Police response should be the same


By Editorial Board

There is no excuse for the way Philadelphia Eagles fans acted after the Feb. 4 Super Bowl, and the police force there absolutely should have handled it the same as any other violent public disturbance.

Philadelphia Eagles fans are not the only sports fans on the list that have broken out in a riot after winning some sort of championship. Chicago Cubs fans also acted belligerent after the team won the 2016 World Series; Cubs fans here in DeKalb lit a couch on fire in the middle of Greenbrier Road.

“Often times when it’s around sports, excuses will be made around people drinking alcohol, they were overly excited or it’s been this long since a win took place, if ever,” said Gena Flynn, director of the Center for Black Studies. “The behavior is excused as heat of the moment behavior and celebratory behavior as opposed to angry behavior. It’s more excused.”

This country cannot continue to justify fans flipping cars, climbing stop lights, looting stores and punching horses all because they were ‘way too excited to handle themselves.’

The Eagles fans are so notorious for their rowdiness that the team had a court and jail installed under the old Veterans Stadium in 1998, according to a March 2012 Bleacher Report. During the Super Bowl celebration, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross was hit in the head with a bottle, according to a Friday Washington Post article.

Philadelphia police officers cheered along with the crowd from their bikes, according to a Feb. 5 New York Daily photo.

Considering Eagles fans have such a history with being unruly, it is hard to determine why law enforcement did not have a better plan to clear the streets of unnecessary public disturbances. Had this been a crowd of people bonding over social issues, chances are they would have been met with military-grade forces – like in many of the Black Lives Matter marches. The question here is if this harsh enforcement response is a pattern in only certain situations, to which many people would say yes, said Flynn.

It is unacceptable that some are able to destroy property in the name of celebration without being tear gassed, yet others are not even able to passionately raise their voice in unison without being silenced or fought against.

Norm Stamper, Seattle’s former police chief, who ordered a brutal crackdown on the World Trade Organization protests in 1999, spoke out against the same type of tactics he once used in an Aug. 2014 Time article.

“The problem comes when local law enforcement embraces militaristic tactics as its default position,” said Stamper in the Aug. 2014 Time article.

He said what could have been peaceful vigils and protests in Ferguson, Missouri, turned violent when met with a militarized response. When there is already a distrust in the relationship between police and community, de-escalation efforts need to be made before coming in.

Throughout the last few years, multiple incidents of civil unrest have occurred: the Dakota Access Pipeline protest in 2016, anti-Trump protests in 2017 and the Alton Sterling protest in 2017.

“There should be a standard set, in terms of at what point behavior turns criminal,” said Flynn. “And that standard should be applied evenly across all situations.”

Prominent BLM activist Deray McKesson was arrested in July 2016 after peacefully assembling along the side of a highway, not blocking the traffic.

No matter the circumstances, law enforcement needs to have the same response to any event classified as a riot or civil unrest. ‘Loveable, meathead’ sports fans should not be cheered on by police when others aren’t allowed to stand without fearing arrest.