Jubilation over the University of Kentucky’s win over the University of Louisville quickly turned into scenes of couch-burning mayhem in key celebratory areas around campus.
State Street, which had become the epicenter of couch burning in recent weeks, was quickly filled with thousands of people, smoke and flying beer bottles. Police in riot gear with fire extinguishers and batons dodged bottles from the growing crowd and tried to stop a raft of couch fires.
Police blocked people from an empty building, but could not stop at least five cars from being flipped over, set on fire or vandalized. Much of the violence was accompanied by people chanting a war cry of “C-A-T-S, Cats, Cats, Cats!”
Fire department officials said at least 39 fires occurred in the campus area, mostly on State Street, and mostly to couches and trash. The Fire Department also made 12 first-aid runs….
On April 1, 1996, crowds took to the streets after UK won the national championship against Syracuse. Cars were crushed; police officers and bystanders were hit with rocks and bottles; and a television news van was overturned and set ablaze.
City and UK officials had also urged fans repeatedly through the week to keep cool after the historic game.
But now city and UK officials have yet another night to get through, that of the championship game itself on Monday night.
“If this is a preview for Monday night,” said Samantha Shirley, who was watching the crowds on State Street, “then I feel sorry for the police.”
I’m sure that the UK student body will do its best to ensure that Lexington is visible from the International Space Station on Monday evening. The course of the game will merely determine how the fires are fueled. For our part, we’ll be parking the cars in the garage, booby trapping the couch, and enjoying the game over a snifter of brandy with an appropriately aged crowd.