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14 arrested as National Championship celebration draws massive crowd to The Strip

Birmingham  WBRC logo Birmingham WBRC 1/12/2021 Ugochi Iloka
a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Massive celebration crowd in Tuscaloosa SOURCE: James Benedetto © Provided by Birmingham WBRC Massive celebration crowd in Tuscaloosa SOURCE: James Benedetto

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WBRC) - UPDATE: Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox said 14 people were arrested during a massive Championship celebration on The Strip Monday night. Maddox said fights broke out, bottles were thrown into the crowd and at police officers, and Tuscaloosa’s Police Chief had to use pepper spray to help disperse the crowd.

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Only one cannister of pepper spray was used and it was sprayed directly onto the ground in little spurts.

Maddox estimated there were 5,000 people in the crowd. He said the intention was to let people celebrate for a few minutes, but the crowd quickly grew and things got out of hand.

Tuscaloosa Police Chief Brent Blankley said there were ABC agents, Tuscaloosa and UA Campus police patrolling The Strip Monday night. Blankley said the celebratory atmosphere changed as more people continued pouring into the area.

The Chief said people started climbing trees, hanging off light poles, and some property was damaged.

Two people were hurt in the crowd and taken to DCH.

Maddox said he was “disappointed” in what happened with fans Monday night.

Statement from The University of Alabama about the crowd on the Strip after the National Championship Game:

In cooperation with the City of Tuscaloosa and area law enforcement agencies, over the last several days The University of Alabama worked to minimize risk before, during and after last night’s national championship football game. In addition to warnings and admonitions about the need for masks, social distancing and responsible behavior, the University added multiple officers to patrol areas around campus, including The Strip.

As a result of recent events, we are allowing faculty to be flexible for the next two weeks with the option to temporarily hold classes remotely. Students have the option to attend in-person activities remotely as well. Staff will continue with adjusted flexible scheduling. While UA classroom transmission is almost nonexistent, we understand the concerns caused by recent events. All health and safety rules remain in effect, including mandatory distancing, masks and other protocols. We will continue to enforce the Code of Student Conduct as it relates to COVID-19 and expect full compliance this semester.

ORIGINAL: The celebration Monday night in Miami as Alabama wrapped up its 18th national championship spread to Tuscaloosa, where the party on The Strip continued into the early hours of the morning.

Crowds arrived Monday afternoon in preparation for the game and filled the streets just after the 52-24 final sealed the title for the Crimson Tide, despite heavy enforcement from Tuscaloosa and University of Alabama police.

The celebration was picked up by ALGO cameras and quickly spread on social media. The crowd meant big business for bars in the area but it also causes concerns over coronavirus with positive cases rising in Alabama.

Last week, Tuscaloosa Mayor Maddox wanted Alabama fans in town to cheer on the Tide while doing what’s necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19.

We plan to check with authorities Tuesday morning to see if citations were issued last night to those not following guidelines.

Myron L. Pope, Vice President for Student Life, released the following statement Monday prior to the game:

Dear students, We are very proud of our football program as it prepares to play in the National Championship this evening. Our players and coaches have remained dedicated to the process and have overcome many adversities with class and passion. Our students have also demonstrated a high level of dedication and perseverance during this unprecedented time. As you prepare to return to campus, it is important to remain focused on doing your part to keep our community safe. Whether cheering on the team live in Miami, in Tuscaloosa or elsewhere, please remember: Wear your mask. Avoid parties or any large gatherings and stay 6 feet away from others. Make smart decisions before, during and after the game. Any unlawful behavior and/or violations of our health and safety protocols will result in disciplinary action. Be a good neighbor and respect the impact your actions may have on those around you. As a reminder, no in-person events are permitted for any student organizations during the first two weeks of the semester. At UA, we are fortunate to have many successes to celebrate, and we expect our students to do so responsibly and safely. Please set the example with safety, passion and class.

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