Students riot after beloved coach fired in abuse scandal


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The Independent US

More than 1,000 Penn State University students clashed with police after one of the most famous football coaches in American sport was sacked amid a child abuse scandal.

Joe Paterno, 84, had earlier said he would retire at the end of the season, and that he was "absolutely devastated".

Pouring on to the streets around their college campus chanting "Hell no, Joe won't go" and "We want Joe back," protesters overturned a car and also cursed former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, who has been charged with sexually abusing eight boys over a period of nearly 15 years.

Mr Paterno has been accused of failing to act over the alleged abuse. He has not been implicated in the case.

Head coach for 46 years, he was dismissed on Wednesday by the university's board of trustees, along with university President Graham Spanier.

Angry students filled two city blocks near Penn State University's campus on Wednesday night. Members of the crowd damaged at least two light poles.

Scores of police and state troopers, some in riot gear, tried to clear the streets, and officers used a chemical spray to disperse the demonstrators. Some of the students threw rocks and fireworks at the police, the New York Times reported. Crowds thinned somewhat after a light rain began to fall.

At least three people were escorted away by police but it was not immediately clear if they were arrested. A police spokeswoman had said she was not aware of any arrests.

"I haven't seen this kind of student outrage about anything since I've been here," said Caroline Celoquin, a senior from West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Asked how she felt about Mr Paterno being fired, Nicole Atlak, a freshman from Toms River, New Jersey, said: "Absolutely disgusted. From a student's perspective, it's like where do we go from here? We no longer have a president. We no longer have a 45-year legacy."

A student with a bull horn addressed the crowd, saying: "I think it's only fair to let him (Paterno) ride out the season because this is the house that Joe built."

While most of the students were protesting the decision, some said they understood the move by the board of trustees and did not condone Mr Paterno's alleged failure to report the alleged sexual abuse to police.

Still, the majority seemed more upset that Mr Paterno was not allowed to complete the season, as he had wanted.

Mr Paterno won more games than any other major college coach in history.

He said that when he was informed in 2002 of his assistant coach's alleged sexual abuse, he passed the information on to the athletic director, but did not follow it up.

The alleged incident was never reported to police.