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Friday, January 18, 2019

Various members of my family have roots at Ohio State University, from college degrees to employment, so my husband and I were plenty happy to watch the Buckeyes defeat the Oregon Ducks for the national championship.



Yes, we’re those people.

I state this upfront because I don’t want anyone misunderstanding my motives here. This column is driven by my disgust with out-of-control students and fellow journalists who cherry-pick vocabulary depending on what kind of people they see flooding into streets and setting fires.

Within an hour after Ohio State’s victory in Dallas on Monday, more than 5,000 people — most of them young white students, many wearing OSU garb — flooded into the street in Columbus. It is safe to say the majority of them started out in a partying mood.

Unfortunately, things turned ugly fairly quickly. Columbus police said Tuesday that emergency responders had to put out 89 fires. Many of the fires were in dumpsters; at least three couches were dragged outside and set on fire, too. One of these couch fires was caught on video, with someone yelling “Dude!” in the background. But of course.

Police say several thousand other students broke through a locked gate at the stadium and tore down a goalpost. Police spokeswoman Denise Alex-Bouzounis told me students also were jumping on firetrucks — news videos confirm this — and blocking cruisers.

Soon hundreds of Columbus police dressed in riot gear and camouflage showed up. By the way, I don’t understand how anyone can think camouflage designed for jungles and deserts conceals police officers approaching a crowd dressed in scarlet and gray, but that’s the world we’re living in these days. Images of this night started with flashes of crazy-happy kids dancing in the streets and quickly grew dark with scenes from a war zone.

After students refused to disperse from North High Street, officers — 100 of whom will be billing the city for overtime, Alex-Bouzounis said — began shooting pepper spray and firing tear gas into the crowd. Alex-Bouzounis also said a mounted police sergeant reported people “throwing bottles, ice balls and gas canisters” at the dozen or so horses.

Liz Young, editor of OSU’s campus newspaper, The Lantern, told me she watched some of the mayhem from the roof of a campus parking garage. She described the campus area as swirling with SWAT officers in riot gear while couches and dumpsters burned and the sky clouded with tear gas.

From her vantage point, most of the students seemed to be trying to avoid trouble. “Some of our staff was working on the ground, and they got tear gassed,” she said. “They weren’t doing anything but trying to cover it.”

When I asked Young to speculate on why some students got so out of control, she told me she couldn’t comment on motive. “Our newspaper is still covering this,” she said. “It would be inappropriate of me to offer my opinion on that.”

Let’s clone her. Please.

In a news conference early Tuesday afternoon, Columbus police Chief Kim Jacobs justified the use of pepper spray and tear gas as necessary to disperse the crowds. Within hours, though, after seeing Columbus Dispatch photos and video capturing officers spraying students standing on a sidewalk, she backpedaled a bit.

“Based on a few images, including this one, I want … to initiate an investigation into the use of (pepper) spray on civilians that were apparently lawfully standing on sidewalks and apparently not in violation of law,” Jacobs wrote in an email.

So here we are again, talking about police response. Fortunately, this time, no one died. It’s also apparently good the vandals and rioters were happy folk — and mostly white. Thus, news organizations described them as “rowdy,” “intense,” “screaming in delight,” “fans,” “revelers” and “partygoers.” And “students,” of course, to telegraph that this whole thing is so uncharacteristic of people with such bright futures.

Virtually no news report described them as rioters. Breaking the stadium lock, climbing over the fence, toppling the goal post — this was never vandalism. No one accused those setting fires of trying to destroy their community. Even on social media, the word “thug” barely surfaced, except to contrast the reporting in Columbus with how we journalists covered events in Ferguson, Missouri.

I’m not about to say these were two similar events, because I don’t want to trivialize the underlying reasons for the unrest in Ferguson. But if we rightfully continue to bring scrutiny to bear on police departments in Ferguson, New York and Cleveland — and now in Columbus — then we must also examine the prejudices we bring to our coverage.

Objectivity in journalism is a myth. We are all informed by our own histories. We must identify our biases and tag them as filters to be dismantled.

No one was killed in Columbus because of several hundred out-of-control students, but what they did in the streets was violent. Starting fires is not a rite of passage. Damaging school property is criminal. Interfering with police cruisers and firetrucks possibly endangers other people’s lives.

Let’s have that conversation — on campus and in our newsrooms.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and an essayist for Parade magazine. She is the author of two books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz ( and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at

Photo: A mixture of Ohio State and Oregon fans make their best case for their teams outside AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, prior to the college football playoff championship game on Monday, Jan. 12, 2015. (Bob DeMay/Akron Beacon Journal/TNS)

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25 responses to “Rioters By Any Other Name”

  1. Gary Miles says:

    This event has been played out numerous times over sporting events. There are a few things the Author stated I agree with , such as it’s stupid and the police overreact. I felt as though there was a race baiting part of this I didn’t like to much. Should we go to video of LA after the Lakers won the NBA title? I’m totally sick of people being race pimps, and claiming racism where none exists. It’s not only inflaming more problems down the road, it’s simply a LIE. WVU is well known for burning couches and being immature spoiled brats. At least the immature spoiled brats didn’t burn down any business’s and loot and steal. There’s quite a big difference between a bunch of brats starting fires in trash cans and pissed off protestors looting and burning down business’s.

    No, a bunch of white immature spoiled brats starting fires in trash cans are not THUGS! Thugs loot, steal, burn down business’s and attack people violently because of their skin color. There is no comparison and never should be. Shame on the Author, your a mini Al Sharpton.

