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Student Party Becomes Riot; College Event Canceled

From Times Wire Services

An annual celebration at California State University, Chico, erupted into a riot this weekend as more than 2,000 students and others smashed windows, stomped on cars and hurled bottles at police, authorities said.

Local hospitals treated 32 people, including at least two police officers, mostly for cuts sustained from broken glass. Police said 37 people were arrested on charges of unlawful assembly, failing to disperse and assault on a peace officer or firefighter.

The riot, which broke out Friday night, apparently was triggered by drunken revelers in a fraternity house section of town who were getting an early start on celebrating the university’s Pioneer Days, scheduled to begin Saturday night.

Robin Wilson, the president of the campus with a nationwide reputation as a “party school,” announced Saturday that the 10-day festival will not take place this year.

“All Pioneer Day activities have been canceled,” Wilson said in a statement issued after he met with school officials, police and representatives from campus fraternities and sororities.

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Pioneer Days began in 1912 as a means of recruiting high school seniors, and over the years developed into a 10-day event that is the highlight of the year in this Sacramento Valley city about 150 miles north of San Francisco.

The revelers appeared to be trying to live up to Playboy magazine’s designation of the university as America’s No. 1 party school.

The trouble began at 9 p.m. Friday when about 25 college-age men and women started a bonfire at a downtown intersection. The participants, some standing on roofs, threw bottles into the fire as well as couches and chairs.

When firefighters’ first attempt to reach the fire failed, a fire truck returned with police to protect firemen from the barrage of rocks and bottles.

“By this time the crowd had turned into a mob,” police dispatcher Julia Larson said. “They continued to throw bottles and rocks at police officers.”

The rioters tore down awnings and broke windows of businesses. Many parked cars were caved in by revelers leaping up and down on car tops and hoods. Police said they had not yet placed a dollar figure on the damage.


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