Over 5,000 students marched through the streets of London last Wednesday loudly protesting against increases in college tuition fees, decreases in education funding at all levels and reductions to public services initiated by Britain’s conservative-led government.
Hours after that London demonstration thousands of students at Penn State University staged a loud, violent protest that police in the central Pennsylvania town of State College tagged a riot.
That Penn State protest/riot had nothing to do with either the tuition increase caused by funding cuts initiated by Pennsylvania’s conservative governor nor solidarity with other college students protesting against corporate greed under the “Occupy Movement.”
No, Penn State students went on a riotous rampage because university officials sacked their beloved football coach, Joe Paterno.
Penn State’s Board fired the 84-year-old football legend due to his remote role in an alleged pedophilia spree by Jerry Sandusky, a man formerly a ranking coach in Paterno’s powerhouse.
That firing fired rage in many students who felt it was too harsh, despite some students acknowledging to reporters that Paterno didn’t “morally” do the right things when dealing with reports of Sandusky molesting children.
News reports said some participants in that Penn State riot physically attacked police without suffering beatdowns, unlike Berkeley, Calif., campus police who brutalized students with batons when breaking up a peaceful Occupy site late last Wednesday evening.
While criticisms rightly rain down on those rioting Penn State students, it’s wrong to think that dumb outbursts related to sports are exclusive to that school.
In 2010 students at the University of Maryland celebrating a basketball victory went into riot mode while in 2005 Michigan State University students rioted over a basketball loss — as did Penn State students in 2001.
However, some Penn State students need to learn an important lesson lost in their apparently blind allegiance to Paterno and the football dynasty he engineered.
The really ugly thing here isn’t officials punting Paterno or penalties against the image of Penn State — the university and/or its football team.
Far worse than any insult — actual or imagined — is damage done to individuals — those young victims that authorities charged Sandusky with abusing sexually.
As one child sex abuse survivor wrote, the true tragedy is “the very real physical and emotional pain inflicted on at least eight, and now possibly nine or more young boys …”
Another tragedy obscured here is adults constantly turning blind eyes to child abuse.
Yes, two former Penn State officials are under indictment for covering up Sandusky’s crimes.
Yet, according to the grand jury report, the top prosecutor in the county containing State College had solid evidence of a Sandusky sex crime in 1998 — from an admission by Sandusky — but decided against filing child abuse charges.
That evidence came from police who themselves declined to go beyond that blind-eyed prosecutor.
Once again, the State College area isn’t unique for prosecutors ignoring abuses against children.
In Wilkes-Barre, 173 miles northeast of State College, prosecutors for years ignored a judge abusing the rights of children by forcing them to face trial without defense lawyers then quickly sending them to kiddy prison for the flimsiest of offenses.
That judge is now in prison for taking bribes from a private prison operator to send children to his government-funded prison.
Prosecutors have legal and ethical duties to report wrong-doing — as that judge was doing — but Wilkes-Barre prosecutors ignored that duty … claiming like Paterno that they didn’t realize it was real abuse.
Blind-eyed Wikes-Barre prosecutors — including one now serving as a juvenile court judge — remain in their jobs because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court blind-eyes their outrageous inaction disregarding that court’s duty to enforce ethical/legal-conduct rules covering lawyers.
An outrageous mishandling by Philadelphia and federal officials of blatant physical child abuse took place forty-four-years ago.
That Nov. 17, 1967 incident involved Philly cops under the command of infamous Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo savagely attacking public school students peacefully protesting outside School District headquarters.
That night-stick swinging assault described in 1967 as a “police riot” left many among the 5,000 Black student protestors hospitalized some with serious injuries and it produced 57 arrests.
Police crushed students peacefully seeking Black History instruction plus basic improvements like fixing leaking school roofs and supplying textbooks.
Philly’s 1967 mayor refused widespread demands to fire Rizzo who became mayor six years later plunging Philadelphia into a reign of racist terror that cost taxpayers millions.
Philly’s 1967 top prosecutor ignored those criminal assaults by cops.
Adding insult to those 11/17/67 injuries, federal judges found no fault with police brutalizing peaceful children without provocation.
This Thursday (11/17) a commemoration of that 1967 protest is scheduled for School District headquarters on N. Broad Street at 12:30pm.
Commemoration speakers include Dr. Walter Palmer, organizer of that ’67 protest.
Ironically, today Black School District officials (including now former Superintendent Ackerman) fight against Palmer’s efforts for educational improvements despite their employment resulting from struggles for desegregated employment at the District by people like Palmer.
Philly students four decades ago learned a searing lesson following that 1967 police riot that haunts America today: authorities dismiss official misconduct…to society’s detriment.
As a white speaker stated during a predominately-white anti-police-abuse rally days after the 11/17/67 riot noted: Whites must combat racism or “we whites will also be used as tools of oppression.”
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.