Jason A. Kahl, Reading (Pennsylvania) Eagle, February 28, 2008
Reading, PA—An impromptu celebration of the Dominican Republic’s independence day involving as many as 1,500 students outside Reading High School erupted in violence Wednesday afternoon.
A city police captain was injured and at least a half-dozen students were arrested.
An unruly crowd of 1,000 to 1,500 high school students blocked streets around the school and threw rocks and bottles at police when officers tried to disperse them, authorities said.
Deputy Police Chief Mark E. Talbot Sr. said the violent mob was unprecedented and created one of the scariest situations he’s had in his career in Reading.
Some students hit parked cars with baseball bats, and at least one student was reported hurt after someone hit him in the head with a bat, police said.
About 40 police officers—every on-duty officer in the city—responded to the melee, investigators said.
Acting schools Superintendent Anthony A. Georeno said Wednesday night that students of Dominican descent were involved in a variety of celebrations in the school during the day, including an approved assembly with a speaker.
Georeno said he did not know the name of the speaker nor the topic of his presentation.
Police said they did not know why the students became unruly as they were dismissed from school.
Police said school administrators and staff watched as chaos erupted outside the school and did nothing to help police struggling to control the crowd.
Georeno said a group of students he described as jubilant unfurled a Dominican flag as they left the school and held an impromptu parade.
He said school officials did not intervene because the students were orderly and peaceful as they left school property.
Many students waved red, white and blue Dominican flags and wore red shirts as they paraded.
Students shook their fists and yelled as cars passed.
Police said some of them were running onto porches shouting. Neighbors did not know what was going on, and police said they were caught off guard.