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Since any riot whatsoever may be termed a breach of the peace and undergraduates who indulge in them take the inescapable risk of running afoul of the law as well as the college authorities, it is evident that riots are an unprofitable way of spending a spring evening, and often lead the innocent student to unforeseen and disastrous ends. But, compared to riots that occur during strikes, and communist battles every May day, a student "riot" can hardly be called a serious affair. Despite several gallons of water spread over the streets of Cambridge, and a few parking signs transferred from one side of the road to the other, nothing very catastrophic ever takes place, unless Yard Cops or Cambridge police loose their heads and provoke the mob. This is just what happened Monday night, and this time the onus of the blame must go to the blue-coated minions of the officious Cambridge Police Force.
Adopting strong-arm tactics, a handful of police, who were looking for a good fight, decided that the hour had come to show the taxpayers that their money was not being wasted. So, raring to go, a stupid handful of "cops" used tear gas, abusive language and "got rough". The result was rather alarming, as a mob that had been genial, even-tempered and in a sky-larking mood only several minutes before, became surly and pugnacious. It was not until bursars cards were confiscated, and the tear gas began to take effect that the riot was broken up with much bad feeling on both sides.
This episode is not the first time that the Cambridge Police has manifested a desire to "take those Harvard guys in hand". One of the most notable instances of this attitude was the case of an unfortunate Conant scholar in Leverett House last Fall, who was railroaded off to jail on a charge that was later proved to be absolutely untrue, although a false statement of confession had been given out to the papers on the following day. Again, a Phi Beta Kappa student was arrested on the charge of drunkenness, for objecting to being kicked in the posterior by an officer, who claimed that he had not moved along fast enough, when told to do so.
Harvard has its own police force in the form of an efficient group of Yard Cops, who are thoroughly prepared to handle the student demonstrations that take place in the Spring. Monday night's fiasco was not unruly, no property was damaged, and no heads were cracked, until the promotion-anxious policemen, lacking any insight of student psychology, decided to use the same methods that are used on strike-breaking thugs and lynching mobs.
Through these strong-arm tactics, one student came very near to losing an eye through the firing of a tear gas bomb, as the little wax pellet flew out and hit him in the cyclid. This would never have happened, if the mob had been slowly but surely dealt with by proctors and Yard Cops who could have confiscated bursars cards, and broken the affair up in the same manner in which it had been started; namely in the spirit of good fun and lack of venomous malice. The Cambridge police bungled the thing, and they must stand responsible for it.
Harvard students have been "rioting" for years, but nothing will ever come of it, if the "riot" is handled wisely and sanely by men who are prepared to deal with student demonstrations, and whose job it is to "break 'em up." It was the idiotic, bludgeoning tactics of a few men, armed with weapons that they did not know how to use, that made a mountain out of a mole-hill.
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