Nov. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Police in riot gear used pepper spray to disperse thousands of protesters chanting “We Are Penn State” early this morning after football coach Joe Paterno and university President Graham Spanier were fired in the wake of a child sex-abuse scandal.
Police acted shortly after midnight after people threw bottles and other objects, tore down a lamppost and overturned a television van near the campus of Pennsylvania State University. Students covered their faces with sweatshirts to shield themselves from the burning and stinging spray, and many moved away as an officer’s megaphone blared that they would be breaking the law by remaining. The smell of gasoline leaking from the van hung in the air.
Douglas Albert, 61, stood outside his art gallery in McAllister Alley off College Avenue as students rushed by and said he was “shocked and scared.”
“I demonstrated in the ‘70s, and it wasn’t like this,” Albert said in an interview. “I think they feel cheated.”
Dustin Morgan, 20, a junior from Scranton, Pennsylvania, said many students were angered by news coverage of the Nov. 5 charges that former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky sexually assaulting boys in the athletic complex of the school in State College, Pennsylvania, about 200 miles (322 kilometers) northwest of Philadelphia.
Paterno, 84, and Spanier, 63, failed to contact police after being told in 2002 of an assault, according to a grand- jury report.
‘A Little Harsh’
“They’re just allegations,” Morgan said in an interview. “A lot of people were saying Joe didn’t make the right choice and morally he didn’t do the right thing, but to just fire a man who’s been here for 46 years and pretty much made this campus what it is now, I think is a little harsh.”
Paterno had said before he was fired yesterday that he’d retire at the end of the season, when his contract was due to expire.
Students in the crowd held signs supporting Paterno. James Choi, 18, a freshman from Baltimore, stood with a handwritten message on a piece of cardboard that said, “We (Heart) Joepa.”
Choi said he understand why some people are angry about the scandal. Still, he said Paterno “did what he had to do” and that his firing should have been handled differently.
“He shouldn’t have to go out this way,” Choi said in an interview. “They should let him leave with his dignity.”
Asked whether there was going to be trouble from the protests before the police moved in, Morgan replied, “I hope not.”
“As long as everybody’s here for a good reason and we’re not kind of destroying everything, I think it’s all right,” he said.
The crowd began to break up about 1:30 a.m. local time, and there was no immediate information about arrests or injuries. Campus police referred calls to the university public- information office. Telephone messages left there were not immediately returned.
--Editors: Stephen Merelman, Mark Schoifet
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