As Penn State students riot for Joe Paterno, others ask ‘why?’
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The late-night firing of legendary football coach Joe Paterno sent some Penn State students into the streets Wednesday night, with a handful clashing with police, knocking down sign posts, shattering car windows and turning over trash cans and newspaper boxes.
A throng of students even overturned a television news van -- apparently symbolizing their wrath at the media, which they largely blamed for the ouster of the beloved coach they call Joe Pa.
Law enforcement officers used pepper spray on some of the students. But when it became clear they had lost control of the crowd, they stood back, allowing the largely non-violent crowd of young men and women to vent their outrage.
The impromptu street protest capped a day of twists and turns on the Penn State campus, which finds itself engulfed in a child sex-abuse scandal. The details of that scandal are continuing to unfold.
Former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was charged over the weekend with 40 counts of sexual abuse of children, including sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy in a campus shower in 2002. He says he is not guilty.
Further, two school executives have stepped down amid allegations that they helped cover up suspicions of child abuse to protect the school and its vaunted football program.
Paterno learned of the 2002 incident, but passed the matter along to the school’s athletic director and never alerted law enforcement authorities, officials investigating the case said.
Some observers have seen that as a moral failing for a man who preached ‘success with honor’ to his players. Paterno himself acknowledged as much. ‘This is a tragedy,’ the 84-year-old coach told the media Wednesday. ‘It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.’
In light of Paterno’s reported lack of action and subsequent admission, the rioting of Penn State students was puzzling to some in the online world. ‘The students at penn state should [be] rioting over children losing innocence....not coaches losing jobs!’ said one tweet.
Paterno had announced Wednesday morning that he would step down as coach at the end of the season. But amid the outrage, Penn’s State’s Board of Trustees held an executive session late Wednesday night and fired him and school President Graham Spanier, triggering the protests.
To keep readers up to date on this developing story, the L.A. Times has created a page dedicated to full coverage throughout the day and beyond.
-- Rene Lynch