The Politics of Rushing Franklin

By: Staff Writer Will Rierson

The Carolina men’s basketball team broke a recent drought in their longtime rivalry with Duke with a 76-72 win Saturday night that also rewarded the Tar Heels with the ACC regular season championship. Following tradition, thousands of students ran out of bars, Greek life houses, apartments, and residence halls after the victory to celebrate as one body in the intersection of Franklin and Columbia streets.

If you asked your average Carolina student if rushing Franklin Street after a major basketball win was acceptable behavior, most would give a strong “Heel yeah!” Police officers, firefighters, and other city workers stood by and blocked off a few blocks to let students have their fun for about one hour. No damages to public property or arrests were reported.

Still, local social media feeds have been dotted with complaints that police reaction and public opinion would be different if the students had darker skin. What makes a postgame celebration in the streets more acceptable than a political protest blocking street traffic?

In reality, the mob on Franklin Street was far from the riotous Black Lives Matter groups in cities like Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri. Carolina students come from many diverse backgrounds, and the group that partied Saturday night included many cultures and creeds. WASP fraternity brothers cheered alongside female students of Muslim faith and African-American football players. There was no rioting or intentional destruction of property held by others. Someone burned a couch or two, but any fires started were done in celebration and were not designed as an act of violence. This pales in comparison to the actions of young Baltimoreans who burned down their own city in 2015 to protest police brutality.

If students had smashed cars parked along the curb of Franklin, looted Sup Dogs, or assaulted police officers, they would have been in the wrong and justly arrested. Thankfully, Tar Heel fans chose to sing Hark the Sound at the top of their lungs and dance around shortly lived bonfires. The Chapel Hill Police Department was there to keep things in line, but more along the lines of a middle school dance monitor than a riot response force.

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