Fourteen arrested, Tuscaloosa mayor ‘disappointed’ in massive downtown gathering after Alabama’s win
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Tuscaloosa (Ala.) police arrested 14 people Monday night as thousands of Alabama football fans gathered downtown to celebrate the Crimson Tide's national championship victory, police chief Brent Blankley said in a news conference Tuesday.

Blankley said the people were arrested on 18 charges, including public intoxication, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Two people received medical attention after being struck with beer bottles or cans on the side of their faces, Blankley added.

While spontaneous celebrations are common after sports championships, the scenes from "The Strip" — a hub of bars and restaurants in downtown Tuscaloosa — raised concerns in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 373,000 Americans. 

Tuscaloosa mayor Walt Maddox said the city of about 101,000 did not have a specific estimate for the size of the crowd but called it "larger than any celebration we've seen in recent memory."

"I think it goes without saying that we are disappointed," Maddox said.

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Alabama fans packed the streets of Tuscaloosa to celebrate the Crimson Tide’s 52-24 national championship win against Ohio State.

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He later added that he hopes the celebration won't "overshadow" what the Crimson Tide accomplished in its 52-24 win over Ohio State.

"Last night, we did have a few bad actors. And we certainly had a number of young people not celebrate responsibly," Maddox said. "That being said, I hope we all put ourselves in those shoes and remember back to the time that we were in college as well. I hope we will resist the temptation to demonize anyone."

Roughly one-third of Tuscaloosa's officers were unavailable Monday due to COVID-19, or potential exposure to the virus, Maddox said. The city had anticipated that a potential crowd might form due in part to the University of Alabama's academic schedule. Thousands of students are returning to the city this week before classes resume Wednesday.

Blankley said the crowd began to form around 10:40 p.m. CT. About 20 minutes later, he said, people were climbing trees, light poles and awnings, including one above a CVS pharmacy. A fight broke out at a nearby bar.

After unsuccessfully attempting to disperse the crowd by using police cars to separate fans onto two sides of the street, Blankley said officers used one canister of pepper spray, pointing it at the ground "in spurts" in an effort to separate people and regain control of the street. 

The crowd was cleared by 12:02 a.m., Blankley said.

Maddox said "we certainly have to be concerned" that the crowd will contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in Tuscaloosa County. He referenced a stretch in the fall when roughly 1,000 students tested positive in a span of less than two weeks.

"Our concern then was that we might see community spread coming out of that," Maddox said. "I think that probably holds true here."

Contact Tom Schad at [email protected] or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.

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