Fans riot on University Boulevard after Elite Eight loss
Crowds on University Boulevard have disbanded after Tucson Police Department officers used force on rioting fans.
Riot police formed a line across University Boulevard following the conclusion of the basketball game. Officers on motorcycles circled fans lined up along University Boulevard. Fans then began throwing smoke bombs, beer and other objects at the line of police.
Riot police responded by hurling pepper canisters and shooting pepper balls at fans. Dozens of students and fans, including a Daily Wildcat editor, were shot with pepper balls by riot police.
At least 15 crowd members were taken into custody, according to Sgt. Pete Dugan, a TPD spokesperson.
TPD had officers stationed on Fourth Avenue and University Boulevard during the game, with a heavier presence on University Boulevard. Dugan said before the game ended that there were about 60 to 70 officers on University Boulevard.
After the loss, fans on both Fourth Avenue and University Boulevard began to disperse. Some fans began throwing smoke bombs as officers on motorcycles sounded sirens and circled fans on University Boulevard. Riot police also formed along University Boulevard.
The crowd then began to throw beer cans at the line of police officers. TPD declared an unlawful assembly and ordered the crowd, both in English and in Spanish, to disperse.
Fans in the street refused to leave and began chanting “U of A.” At this point the line of police started to throw pepper canisters, which dispense pepper spray into the air, at the front of the crowd. Officers also began shooting pepper balls, small balls filled with pepper oil, into the crowd.
Crowd members hit by the pepper spray were visibly affected, coughing and tearing up, with some even vomiting on the sidewalk, but the crowd did not diminish.
Students threw sparklers and firecrackers at the wall of police. One fan walked toward the police line with his arms spread out. This fan was shot by police multiple times with pepper balls, then forcibly pulled behind the police line. Officers proceeded to hold him in place while one officer kneed the man once in the stomach, then punched him three to four times in the stomach and torso before the man fell to the ground.
As helicopters flew over the street, the line of police advanced on the crowd of fans, pushing some back with their batons.
Students then took up a chant of, “Fuck Wisconsin,” and one voice in the crowd yelled out, “Don’t fall back” as the police approached. Other crowd members chimed in, shouting, “They can’t catch us all!”
Police continued advancing on the crowd and eventually fans began to disperse, with University Boulevard being mostly cleared out by 9:30 p.m., over an hour after the riot began. The number of injuries is unclear at this point.
The Dean of Students office issued a statement late Saturday night expressing its disappointment with the students who participated in the riot.
“It is disappointing that a minority of Wildcat fans chose to engage in behavior that does not reflect the culture of the University of Arizona and Tucson communities,” said Kendal Washington White, assistant vice president of Student Affairs and dean of students.
“Our basketball team had a great season and they exhibited exceptional class at every turn. They do not deserve the bad actions of these others. As with all incidents, University students engaged in behavior that violates our Student Code of Conduct will be held accountable.”
– Ethan McSweeney and Savannah Douglas contributed reporting to this article