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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 72/No. 11      March 17, 2008

(lead article)
‘Jail the cops who beat us’
demand Miami students
Militant/Maggie Trowe
Hundreds of students at Miami’s Edison Senior High School demonstrated after cops attacked a February 29 peaceful protest by students against the arrest of a fellow student in school.

MIAMI—Cops attacked a peaceful protest by hundreds of Miami Edison Senior High School students February 29. A number of students were injured and 19 arrested as 60-70 police cruisers descended on the school in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood.

“They pushed all the females up against the wall,” student government president Alain Vil told the Militant. “They brought dogs, canines, to sic on us. Mainly male police were beating on female students.”

Students had organized a demonstration in the cafeteria at lunch to protest the arrest of a fellow student the day before.

“The whole school was involved in the rally,” 11th grader Sabrina Francois said. “We joined in the cafeteria and marched to the front of the school. Police then drove people back into the cafeteria. In the cafeteria, police were calling us ‘bitch,’ saying ‘next bitch, next bitch’ after beating one of us.”

Richardson Denis, 18, a senior, said the police “stood on some students in the cafeteria.” Some students responded by throwing things at the cops. “I got milk, water, Gatorade, and everything else thrown on me, and I was the chief of police,” said Miami-Dade Schools Police Chief Gerald Darling. The county employs 215 cops to patrol schools full-time. This is the second-largest school police agency in the United States and the fifth-largest law enforcement agency in the county.

“Police had guns in our face like we were criminals,” said student Gregory Mott. Dozens of cell phone videos and pictures of the police riot were taken by students on the scene. Some used on TV news broadcasts and circulating on the web show cops drawing Tasers or other weapons and pummeling students with nightsticks. Students reported that police broke some of their phones in an effort to prevent publicity.  
‘They treated us like animals’
The protest rally was in response to a confrontation the previous day between assistant principal Javier Perez and senior Wadson Sagaille, 17. “Perez put him in a choke hold,” said Julian Jean-Simon, a senior.

“It’s not true that Wadson was fighting with Mr. Perez,” said Denis. “I was there.”

“This is not the first altercation by Perez,” said Vil. “He should be fired.”

Francois recounted, “I was in the cafeteria right next to Mr. Perez when he slammed a girl on the floor and slammed my friend Dawn Watson against the wall.”

“We were trying to do a quiet protest, like what they taught us in school,” said Watson after a court hearing for the students. “But they started treating us like we are animals.”

Many in the community expressed anger at the police violence. Others blamed the students for provoking the attack. “The children don’t respect authority,” one person told the Militant.

The night of the cop riot, scores of students, parents, and community members rallied outside the school. Teens were chanting “No Mercy. No Bail. Put Perez in Jail!” as they danced and waved fists in the air. Daisy McDuffie said her pregnant daughter Tangina was taken to the hospital after a cop hit her in the abdomen with a baton.

Three hundred people went to a March 2 meeting organized by school administrators. Marleine Bastien, executive director of Haitian Women of Miami, said that “all Edison High School staff and police officers who in one way or another behaved in an unlawful way with the students should be prosecuted.”

The arrested students were released but face court hearings and charges of resisting arrest and disturbing the peace. The Haitian Lawyers Association is providing legal assistance free of charge. Many of the students at the school are either immigrants from Haiti or the children of Haitian immigrants.

The students are continuing to protest. Two hundred people rallied at the start of school on March 3. Chanting “Drop all charges,” “We’re not animals,” “Perez must go,” and “School, not jail,” the students received supportive waves and honks from many passing on the street. Students booed when police cars passed by.

Most of the students who attended the rally and many who did not wore black in solidarity.

After the rally the students marched together back into the school.

Deborah Liatos contributed to this article.

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