What started out as a lunchtime food fight in a Minneapolis high school ended in a massive brawl involving hundreds of students and police officers wielding canisters of Mace.
Minneapolis South High School was placed on lockdown shortly before 1pm Thursday after violence broke out during third-period lunch inside the cafeteria between Muslim and black students.
The fight involved 200-300 students and lasted about 15 minutes, leaving four people injured. Teaching continued as usual during the lockdown, but students had to remain in their classrooms.
Students were let out at 3pm as usual, and parents were not asked to pick up their children. After-school activities proceeded as scheduled, CBS Minnesota reported.
According to a message posted Thursday afternoon on the school’s website, the incident began unfolding at around 12.45pm and quickly escalated into a large-scale physical confrontation.
More than 20 staff members and two school resource officers responded immediately and attempted to break up the fight, but were unable to handle the situation and called the Minneapolis Police Department for help.
Dozens of police officers who arrived on the scene tried to disperse the crowd of brawling teenagers, but to no avail.
They then formed a human chain often used during crowd control situation and called on the brawlers to stand down, but when that failed, police sprayed Mace into the air above the crowd.
Four people, including three students and one staff member who was hit in the head with a bottle, were sent to a hospital. Police said no weapons were used in the altercation, and the teens’ unspecified injuries were not related to the fight.
A dozen people also complained of suffering from side effects related to the chemical agent sprayed by police. They were treated on the scene for Mace inhalation.
Student Abdi Sheik told CBS that the fight escalated into a ‘big riot’ over racial hostilities that have long been bubbling under the surface.
According to witnesses, an initial fight happened during the first lunch period when one student threw a milk carton at another. By the time the third period came around, the situation spiraled out of control, with boys hitting girls and some students lying on the floor and covering their faces in surrender.
Some members of the South High School community said that the violent incident was the culmination of ongoing tensions between the eight per cent of Muslim students of Somali decent and the 20 per cent who are African Americans.
‘I don’t feel safe here,’ senior Guled Omar told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. ‘This is something that has been going on [for at least two years].’
In a statement posted on the school’s website, district spokesperson Stan Alleyne wrote: ‘South is a very diverse high school.
‘It is a microcosm of the city. Students function together at a high level every day. That is the strength of this school. Our students live diversity every day.’
So far, no charges have been filed but police said students involved in the melee could potentially face assault, riot, and other counts.