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Miami Edison Senior High: Students Protest and Police Riot
by Max Rameau (CopWatch)
Monday, Mar. 03, 2008 at 12:10 AM
Miami and Miami-Dade School police are rioting against students of Edison Senior High School on the morning of Friday, February 29th. The story is all over local and national news, but is being skewed against the students. Here is the real deal:
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On Thursday, February 28th, a teacher apparently put a student in a choke-hold during school, according to eye witnesses and CBS 4 News (http://cbs4.com/local/disturbance.miami.edison.2.665835.html "One student told reporters that the fight started after students staged a protest Friday morning against a teacher at the high school who allegedly placed a student in a choke-hold Thursday.") Then, police enter the classroom and brutalize the student before arresting him in front of classmates and a teacher, according to eye witnesses and the Miami Herald (http://www.miamiherald.com/news/breaking_news/story/438888.html "The student, she [an unnamed teacher] said, was handcuffed in front of his classmates and teacher."''They felt as though the way the young man was handled wasn't proper; they felt it was too brutal,'' said the teacher, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she did not have permission to talk with the press.")
The mostly black and largely Haitian-American Miami Edison students organized a protest this morning at the school courtyard. According to all accounts, the protest was peaceful, possibly including civil disobedience (Miami Herald: "The incident apparently began as a peaceful protest, according to a teacher inside the school, but got out of hand." CBS4: "The student said police were called to the school to respond to the protest, and when students objected a scuffle broke out, escalating quickly into an all out fight between students and officers.").
Police were called in to break up the protest and when the students refused- exercising their right to protest- school and city of Miami police attacked them and the students defended themselves against attacks by police.
While the media is trying very hard to connect this police riot to instances of violence at Miami-Dade schools over the past two days, it is clear that in this case the schools themselves started the fights and inflicted the majority of the violence. CNN.com is calling this a "school fight."
There are currently over 70 police cars at Miami Edison and police are arresting large numbers of students. No police or administrators have been arrested for assaulting students.
CopWatch and the Power U Center for Social Change are calling on people to support students' right to protest and condemn school police for mistreating students.
Please call the Miami-Dade County school board to complain about this police abuse: 305-995-1000.
Miami Edison Students to Protest Monday March 3, 7:30AM
by Max Rameau (CopWatch)
Monday, Mar. 03, 2008 at 12:18 AM
After successfully propelling themselves onto the stage of a public meeting regarding police attacks on protesters, Miami Edison Senior High School students are preparing to boycott what they call an "unsafe" environment at the school. The boycott starts on Monday, March 3, 2007 at 7:30am at Athalie Range Park, across the street from the school on 62nd Street and NW 5th Avenue.
In response to the incidents of Friday, February 29, when school, city of Miami and Miami-Dade County police brutally beat, tased and sicked K9 dogs on students protesting police brutality on campus, the school principal called an open meeting on Sunday, March 2 at the school. She began the meeting by announcing that students will be heard on Monday, at a school assembly, but not at the public meeting. In addition, the public was not allowed into the school assembly, a clear attempt to prevent the student's from publicly relaying the events of the 29th.
Students, however, maintained their protest spirit, chanting until the Principal agreed to allow students to speak. While she promised the police would be available to answer questions, neither Chief Darling of Miami-Dade Public Schools or any other police officer answered questions from students, parents or the public.
Student leader Chris Green spoke eloquently about what he witnessed and the biased media reporting on the story. Green also laid out the student demands, including the arrest of assistant principal Perez for assault on a student; dropping all charges on those arrested Friday; No retaliation against students; and the institution of Restorative Justice as a problem solving model, instead of arresting more young people in the future.
In addition, Green and other students announced the boycott. Students are asked to arrive on time and in full uniform for school, but instead of reporting to school, gathering at the Range Park across the street. Many students and parents expressed concern that they were to return to the same school and police force responsible for the violence on Friday. Organizations supporting the student movement are organizing workshops and classes at the park. Students say the boycott will continue until all demands are met and they feel safe at the school.
Defying charges of apathy and lack of civic involvement, the youth of Edison saw a wrong and organized to stand up for their rights. Instead of talking to the students and working towards a solution, the administration ordered the police to beat and arrest the mostly Black students. These young people are on the front line of a new wave of student activist and need our support and understanding, not beatings and jail time.
