Saturday night at eight my friend Anna and I went to the Kitty Cat Klub (horrible name—gorgeous-awesome atmosphere) in Dinkytown for some chai and life/thought catch-up. After about an hour we noticed a horde of people flooding the streets. The University of Minnesota Gophers had just won the NCAA National Hockey Championship in Buffalo, NY.
We decided to go out and watch the social-cultural phenomenon of several hundred of our classmates blocking an intersection and chanting fight songs… then lighting a bonfire built of stolen chairs and A-frame signs from local businesses as kids climbed traffic poles and tore off the lights, smashing them against the ground.
We wove in and out of the crowd with curiosity and horror, Anna taking pictures with her digital camera she happened to have along. We eventually headed down the street to the Bookhouse where Kevin works. Wandering around the corner, we saw dozens of cops and state troopers strapping on riot gear and face masks. For students protesting the war? the violation of human rights? hell, the extraorbitant tuition hikes? no, because we won an athletic game nearly a thousand miles away.
People were not drunk. They just wanted to break things and set them on fire. I overheard several times, “I’ve been waiting for this since last year!”—when we won the national title and the street celebration escalated to a few broken windows and one dumpster fire. People primed and prayed for this, and even if we didn’t win, I have no doubt, there would’ve been destruction.
Do I feel stupid for by-standing? Maybe. Yes. I didn’t help. But I couldn’t not watch, I couldn’t leave so soon, and soon enough, a phalanx of cops stalked up the street and sidewalks, pushing the crowd past the bonfire in the intersection—I managed to dive in the doorway of a storefront and slip behind the line as glass bottles sailed and riot sticks whacked the shins of the idiots who streamed across the street to leap over the fire. At one point I also got caught in a mob running from tear gas.
Okay. Interesting—even riveting—but enough. My crew and I took shelter in the Bookhouse then sneaked out the back. Anna and I tried to get to my car, but there were bonfires at both intersections; instead of dispersing, the crowd just moved, dragging dumpsters and mattresses into the middle of the street and setting them ablaze in at least four other locations.
Since we couldn’t move my car with burning debris in the street, not to mention patrol cars blocking intersections and officers smacking sticks against their palms, Anna and I walked to the student union where we ate deep-fried macaroni-and-cheese and had our tarots read—I was advised to “go where there’s truth.”
We went to Anna’s place, ate grapefruit, and watched Tron. At about 2:30am we returned to Dinkytown where dumpsters still billowed black smoke. Shops had been broken into and a few vehicles overturned and torched. When I finally got back to my car, a thick film covered the windows—I smudged it with my fingers, thinking it was smoke. I started to drive and thoughtlessly wiped at my face… but the residue wasn’t smoke, it was tear gas.
I screamed all the way home, and when I tried to wash it off, it spread to my eyes—apparently moisture reactivates and intensifies it. What’s worse, I parked right by an elementary school and day-care center, both of which have playground… now undoubtedly coated with the poison.
So. Have fun at recess, kids.
I used to play Boomerang, a neighborhood game, with the son of Mr. Weled.