Despite rumors, Penn State has not made a decision on whether the Paterno statue will be removed or not, but University spokesman David LaTorre confirmed Tuesday that the university would make a decision regarding the statue in the next seven to 10 days. Many people have been visiting the statue placing notes and flowers at the statue’s feet in support of Paterno.
A small commercial airplane trailing a message that said “Take the statue down or we will” flew over Beaver Stadium for about three hours Tuesday.
The message is a protest against the bronze statue of the late former head coach Joe Paterno outside Beaver Stadium, which has been surrounded with rumors of removal ever since Thursday when former FBI Director Louis Freeh released his investigative report on Penn State, implicating Paterno as having known of the child sex abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky and choosing not to report it to police.
Sandusky, a former defensive coordinator, was convicted in June on 45 counts of child sex abuse.
Freeh’s report also implicated former university President Graham Spanier, former athletic director Tim Curley and former Interim Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz as having known about the sex abuse and choosing not to report it to police.
The plane flew out of the Ridge Soaring Gliderport in Julian, Pa., Tuesday with a male pilot, according to Tom Knauff, co-owner of the Gliderport. Knauff said that the Gliderport is very commonly used by banner companies to fly planes out of.
The plane belongs to Drake Aerial Enterprises LLC, a commercial aerial banner towing company based in Genoa, Oh., according to Drake Aerial owner Jim Miller.
Miller could not say who flew the plane, who paid for the plane or the registration number of the plane, saying the information is “irrelevant.” Miller said his personal views have nothing to do with what the banner said.
“I’m an advertising company,” Miller said. “I believe in free speech and that’s it.”
University spokeswoman Lisa Powers said the university knows the plane flew over, but they haven’t taken much action yet.
“We are aware of the plane and University police took note and have its tail numbers. Any restrictions would, of course, have to come from the [Federal Aviation Administration],” Powers wrote in an email. “There’s not much action we can take related to this expression of opinion, but we are monitoring it and security has been increased.”
Penn State University Police could not be reached by press time Tuesday.
Later Tuesday night, two men stood guard against any actions against it Tuesday night.
Kevin Berkon (senior-crime, law and justice) and Mike Elliott (senior-economics) set up a tent and a sign that read “Protect the Paterno statue” Tuesday night at around 10:30 p.m., saying they planned to stay there through the night and through tomorrow, with only breaks for class.
Both said they believe that the Freeh’s report have only accusations against Paterno, and that nothing in it is concrete.
“I’ve read the entire [Freeh] report,” Berkon said. “I’ve researched it for hours and hours and there is nothing in it that can really fault Joe [Paterno].”
Berkon and Elliott both believe that the Freeh report is untruthful, and that it is only accusations against Paterno. Berkon said that most of the conclusions Freeh came to were only opinions and that his conclusions aren’t based in hard fact.
Berkon and Elliott said they expected a few more people to come, mostly friends, but planned to keep the gathering at the Paterno statue small. Berkon said that they had no large-scale events planned for the future.
“Until all the facts come out, I will not believe any of the accusations against him,” Berkon said.
Elliott said that if Penn State University Police came to take it down, there isn’t much they can do in regards to defending it, but that they are there more to protect it from being vandalized.
“The more people you have camped out here the less likely change there will be of people coming to do things to it,” Elliott said.
Berkon said that if they had to take it down, he would like to see it put in storage or in the Penn State All-Sports museum, at least until “all the facts came out.”
“As long as they kept it around so those who believe in him [Paterno] still get to see it,” Berkon said.
After Freeh’s report was released Thursday, University Police had an officer stationed at the Paterno statue until Sunday evening to make sure no vandalism was done to the statue.
Days after Freeh released his report, the Paterno family released a statement saying that they are challenging certain findings of the Freeh report and they are conducting their own review of its findings.