‘Controlled chaos’ on streets

Published: Tuesday, January 9, 2007 at 11:31 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 9, 2007 at 11:31 a.m.

In the moments immediately following the University of Florida's BCS National Championship win, Gator fans along W. University Avenue celebrated by climbing trees and dancing in the streets, but the crowd appeared to be generally well-behaved.

"There's probably at least 10,000 people that have taken to the streets and right now we're basically letting people burn themselves out," said Sgt. Keith Kameg with the Gainesville Police Department a few minutes after the Gators win over Ohio State.

At the O'Connell Center, where thousands of students, faculty and staff gathered to watch the game, the doors snapped open just moments after Urban Meyer's victory fist-pump.

Nick Rosado, a UF sophomore who was working security, stood back and waited for the stampede. Soon hundreds of screaming students sprinted through the lobby and toward W. University Avenue.

"That's why we moved the table and everything else out of the way," Rosado said, taking a step backward. "University is about to go nuts."

The parade of orange and blue slowed to a brisk walk by the time it got outside and then stalled when it hit the first row of bars on W. University Avenue.

Fireworks flew. Fans threw streamers and spewed Silly String. They burned Ohio State paraphernalia and screamed until their voices were hoarse.

"I love it," said Anne Svercek, who said she was already losing her voice at midnight.

Across from The Swamp Restaurant, the celebration took an early turn to the destructive as a small group climbed a tree and attempted to uproot it.

Kameg with GPD described the post-victory atmosphere as "controlled chaos."

He said officials closed off W. University Avenue from 13th Street to 22nd Street at about 11:45 p.m. to allow people a chance to celebrate in the street.

To deter people from climbing the city's light poles, the Public Works Department greased the poles Monday. But Kameg said fans just climbed trees instead, leading to the nearly-uprooted-tree incident near The Swamp.

"Mostly people are cheering and hugging," Kameg said. "There are no incidents to speak of right now."

After the relatively incident-free aftermath of the national basketball championship in April, local officials had hoped for a repeat performance after Monday night's football game a hope that seemed to have been fulfilled, at least in the early hours of this morning.

"The celebrations following the basketball championship game were exuberant yet safe," UF President Bernie Machen wrote in a letter published in Monday's Sun. "It is our hope that all UF students who celebrate after tonight's game will repeat last year's experience and enjoy themselves in a responsible way."

As the scene on W. University Avenue showed early this morning, being responsible does not necessarily mean being quiet.

"It's going to get crazy out here tonight," said Cathleen Salvant.

"Everyone's everywhere. It's just going to be a crazy night."

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