On Wednesday night the University of Maryland men’s basketball team beat longtime rivals Duke University, and fans took to the streets. Campus radical Malcolm Harris was with them, and he’s written about what he saw in his column in the campus paper.

“I know as an activist I’m supposed to oppose sports riots,” Harris begins, but after what he saw on Wednesday night, he just can’t bring himself to. Students came together in “celebration and joy” that night, and “for a few hours, a student community existed apart from university structures.” When they chanted MARYLAND they didn’t mean “the buildings or the endowment or the logo”

“We meant one another.”

The night of revelry has been called a riot, and there was some property damage done. (Just how much is in dispute.) But the only real violence, Harris says, was perpetrated by the police who arrested twenty-three students “and beat and pepper-sprayed many more.”

Meanwhile, he says, students came together. White guys in backwards baseball caps yelled at the cops for singling out black students for arrest. When the police started banging their batons on their riot shields, the students yelled “de-FENSE!” in time with the rhythm. They made up chants and heard them spread through the crowd. They picked each other up when they fell. They connected. “Students of all stripes, shoulder to shoulder.”

Student activism has always straddled the line between politics and play, between organizing for social change and acting up for the hell of it. Either impulse can be creative or destructive, either can be deployed for positive or negative ends, but both impulses are, as Harris suggests, inherent to student agitation.

The students who swarmed onto Route 1 were, he says, remembering who they were.

“We are the students, we are not the police. This is our university, not theirs. This feeling has been in short supply … but Wednesday night the air was thick with it.”