Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, facing questions over inadequate police response to crowd eruptions after the Super Bowl, yesterday blamed the chaos on local colleges and a new law allowing the sale of liquor on Sundays.
"I am angry because once again a few knuckleheads were ruining it for the majority of the kids," Menino said. "I'm calling all the universities in to talk to them about their safety plans, how we deal with this in the future. They have to be responsible for their students."
Students found it easier to buy more alcohol under the new law, Menino said: "They were able to run to the store when they ran out of beverage and stock up. It's wrong."
Thousands of people swarmed city streets after watching Sunday night's game, with some setting bonfires, overturning cars, and clogging major streets. One man was killed and three others were injured when an SUV driver, allegedly intoxicated, drove into a crowd near Northeastern University. Despite assurances by Boston police late last week that they would move in quickly at the first sign of trouble, witnesses said that in some cases police stood by, observing out-of-control fans or asking them to go home. Instead of dispersing, the crowds grew larger and more rowdy. According to one spectator, officers at Faneuil Hall did nothing as celebrants set off illegal fireworks and women bared their breasts.
At the intersection of Brighton and Harvard avenues in Allston, officers stood back for more than an hour after the game, allowing a crowd of fans to grow and eventually take over the intersection, setting off fireworks, throwing beer cans, and lighting fires.
As many as 5,000 people poured into the Kenmore Square area, overwhelming police there, who eventually used pepper spray on the crowd. Police said six cars were overturned in the Symphony Road area, and many more were vandalized in other neighborhoods.
City Councilor Michael P. Ross, whose district includes Kenmore Square and the Fenway, called the police response inadequate. "When you have tens of thousands of students terrorizing the neighborhoods, you need to have the resources in place. We didn't have enough personnel out there," said Ross, who along with Jerry McDermott, the councilor from Allston-Brighton, has called for a City Council hearing on the Police Department's handling of the game aftermath.
Ross said that he is not criticizing the officers who were on patrol, but added that there should have been more on duty.
"When cars and vans are being tipped over and there are serious injuries and death, we really have what I believe is a problem," Ross said. "There were riotous conditions and they were not handled appropriately."
Thomas J. Nee, president of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, said that the department was caught off guard and that the streets were greatly understaffed. Police would not disclose deployment details. A police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said an estimated 12 police officers initially faced off with 3,000 people in the Kenmore Square area.
"They were overwhelmed by the numbers," Nee said. "They felt frustrated. They held the crowds back where they could, but in other areas they were overwhelmed."
Menino and acting Police Commissioner James M. Hussey defended the response. Menino, who attended the Super Bowl in Houston, said he was in touch with Hussey "four or five times" Sunday night and was "comfortable" that police did everything possible to contain the crowds. "You can always second-guess," Menino said. "I think the police did the best job they could do at the time. "
Hussey said that there were enough officers on patrol, but that the revelers were difficult to control.
"We had many more people out there last night who had destruction on their mind and weren't conforming to the police direction and obviously showed violence toward the police," he said.
When a phalanx of motorcycle police approached Kenmore Square from Brookline Avenue, he said, 300 to 500 fans stormed the police. When they wouldn't disperse, Hussey said, police used pepper spray to send them home.
Police arrested four people and issued summonses for two others. Police could have arrested more, but made the tactical decision not to, Hussey said.
"Once you start arresting people, you tie up your resources," he said. "When you have 5,000 people out there and you don't have 5,000 police officers out there . . . sometimes tactical decisions are made. You don't want things to spread. You want to contain it to what you have and work with what you have."
Hussey said he wants colleges to bar guests from student parties. Many of the rioters, he said, were visitors, not Northeastern students.
The post-Super Bowl police response was a major test for Hussey, who is among the finalists to fill the vacant post of police commissioner.
Northeastern officials, prior to the game, had appealed to students for calm and had set up large television screens and offered free pizza to encourage students to gather at small parties in dormitories.
Northeastern's president, Richard Freeland, yesterday called the fans' actions "shocking in their senselessness."
They will have "lasting consequences, not only for the individuals involved but for the university community and neighborhood as well," he said. "While the vast majority of students celebrated appropriately, the irresponsible behavior of too many led to a tragic loss of life, serious personal injury, significant property damage, and a disturbing violation of the sense of security felt by community residents."
Ross said the colleges, not the city, should pay for extra police coverage during events like Sunday night's. And Menino said he wants to make sure the colleges are not allowing students to drink in their dorm rooms and apartments and then stream out into the streets to cause trouble.
Menino said that he was opposed to the Legislature's move to allow Sunday liquor sales and that the ready availability of alcohol worsened the situation Sunday night.
Mac Danie and David Abel of the Globe staff, and Globe correspondents Emma Stickgold, and Heather Allen contributed to this report.