Letter: Veishea riots are a pattern and will continue

Brent Heeren, Graduate

Blaming and punishing Veishea for criminal behavior and riots is the reason “history” continues to repeat itself. Individuals are committing criminal acts and the response has been to blame the event. Riots occurred this year after the Final Four; should we consider punishing the Final Four for triggering riots? Should we “re-invent” the Final Four to stop future riots? If the riots had occurred prior to the championship game, would it have been dangerous for the NCAA to allow the game to be played as scheduled? Do we blame or punish events such as the World Series, Super Bowl, NBA Finals and Stanley Cup for causing riots? Was Veishea canceled because it is an “expendable” educational related event instead of a sporting event? 

The reason riots continue during Veishea is the University blames the event; not the rioters. The criminal behavior will end when leaders focus on punishing the offenders; not the event. Following is the Iowa law regarding the crime of riot:

723.1 RIOT.

A riot is three or more persons assembled together in a violent manner, to the disturbance of others, and with any use of unlawful force or violence by them or any of them against another person, or causing property damage. A person who willingly joins in or remains a part of a riot, knowing or having reasonable grounds to believe that it is such, commits an aggravated misdemeanor. [An aggravated misdemeanor is punishable by up to a two year confinement in prison and a fine of at least $625, but no more than $6,250].

University and community leaders should be calling for the arrest, prosecution and incarceration of anyone who violated the aforementioned riot statute. Further; these same leaders should be demanding that anyone convicted of “riot” be held financially responsible for all of the damages arising from the riot. If the University and community of Ames cannot “stomach” the arrest, prosecution and incarceration of the hooligans who joined in or remained a part of the riot; then Veishea will remain the scapegoat while the offenders move on, unscathed by the burden of prosecution and accountability for their behavior. I challenge readers to inquire about the number of riot arrests and convictions in Story County which have resulted from the current and past riots.

Veishea was canceled to “punish” the rioters — individuals who had no interest or “stake” in the Veishea event. By blaming the activity or event, the university is misdirecting the focus of public outrage and disgust about criminal behavior from the offenders to the event. The public perceives the cancellation of Veishea as “the punishment” for the riot and we move on. If the University, the Ames community and the Daily are not willing to support holding hundreds of young adults fully responsible for their criminal acts, then please stop asking why the riot criminal behavior persists.

Once convicted rioters start spending time in jail and prison instead of being viewed as engaging in some sort of “right” of passage or college experience; riots will become a history lesson in the art of punishment “marksmanship”. Handwringing and dithering about “why riots?” are not the solution, instead students, the University and the community must get involved by taking a stand and demanding offenders be held accountable for criminal behavior.

Show up for upcoming court proceedings. Support accountability for behavior and financial restitution for criminal acts by making sure the sentence and restitution ordered for each rioter is at least as newsworthy as the riot. Lastly, can we all agree to at least stop referring to the riot(s) as the “Veishea Riot?”