” Huffington Post
April 8, 2014 – University of Louisville
- “Louisville Fans Riot In Streets After NCAA Championship Win” IB Times
April 10, 2014 – University of Minnesota
- “Dinkytown riot leads to arrests” Twin Cities Pioneer Press
April 12, 2014 – Western Michigan University
“Western Michigan University working with police after Saturday riot on Lafayette” MLive
“Kalamazoo Police Chief Support” MLive
“Western Michigan House Crawl Ends up in a Riot...Obviously” Barstool Sports
April 12, 2014 – Colorado State University
- “CSU students and neighbors react to Saturday riot near campus” Collegian
April 12, 2014 – University of Minnesota
- “Crowds Fill Dinkytown Streets after Gopher Loss” MN Daily
April 28, 2014 – Central Michigan University
- “Hundreds of CMU students watch, chant as couch burns in Mount Pleasant street early Sunday” CM Life
“Don’t Stop Beliebing”, The New Inquiry, November 21, 2011. http://thenewinquiry.com/features/dont-stop-beliebing/ ↩
Okay, fuck it, I will anyway. I’ll put my money on P.M.’s prediction of 2018: http://interactivist.autonomedia.org/node/46951 ↩
In a YouTube video taken from the upstairs roof of a nearby apartment, one can clearly see the antagonism that developed between the partygoers and the police. As an added bonus, two of the people nearby the cameraperson briefly sing the chorus the Miley Cyrus’ We Can’t Stop, which is really just too perfect. ↩
In fact, several schools, such as Michigan State, Colorado State, Ohio State, and University of Cincinnati, have in recent years developed a somewhat predictable tradition of rioting after certain bowl games or all-day block parties. According to the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing’s Guide No. 39, Student Party Riots: “These and similar events tend to attract more and more students and other revelers each year, which in turn can lead to larger gatherings that end in more violence and destruction. Thus it is imperative that police not let a single riotous event become a student tradition.” ↩
“Any liftable object can become a weapon. Anything that is flammable may be set on fire. Therefore, police may want to coordinate their efforts with the city sanitation department to ‘sanitize’ a gathering location shortly before the event. A general street cleanup should be conducted both before and after the event, removing bottles and other debris that might be used as weapons. Sanitation should include the removal of dumpsters and trash cans that can be set on fire and thrown, tipped over, smashed into patrol cars, or used to block roads. Wooden park benches that can be stacked and burned should also be secured. Police can also step up code enforcement on private properties to help remove debris. Life-safety code inspections by fire department personnel can help in identifying and reducing hazardous conditions. While working with the Redlands, California police, Madensen observed several neighborhood cleanups to remove trash and discarded furniture, thus preventing conditions that could lead to fires, injuries, or death. While a freshman at the University of Michigan in the early 1970s, Eck was told that the university had replaced loose bricks used around sidewalk tree plantings with materials that students could not hurl at police. Students in Plattsburgh, N.Y., participate in a dorm-room game called ‘furniture out the window.’ As the name suggests, drunken students compete by throwing unsecured furniture out of dorm windows. This results in costly property damage and can cause serious injury.” ↩
The University of Minnesota: so nice they had to riot twice. ↩
I chose to reference these two events in particular because it’s important to note that intervention by Bay Area anarchists helped to push the subsequent outrage into more into more conflictive directions than the typical please to “End Police Brutality.” It’s hard to say what anarchist intervention into party riot culture might look like, but I must admit that a large motivation for writing this piece was to open the space for such a conversation. Remember that these weirdo social ruptures don’t come very often, and we will only get out of them what we put in. Here are some good places to start: Keep your eyes peeled for big bowl games or house crawls being planned in your town, and think creatively about what skills and experience you and your crew have to offer fellow antagonistic youth. Could you distribute flyers about how to tie a t-shirt into a mask to both set the tone of a gathering and defend against surveillance? Could you start more interesting chants than the go-to ironic, yet problematic “USA!”? Graffiti and paper propaganda could also become indispensable tools for counteracting the shame that administrators and careerist students will try to project at party rioters. Perhaps it would make sense to follow the lead of Vancouver anarchists and create posters about why “Real Fans Riot Harder” or why looting is a legitimate thing for precarious sports fans to do? Clearly different contexts will call for different interventions, but I can’t imagine a circumstance where standing on the sidelines would be better than not. Imagine the terrible monster that Occupy could’ve become without anarchist intervention. Let’s take this summer break as an opportunity to prepare theoretically and materially for future campus conflicts and we can compare notes in the fall.↩