AMES, Iowa -- Weekend riots at Iowa State University that injured eight law officers were the worst at the campus since Vietnam War protests, but these students did not have 'a legitimate gripe. ... They were just drunk,' the police chief says.
Sixty people were arrested during the three nights of disturbances during the university's Veishea weekend, a traditional time of student celebration before final examinations.
More than 70 law officers dodged bottles and rocks thrown from a crowd of 5,000 people that started a bonfire with piles of furniture and debris on a street near campus at 1:45 a.m. Sunday. The fire burned most of the night.
Forty-five people were arrested Sunday and eight law officers were treated at Mary Greeley Hospital for cuts from bottles and rocks.
'This is unprecedented. We've never had this uncontrolled rioting and damage to this extent before,' said an Ames Police Department spokeswoman. 'Traditionally Saturday night of Veishea week is the worst night for law enforcement people and Sunday they all prepare for finals week.'
Ames Police Chief Dennis Ballantine called the Veishea weekend melees the worst since the Vietnam War era. 'The only difference is those people had a legitimate gripe. These people didn't. They were just drunk.'
It took law officers until 4:15 a.m. Sunday to quell the third night of disturbances and even pleas from Iowa State basketball coach Johnny Orr for the students to disperse were ignored.
Rioters damaged three police squad cars and one fire department truck before order was restored. One police car was overturned and its tires slashed early Saturday.
'I just asked them to go home. I said it's not good for Iowa State and it doesn't help anything,' said Orr, who expressed concern that the riots might hurt the school's athletic recruiting. 'I think they needed some leadership.'
Those arrested early Sunday were charged with participating in a riot, an aggravated misdemeanor. Others already had been arrested for assault, public intoxication and disorderly conduct.
Officers from the Ames Police Department, Story County Sheriff's Department, university police and the Iowa State Patrol were called in to help put down Sunday's disturbance.
The four-day Veishea celebration, Thursday through Sunday, is marked by parties before the week of final exams. The word 'Veishea' represents the initials of the Iowa State University colleges that existed when the celebration started around the turn of the century. Those colleges were V-veterinary medicine, E-engineering, IS-industrial science, HE-home economics and A-agriculture.