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Massive food fight leads to brawl at Minneapolis high school

February 15, 2013|By Marisa Gerber

A massive food fight involving hundreds of students at a Minneapolis high school escalated into a brawl that left several injured and forced the school into partial lockdown, officials said Friday.

South High School staff called in the police to help break up more than 200 students who had massed on Valentine's Day and started flinging food, bottles, utensils -- "anything they could get their hands on" -- through the air, Minneapolis police Sgt. William Palmer said.

During the school's first lunch, someone hit a girl in the head with an item, he said. By second lunch, rumors swirled around campus. And by third lunch, students were on edge.

Soon, students swarmed. A shaky cellphone video of the commotion shows a wave of students trying to run away from the crowd. One girl tripped, another accidentally let go of her heart-shaped, helium-filled balloon.

Within minutes, Palmer said, students began shoving one another and staff members. Some people fell to the ground, others were pinned up against walls.

When 10 police officers arrived around 12:30 p.m., they shouted commands to disperse. The students ignored them, Palmer said, and then two officers sprayed Mace into the air above the throng.

One of at least five people hospitalized after the fight was a student complaining about exposure to Mace, Palmer said. Another student sustained an ankle injury from jumping off a table, and a staff member was hit in the head with a hard object during the fracas.

Police plan to review surveillance tapes, Palmer said. Depending on what they see, students could face felony riot, misdemeanor disorderly conduct or misdemeanor assault charges.

Asked about previous safety concerns on campus, Palmer wouldn’t comment, but stressed that South High School isn’t unique.

“This is a high school in America, there are fights,” he said. “This was just a much larger fight."

In a recorded message sent to parents Thursday evening and posted on the high school's website, principal Cecilia Saddler explained that the school would operate under a “code yellow” again Friday, meaning that students had to remain in their classrooms at all times and that access into and out of the school would be limited.

In a written statement released Friday, the school district said that despite the extra security presence, officials were striving “to make this as normal a school day as possible.”

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marisa.gerber@latimes.com


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