Students celebrate peacefully in Southwest after Patriots’ Super Bowl XLIX win

By Aviva Luttrell

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)
(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

Freezing temperatures did not deter at least 1,000 students from gathering in the Southwest Residential Area at the University of Massachusetts Sunday night to celebrate the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl win over the Seattle Seahawks, despite efforts by the administration to provide alternative activities and keep students out of the area.

At the end of the game, students in residence halls began yelling and pounding on windows, streaming out of the buildings and congregating in the Southwest concourse shortly afterward. Although police maintained heavy presence in the area, including state police and officers from the UMass and Amherst Police Departments, this year’s response differed greatly from responses to past celebrations.

In October 2013, police clad in riot gear used smoke and pepper balls to disperse students celebrating the Red Sox World Series win, making 15 arrests. In 2012, police made 14 arrests during a Super Bowl-related disturbance in Southwest.

This year, police were non-confrontational all night, talking and joking with students and observing the gathering from the edges of the Southwest concourse. However, police kept video cameras pointed at the crowd throughout the evening. University officials could not be reached Sunday night about how many arrests, if any, were made.

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)
(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

“It was literally insane, it was really crazy. I didn’t think they were (going to) win, I just started freaking out,” said Ivy Jones, a freshman who lives in Cance Hall. “Everyone ran outside immediately.”

Tyler O’Day, a sophomore who lives in McKimmie Hall, said that the gathering was a respectful, celebratory affair and a showing of solidarity. “What you see in front of us is kids celebrating peacefully. No one is destroying property,” he said.

“Yeah, there might be a couple of kids drinking beers, but if that is an arrestable offense at UMass Amherst, then we have a bigger problem. This is the chanting of a community, of a country. If we could get this reaction for real social and political issues we could bring about real change.”

At least one group of students tried to redirect the crowd’s energy in this direction. Three students were seen hanging a banner on the Southwest tunnel that read “Why Don’t We Riot About Our Debt.”

Students spent most of the night throwing snow, toilet paper, shirts, bottles and shoes into the air. Several students climbed onto the trees located outside of Berkshire Dining Commons.

Chants of “F*** the Seahawks”, “USA,” “Let’s Go Pats” and “Brady” could be heard occasionally.

Esther Odame, a sophomore who lives in Washington Hall, said she loved the atmosphere.

“It was a peaceful riot,” she said.

Super Bowl XLIX at UMass from Daily Collegian on Vimeo.

Members of Team Positive Presence, a community policing initiative at UMass, stood in the Southwest tunnel and tried to deter students from entering the concourse throughout the night. Most students, however, came from inside residence halls in the area.

The crowd’s energy could not last forever, and by 11 p.m. it had whittled considerably. Some students were heard saying that they were headed back to their dorms because of the cold.

At 11:20 p.m., police officers began telling people to leave the area over a loudspeaker. One injury was also reported. Students did not put up much resistance and began leaving shortly after the dispersal order was issued. Several students were even heard thanking police officers while leaving the concourse.

The night also featured more than 40 viewing parties across campus, including in Recreational Center and the Student Union, where about 100 people were in attendance.

Student Government Association President Vinayak Rao said he was pleased with the turnout at halftime.

“Overall, I think this has been a really good event so far,” he said. “We’ve got great food and it gives people a nice safe and controlled, really good venue to come together and watch the game.”

Calls to tear down the new fence located between Hasbrouck Laboratory and the Campus Center, considered inconvenient by many students, were posted on anonymous social media apps Yik Yak and Fade. After the game, serious damage to the fence was observed.

Aviva Luttrell can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @AvivaLuttrell. Anthony Rentsch can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Anthony_Rentsch. Stuart Foster, Marie MacCune, Patrick Hoff and Catherine Ferris contributed to this report. Check out more Daily Collegian photos from Sunday’s celebration here.