Locke High School in South Los Angeles Locked Down After Huge Brawl

Howard Blume and Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times, May 10, 2008

A fight between rival groups of black and Latino students at Locke High School quickly escalated into a campus-wide melee Friday, with as many as 600 students brawling until police restored calm with billy clubs.

The troubled campus in South Los Angeles was locked down after the fight broke out at 12:55 p.m., as students returned from lunch to their fifth-period classes. Overwhelmed school officials called Los Angeles police for help, but students and faculty said it took about half an hour before dozens of officers, many in riot gear, restored order.

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Los Angeles Unified School District police said that there are only two officers assigned to Locke but that the school police force brought in about 60 officers after receiving word of the brawl. The Los Angeles Police Department also dispatched more than a dozen patrol cars and about 50 officers.

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The campus at 111th and San Pedro streets has long been one of the city’s most troubled. This school year has been particularly difficult, with near-daily fights—albeit on a much smaller scale—during much of the fall and winter. Locke is about to be reorganized as a cluster of charter schools run by Green Dot Public Schools, which will take over in July, and some faculty and staff have accused the district of letting the campus drift in its final year as a traditional public school.

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But then came Friday’s melee, which students and teachers said was by far the worst of the year, perhaps the worst in years.

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Sherlock, who said he saw police use pepper spray during the melee, said tensions between African American and Latino students have not been a serious problem at the school. With an enrollment of 2,600, Locke is 65% Latino and 35% African American.

“It’s not the way it’s portrayed in the media; that’s not what it’s like at all,” said Sherlock, who is black. Another black student, Ronald White, said African American and Latino students commonly divide along ethnic lines but aren’t necessarily hostile. “Everybody usually just sticks to themselves,” he said.

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Senior Victor Wong, 18, said the brawl grew out of a fight two days earlier between a Latino student and an African American student. Wong said Latino students who are friends of his asked him to participate in a fight planned for Friday that was to pit 10 Latino students against 10 African American students.

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In recent years, melees have broken out periodically at many campuses with a black and Latino presence, including in Los Angeles, Lynwood and Compton. There have been fights between Latinos and Armenians in other areas that led to campus lockdowns.

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