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10,000 Fans Riot In Michigan

A riotous crowd of about 10,000 people threw bottles and started fires around an apartment complex close to the Michigan State campus shortly after the Spartans lost to Duke Saturday in basketball's Final Four.

More than 61 fires were reported and eight cars were burned, East Lansing deputy fire chief Pete Zamora said.

"They're starting fires wherever there is anything they can burn," he said.

He said there were reports of trash bins, sofas and cars being set on fire.

Zamora said there were numerous injuries, mostly people being cut from bottles being thrown. One person was climbing up a traffic light pole and fell. WXYZ-TV reported that a student was burned while jumping over a burning sofa.

Campus Police Capt. Tony Kliebecker said the department sent its riot unit in to quell the crowd that had gathered around an apartment complex. He said police sprayed tear gas to try to disperse the crowd so firefighters could get to a car that had been overturned and set on fire.

East Lansing Fire Marshal Bob Pratt said firefighters were pulling back at Cedar Village because they were being pelted with debris. Zamora said one fire truck windshield was broken by thrown debris.

He also reported people having trouble breathing because of the tear gas.

Police say they arrested 24 people. Nineteen of those were for disorderly conduct--two for being minors in possession--one for malicious destruction--and two for arson.

Of the 24 arrests police say eleven are Michigan State students. Ten are from East Lansing, seven from Lansing and seven from outside the area.

"Right now, we're just trying to move crowds. We can't keep up with it," Kliebecker said shortly after midnight.

Asked if there were any problems, an East Lansing police dispatcher said: "Major problems. We're under a state of emergency right now. That's all we know."

Kelli Benson, 20, sophomore, said police were making the situation worse.

"We would eventually calm down if they didn't provoke us. Before we even did anything, there were cop cars everywhere," she said.

Just south of Cedar Village a crowd had started a fire and was ripping branches off trees and throwing them on the fire. A door at the College of Business had been smashed in, but a second door remained intact and it did not appear anyone had tried to go inside.

About 20 Ingham County sheriff deputies on horseback were on the scene.

Police closed Grand River Avenue, the main street in East Lansing.

Michigan State students have clashed with police before.

A student protest in May over an alcohol ban at a popular tailgating spot on campus turned into a melee. Up to 3,000 people were involved and more than 20 were arrested. Students tore through downtown East Lansing, setting bonfires and clashing with police who used tear gas to break up the crowd.

Last weekend, two studets were arrested for disorderly conduct at an off-campus apartment complex after Sunday's Michigan State victory over Kentucky. Revelers also set a small bonfire at the complex with pizza boxes and furniture.

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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