    • joe schmo says:

      i couldn’t have said it better myself……

    • Grannysmovin says:

      I agree in part with your comment. This happens often after sporting events and burning couches is dangerous and destruction of provery, but does not rise to the level or looting or damaging property and/or a business. However most protestors in Ferguson were peaceful, there were a few who did the looting and burning down a business. Those few individuals committed criminal acts and should face the criminal justice system. However those few should not be allowed to be used to impugn the purpose or characters of the majority of the peaceful protestors.

      • Gary Miles says:

        Granny, Good Day Ma’am, Let me be clear. I’m all for peaceful protest and know for a fact that most in Ferguson were peaceful. I have seen video of undercover cops caught trying to get the protestors to become unruly, so I also have an issue with the police response. But this Author is trying to compare two totally different situational events and make an ignorant play that somehow their can be racism found. Basically, the Author is a race pimp. No different that the King of Race Pimps, Al Sharpton. These are the kinds of articles that need to be called out for what they are, LIES. Race baiting is based on lies, always has been. Protesting an actual racist event don’t require a Race pimp to get one going. None of the protests that have been occurring should have anything to do with racism, it should be about police abuse of power. I don’t want to get into that mess, LOL. I’m sure that subject has been beat to death. You have a Great Day Granny!

        • Grannysmovin says:

          OMG Gary we agree yet again. Happy Friday – celebrate safely please.

        • James Bagley says:

          How does a person publicly oppose racism and not be a ‘race pimp’ in your opinion? Surely out of a country with a population over 300 million, there must be at least one person who publicly opposes racism and yet isn’t a ‘race pimp’. Who would that be?

          I gather from you posts that anyone who publicly opposes racism is a ‘race pimp’. So since you can’t think of anyone who isn’t a race pimp, perhaps you can tell us how a person can avoid being a ‘race pimp’ while publicly opposing racism.

          Are you claiming that the mere act of publicly opposing racism makes that person a ‘race pimp’? If not, what’s the difference between a ‘race pimp’ and somebody who is not a ‘race pimp’?

          • Gary Miles says:

            Anyone can speak out against racism and not be a race pimp. Let me give you a great example. This is a public forum, I hereby state that racist’s, those who simply dislike people because of the color of their skin, are disgraceful.

            James, you can do the same thing and make the same claim and you would NOT be a race pimp. One who claims racism where none exists in a singular event are race pimps. Those who infer racism, as this article clearly did, where racism does not exist, is a race pimp.

            Now, when YOU publically claim that someone is racist because they don’t like Obama’s politics, YOU are being a race pimp. Sadly, making such baseless claims deludes real racist acts, like when a group of people attack a person because of their skin color. These actual events are often ignored by the Left Wing media and their whores who believe their drivel.

            Does that finally answer this question or do I have to type the same thing a different way to make it understandable?

          • James Bagley says:

            You are mistaken, and it raises an interesting point. I never claimed that you were racist because you didn’t like Obama’s policies. So for you to make such a claim injects a false presumption based on the mere opposition to racism, which is different than accusing somebody of being racist.

            Now when somebody — like you, for example — makes a false claim of ‘race pimping’ where none actually exists, what is the term for that? Are you a ‘race whore’ because of this? How about a ‘race ho’, which seems more appropriate under the circumstances?

            Many events where you claimed that people were ‘race pimping’ might have actually been inspired by racism, and the fact is that you simply don’t know whether it’s true or not. So the net result of all of your statements about being a ‘race pimp’ is that it has nothing to do with the facts, but only your opinions. If you don’t like somebody who opposes racism (which seems to be the same thing as opposing racism, because you don’t have a single example of anyone opposing racism that you don’t dislike), that seems to be your qualification for a ‘race pimp’. And, but I may be wrong on this, the other qualification seems to be black skin. I’ve never seen you call anyone a ‘race pimp’ unless they had black skin. You be sure to point out any examples of posts where you called somebody with white skin a ‘race pimp’.

          • Gary Miles says:

            The Author of this article is white, case closed.

          • James Bagley says:

            So I guess that means that you are calling her a ‘race pimp’. OK, I can accept that. But you’ve never given an example of a single person who publicly opposed racism yet wasn’t a ‘race pimp’. I’m guessing that means that every single person who publicly opposes racism is what you consider a ‘race pimp’. So it seems fair to say that you oppose the opposition of racism.

  2. Dave says:

    George Soros funds Ferguson protest, in hopes to spur civil action. The Liberal Billionaire has given over $32 million in one year to groups that emboldened activists across America.

  3. Daniel G says:

    Why yes Connie, burning couches is equivalent to burning and trashing a whole neigborhood worth of business’. Are you NUTS? Liquor stores looted then burned, restaurants, phone store burned (after looting of course) drug stores, even O’Reilly auto parts was set on fire. Why yes the students at Columbus should be compared to BURN THE MUTHAFUCKAH DOWN!
    I’m calling your story 99% BULLSHIT.

  4. Allan Richardson says:

    The author’s point is that when white mobs misbehave because they are celebrating an athletic championship, police and the media give them a pass. But when NONWHITE people turn out to protest the DEATH of one of their own by a police officer, and out of that crowd who have a righteous reason for anger, yet are channeling that anger into peaceful protest, a FEW with less self control or ulterior motives commit the same kind of vandalism, the media AND THE POLICE ESTABLISHMENT AND POLITICIANS paint the ENTIRE protesting community as (A) a mob, (B) of NOTHING BUT criminals and thugs, (C) protesting WITHOUT justification, (D) the death of a person who is JUDGED IN ADVANCE TO BE DESERVING OF DEATH.

    I assure you, if some local white physician’s or attorney’s son or daughter had been killed, even accidentally, by a police officer, that officer would be in for a world of financial and criminal hurt, EVEN IF that young person had been shooting off rounds from an AK47 and pointing it AT the police and calling them “jack booted thugs” and threatening to shoot the police — and ESPECIALLY so if the police officer they were threatening happened to be black.

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