Rowdy crowd relatively restrained
On Super Bowl Sunday, one for the thumb was only the beginning. In honor of the Steelers’ victory, students celebrated by using all 10 of their fingers to overturn cars, uproot street signs, smash windows, set things on fire, and knock over trash cans, parking meters, and each other. “The crowd was like Bourbon Street,” said Tim Delaney, the chief of the University of Pittsburgh Police.
“This was the first time [the crowd] has come up this far to this end of Forbes Avenue,” said Carnegie Mellon campus police lieutenant John Race. Race reported that this year’s crowd was bigger than that of a decade ago, when the Steelers lost to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX.
“We were prepared this time: We had extra people and extra cars out,” Race said. “We didn’t want [the crowd] getting into the UC.”
Race estimated that the crowd in central Oakland numbered around 10,000 people.
“[The crowd was] probably the biggest I’ve ever seen in Pittsburgh for any event,” Delaney said. The Pitt police prepared for the crowd by holding meetings with the city police to decide what roads to close and where to direct traffic, telling shopkeepers to close early, urging residents to take their furniture off their porches, and by having UPMC and South Side hospital security standing by in case of major incidents. Nearly 40 University of Pittsburgh officers were on duty — half of the total department.
A press release from the City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Police stated that 300 members of the city police force were among the 450 total law enforcement personnel on duty that night.
According to Race, other than a few minor incidents, the crowd was restrained given the number of people on the street. In one such incident, students set a couch on fire at Forbes and Morewood, which police extinguished and moved off the street. Besides a few dug-up bus stop signs and a damaged light fixture, there were no fights or vandalism.
No Carnegie Mellon students were arrested, though three juveniles were arrested in the city.
Elsewhere in Oakland, however, police officers were singing a different tune. According to Delaney, Bigelow Boulevard and parts of Forbes Avenue were designated as celebration areas and closed to cars to eliminate the danger of mixing pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
But that didn’t stop students on Bigelow from getting rowdy. Around 10:30 pm, students tipped over a Dodge Neon between the Cathedral of Learning and the William Pitt Union. They proceded to bash out its windows, climb on top of it, and dance for 20 minutes until police came, according to an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
In total, students overturned four vehicles in Oakland. Of the three arrests police made in Oakland, two were related to these incidents. One student was arrested for flipping over a car, and another was arrested for trying to put his Terrible Towel into the overturned Dodge Neon’s exhaust pipe and light it.
That’s when police brought out the horses and riot gear. “[Police] couldn’t do anything about the cars because of the density of the crowd,” Delaney said. “[But] no vehicles were successfully torched.”
The third arrest was for a fire on Atwood Street.
In another fire-related incident, someone took the sign off the storefront of the Subway at Forbes and South Craig Street and lit it on fire. “We let it burn,” Delaney said. “If we could have seen who did it, we would have arrested them.”
Students also started several small fires, but police were able to extinguish them. “If you close off Forbes Avenue, people take alternate routes, someone lights a fire, and now we have gridlock,” Delaney said.
He added that the Bigelow area alone held 5000 people, with more spilling out onto Forbes. In spite of
this, Delaney reported no deaths or severe injuries. The most serious injury he saw was a girl with a twisted or broken ankle.
A student also took a walk on the windowsills of the pedestrian walkway above Forbes between the David Lawrence and Powers buildings on the Pitt campus. “[Had he fallen,] he probably would have landed on someone,” Delaney said.
According to an article released by KDKA, there were 34 overall arrests in the city: 21 for failure to disperse, and 13 on narcotics charges.
Despite these violations, Delaney stressed that the celebration was not a riot. “I had more people take photographs with me than I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said. “Everyone was happy.”
Race considered the crowd restrained. “We ended up working until 1:30 am,” he said, “and we thought we would be there until three or four.”
Both campus police departments were proud of the way Pittsburgh handled itself during the celebration. “Other towns are torn apart, but it didn’t happen that way,” Delaney said.
Pittsburgh Police spokeswoman Tammy Ewin agreed. “Overall, we think people handled themselves very well.”