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UMass checks data to identify rioters

Police are using photos, websites

Police at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst are using photographs, websites, videos, and the student body to identify students who set objects afire and threw bicycle tires, beer bottles, and other projectiles at police after the football team's defeat in the Division 1-AA championship game on Friday.

Campus police officials notified students on Monday they will post photos of rioters on the school's website every day. Last week, 11 people were arrested, 10 of them students. The students have pleaded not guilty at their arraignments Monday and yesterday.

But yesterday, Michael Gargano , the university's vice chancellor for student affairs and campus life, e-mailed a letter to students' parents, saying that roughly 200 students "actively engaged in the violence and destruction on December 15."

"These students," Gargano wrote, "do not have a place on this campus."

The students could face expulsion, criminal charges, and the loss of academic credit for the fall semester, he added.

About 1,800 students rushed a residential area of the campus just after 11 p.m. Friday, after the football team lost to Appalachian State in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The riot came on the heels of expanded police presence on campus. The university has been trying to take better control of student activities, with more dormitory patrols, surveillance cameras, and K9 teams trolling for drugs. Police said the outbreaks on Friday were particularly disturbing because violence was directed at officers.

There has been tension between police and students over regular dorm patrols; 2,000 students recently signed a petition in protest, some saying the campus had become a police state.

"We have had riots of this size before, and larger," said a UMass deputy chief, Patrick Archbald . "For the crowd to do as much damage as they did and be aggressive against the police is a new twist to the rioting, and it's concerning."

Mishy Leiblum , a student trustee, said the more the university has clamped down on students, the worse students' behavior has become. "Who cares if you bash your windows if you feel like you live in barracks?" asked Leiblum, who noted that she does not condone the rioting. "Why would you have a vested interest in your building?"

Two police officers were injured by thrown rocks, and a number have reported bruises.

Police said they are looking for the worst offenders, particularly those who threw items at police. A team of officers will work with students and the public to identify rioters. As the semester ends and students leave campus, UMass police said they may conduct interviews at students' homes.

Police also will review one video camera seized during the arrests, tapes from security cameras, and online networking sites, where students may have posted photos and videos of the riot. Police have found at least a dozen videos on YouTube, a popular website where people share videos.

About 100 windows were broken, and the school will know the extent of damages by Friday, university officials said.

The UMass police chief, Barbara O'Connor, said she was almost hit by a gallon of water dropped from a residential tower just as the riot wound down.

"Our uniforms are completely dirty and soaked," O'Connor said.

A sophomore, Tim Sullivan of Marlborough, said he was concerned that those who watched the riots and didn't participate would be unduly punished.

April Simpson can be reached at

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