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East Lansing Fire Department responds to record number of calls amid MSU game day chaos

East Lansing fire game day vandalsim
Jessy Gregg
East Lansing Mayor Jessy Gregg captured this photo of a fire during her ridealong with city police following Michigan State University's win against the University of Michigan football team on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2021.

East Lansing Mayor Jessy Gregg is calling for a culture change after witnessing people throwing bottles, burning couches and flipping cars following the Spartans' victory against the University of Michigan Wolverines.

Sirens were a familiar sound in East Lansing over the weekend following Michigan State University football's win Saturday against its archrival, the University of Michigan.

The city's fire department responded to 142 calls for service starting early Saturday, which East Lansing Fire Chief Dawn Carson says is a record for a 24-hour period. Many of those calls related to fires and excessive alcohol consumption.

East Lansing Mayor Jessy Gregg rode along with city police through the college town Saturday. MSU beat Michigan 37-3 the day before Halloween, and, for some, the celebration turned to chaos.

Gregg says she was disturbed to see people throwing bottles at police, setting couches on fire and flipping cars. The mayor believes a "certain level of prosecution" will be warranted in coming days against people who were violent or destroyed property. But, she said, the solution needs to go deeper than that.

"What needs to change is just this culture of celebratory vandalism," Gregg said. “We need to mobilize the students that are appalled by this behavior, which I think is probably the majority, and push back on this culture that says it's OK to flip cars over because your team won a football game."

Gregg said police were stretched thin even with assistance from other departments. The damage, she said, wasn't limited to the Cedar Village apartment complex, which has been the site of past riots.

"It's equally problematic to have multiple small events spread out over the city," Gregg said. "It's just as difficult in terms of policing, in some ways, actually maybe more difficult, because it spreads our force out.”

In a statement, East Lansing Police Chief Kim Johnson said the agency was "adequately prepared for a celebration following MSU’s big win over Michigan," but that blocked streets and multiple fires made the police response challenging.

Firefighters had to put out multiple blazes without police security, "creating a serious safety issue for our emergency responders," Johnson said.

Police arrested five people and issued 20 citations, according to a news release Monday afternoon.

"We will be seeking the fullest extent of charges for those individuals who have been captured in photos and videos setting fires and causing damage to other people’s property," Johnson said.

Students can be disciplined for violating conduct policies even when off campus, MSU Spokeswoman Emily Guerrant said. She said the university working with police to identify people from crimes documented on social media.

"That type of behavior that we saw is unacceptable," Guerrant said. "It's dangerous, and it will have consequences. I'd like to note, too, it does not represent the vast majority of Spartans who celebrated the victory on Saturday."

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