University of Michigan students protesting today to defend their right to tailgate
University of Michigan students plan to fight for their right to party this afternoon.
More than 1,400 students have confirmed on a Facebook events page they plan to attend a 3 p.m. protest march from the center of campus to Ann Arbor's city hall, defending their right to tailgate on game day.
U-M junior Joey Juanico, the organizer of the demonstration, said the march is in response to what students characterize as a "crackdown on tailgating" by the city of Ann Arbor during Homecoming Weekend.
Multiple houses on South State Street and other areas were ticketed during the weekend of Sept. 26 because of alleged underage drinking, sitting on roofs and noise complaints, among other violations, the Michigan Daily reported earlier this month. Juanico said he was at one of the parties that was broken up.
"We are aware of safety concerns and are more than willing to compromise with the city in making sure these events are safe and fun for everyone," Juanico said. "However, to destroy a culture and tradition in order to save a headache or inconvenience is unacceptable."
Saturday's game against Delaware State is the first home football game since Homecoming, when police broke up several tailgate parties on lawns.
Ann Arbor Police Lt. Angella Abrams said the police department had no official comment. She said anyone who obtains the proper permits is welcome to protest, and the department will let the march happen.
U-M senior Abhishek Mahanti, president of the Michigan Student Assembly, said his organization has been working as a liaison to the city on behalf of students upset about the tailgate crackdown. He said talks with the city attorney and police department have been positive so far, but the protest will go on to show students care about their right to tailgate.
"We're all ears to working together and getting to the bottom of this and figuring out how we as students can live our lives and how we can be safe and responsible and moderate about it," Mahanti said.
The city attorney's officeÂ sent notices to houses along the 900 block of South State StreetÂ in September,Â ordering them to "cease and desist from engaging in illegal and dangerous conduct."
City Council Member Stephen Rapundalo, D-2nd Ward, said despite what some students think, there is no "ban on tailgating" in effect. But, he said, the city is trying to curb "some behavior that is quite worrisome."
"There has been no shift in policy," he said. "Had there been, it would have been something that would have impacted the entire community. Instead, the police have identified a very acute public safety issue in that specific geographic location and are working within some longstanding city regulations and I think are most concerned about the safety of the students."
Juanico said today's march will begin on the sidewalk in front of U-M President Mary Sue Coleman's house on South University Avenue. He and friend Jubilee Olah spent Thursday afternoon painting a large banner that they plan to carry, reading: "It's not a tailgate, it's a tradition."
"It is a representation of our freedom to enjoy life and is deeply embedded into the history of not only the town of Ann Arbor, but throughout the United States," Juanico said. "It promotes a sense of community and friendship that has attracted myself as well as many others to the city of Ann Arbor from all over the country."
Ryan J. Stanton covers government for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at email@example.com or 734-623-2529.