CopWatch is calling on activists to show up at the Athalie Range Park, with video and still cameras, to support the students and protect them from other potential attacks by the school administration and police. Students are gathering at 7:30am Monday and will remain throughout the school day.
Edison students not troublemakers
by Scott Miller (Edison Teacher)
Thursday, Mar. 06, 2008 at 7:50 PM
As a teacher at Miami Edison Senior High School for the past four years, I have had many difficult and challenging days. But never have I felt as low and helpless as I did Friday. I was shocked to see students whose safety is entrusted to me being pushed back by police in riot gear and, in some cases, thrown to the ground. Seeing students crying, traumatized by what they had seen, while more police arrived with dogs, hurt me profoundly.
Contrary to what some may expect, the students arrested were, for the most part, not troublemakers. No weapons were found. A review of their academic records may surprise others.
At Edison we have been under unbelievable pressure to continue our gains on the FCAT. This year we have had many visitors who have come to see the "Edison Miracle," including Gov. Crist.
Some of the students handcuffed in the back of police cruisers were the same ones who were asked to dress up and greet our distinguished guests. Keep in mind that pep rallies, student clubs, dances and other social activities have been cut back or replaced with rigorous academic scheduling and rallies for the FCAT.
As a witness to the chaos that engulfed our school, I am thankful that nobody was seriously injured or killed. A thorough investigation of this travesty and the events leading up to it is necessary. But if we are to move forward and save our school, we must stop and listen to our children. As African-American History Month has given way to "FCAT Preparation Month," how ironic that our students, however misguided, had to give us a lesson in what happens when you replace imagination and vision with objective, measurable benchmarks.
Vague arrests muddle Edison High case
by Evan Benn and Trenton Daniel
Sunday, Mar. 09, 2008 at 12:45 PM
Most of the Miami Edison High students arrested in a recent school fight will be hard to convict of any crime, legal experts say, because police failed to say in their arrest affidavits exactly what the students did.
Officers responding to the Feb. 29 brawl changed the names and contact information on each student's form, but the charges and descriptions of what happened are almost identical on 23 of the 26 forms.
"Form affidavits are a huge red flag that the arrests were done hastily," said Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, a Miami lawyer and past president of the local American Civil Liberties Union. "You have to wonder, did the police really make a determination of wrongdoing for every student, or did they just round everybody up and let someone else sort it out?"
In the 23 near-identical arrest reports, officers wrote they were "monitoring a school lunch recess area." Then:
"Defendant and co-defendants conducted a protest . . . Protest became physical when def and co-defs began pushing officers as they were being instructed to return to class."
Though each student is charged with resisting arrest with violence, starting a brawl and disrupting a school assembly, none of the 23 reports specifies what an individual student did to merit the charges.
Attorneys say arrest affidavits must show why police have probable cause to arrest someone. Generically worded copies -- known as form affidavits -- often do not hold up in court.
The day after the arrests, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Barbara Areces found that the arrest forms for two of the juvenile students did not include enough specific information for her to find probable cause that they should be detained or put on home detention.
On Monday, Circuit Judge Lester Langer sent home all but one of the juvenile students without any conditions.
Rodriguez-Taseff compared the Edison cases to the arrests of hundreds of protesters in downtown Miami during the 2003 Free Trade Area of Americas summit.
"The police used form affidavits then, and 99.9 percent of those cases were dropped or dismissed," she said.
In three of the arrest reports, officers gave some extra details about their justification for the charges.
Jerry Garland White, 18, was observed pushing a police sergeant "with great force in the chest," according to his arrest narrative. In another narrative, police said 16-year-old Winchy Saint Hilaire threw a milk carton at an officer's head. He then "began to fight by throwing punches and kicks." Both students are charged with battery on an officer, as is the third student whose arrest form contained specific language.
Schools officials say 10 officers suffered minor injuries in the melee. Schools police Cmdr. Charles Hurley declined to comment on the similar language of the arrest forms, citing the ongoing investigation.
Joe Pollini, a retired New York police officer, said police are forced to act fast in a large fight or riot situation.
''They're thinking about the quickest, safest way to suppress the incident,'' said Pollini, who teaches a police procedures class at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
"We used to pick up 20, 30, 40 people at a time during demonstrations at Central Park," he said. "But you have to prove each one did what you said they did. If there's not video evidence or detailed descriptions on the arrest forms, the vast majority of cases will get thrown out."
Lawyers for the students say the vague arrest narratives will work in their favor in court.
"The arrest forms don't even identify which officers were hit or pushed or struck," said Rod Vereen, a Miami attorney who volunteered to represent some of the students. "It's going to be hard for the officers to testify as to who did what among 200 children in a fight."
The kids involved in the brawl are a mix of honor students and habitual class-skippers. Some are in Advanced Placement courses, serve on student government and hope to go on to college and careers. Others have racked up dozens of unexcused absences and tardies this year.
Vereen, a recently elected ACLU member at-large, said he's hopeful the state attorney's office will drop the felony charges or work out arrangements that allow the students to avoid criminal records.
"We are investigating the validity of the arrests and determining how to proceed just like we do in every case," said Ed Griffith, the office's spokesman. "This is no different."
If prosecutors decide to file formal charges against any of the students, Vereen said he's willing to take the cases to trial.
"I can't see a jury, made up of mothers and fathers, wanting to ruin these children's lives because of a fight that got out of hand," Vereen said.
Miami Herald staff writer Susannah A. Nesmith contributed to this report.
Slide show | Edison High students protest morning classes
by John Vanbeekum
Sunday, Mar. 09, 2008 at 12:55 PM
Slide show | Edison High students protest morning classes
Students walk out of Miami Edison High Monday morning to start a planned boycott in protest to what they say is abuse by the school's administration. JOHN VANBEEKUM / MIAMI HERALD STAFF
IN MY OPINION: After conflict, a valuable lesson
by Ana Menendez
Sunday, Mar. 09, 2008 at 1:01 PM
After the cameras, after the activists and the cops and the 10-cent demonstrations, Edison High School will go back to being what it was: a troubled and largely forgotten urban school in the heart of one of the poorest cities in the nation.
That might not be such a bad thing.
Once the well-meaning third-parties move on to other issues, Edison can start to figure out what went wrong a week ago when a confrontation between a student and an assistant principal ended with some two dozen arrests and a standoff acrimonious enough to draw the attention of the ACLU.
Chanting and carrying placards are emotionally satisfying responses to conflict, especially for those with little stake in the matter. But the only people who can get to the heart of the problems at Edison are the people who walk its halls every day. For help, they might turn to the negotiating skills developed for diplomats, world leaders and L.A. gang members.
Four miles from Edison High School sit the offices of the Peace Education Foundation (http://www.peace-ed.org). The 28-year-old foundation is dedicated to the noble idea that people can be taught how to resolve conflicts.
"Conflict resolution" is a phrase that seems to provoke involuntary eye-rolling, a mushy-sounding notion easy to deride as kumbaya yearnings for the Oprah crowd. But it works. Especially when the alternatives are violence and indifference.
"Conflict is the stuff of life," said Chuck Bryant, a senior staff trainer at the Peace Education Foundation. Most conflicts, from those between a parent and child to those between nations, are about a few basic things, Bryant said: "Respect, power, possessions and values."
Before conflicts can be resolved, they have to be understood. And for that, people need to talk, preferably with the help of a neutral mediator.
"First, there should be some kind of sit-down with ground rules. Not to accuse or blame, just to find out what happened," Bryant said. "That's often a challenge for people in authority, especially when something has gone badly. Even good people, decent people, find themselves unwilling to confront the issues because they might look bad."
Edison's principal began meeting with students this past week, said schools spokesman John Schuster. "And today they held a pep rally," he said Friday.
School spirit is a fine idea. But it can't mask the deeper issues that gave rise to the confrontation in the first place.
Over the long term, Bryant suggests something like a student grievance committee that could meet at least once a week at the beginning to communicate problems directly with administrators. The key is to make the conversations non-confrontational on both sides. And that means stepping back from the edge now.
DESERVING OF RESPECT
Among those demonstrating on behalf of Edison students last week were two young men I respect: former Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia, the anti-war activist who went to jail for abandoning his unit, and Jacob Coker-Dukowitz, who led the student campaign on behalf of the janitors at the University of Miami.
Both the anti-war cause and the UM janitor fight merited their confrontational tactics; the first for being so massive an issue and the last for coming after a period of fruitless negotiation.
The Edison conflict is different. There's still a chance for everyone to talk and be heard.
Communication. As a slogan, it's pretty boring, if not downright naive. But it's the one thing Edison can cling to long after the placards are put away and the activists go home.