MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A number of police cars responded to Minneapolis South High School Thursday after an alleged food fight escalated into a melee involving 200 to 300 students.
The school posted a note on its website stating the it went on a precautionary code yellow lockdown due to “a food fight that escalated into a physical fight.”
The school said Thursday night that classes are still scheduled for Friday.
Sgt. William Palmer, of the Minneapolis Police Department, said no weapons were involved in the incident. However, four people were taken to the hospital following the melee.
Those taken to the hospital were a school staff member, who was hit in the head with a bottle, and three students, who suffered injuries unrelated to the fight, the school said. It did not elaborate on what injured the three students.
Twelve people complained that they had been sprayed with mace. Police at the scene said they had to use chemical agent to get the crowd under control as they were being pelted with objects as they tried to break things up.
The main incident occurred during the school’s third period lunch, around 12:45 p.m., and lasted about 15 minutes. About 20 staff members responded to the incident and followed security procedures, according to the school.
One student, Abdi Sheikh, said he saw hundreds of students fighting in what appeared to be a racial incident.
“A big riot,” he said. “It was all types of races.”
Sheikh said about 20 police rushed into the school shortly after.
Another student, Symone Glasker, said that an initial fight happened during the school’s first lunch period. By the time the third lunch period started, all the hype from the initial fight caused tensions to boil over.
“My lunch was third lunch,” Glasker said. “There was fight after fight after fight. People couldn’t breathe…It was very scary.”
She said the fights were over pride.
“I know it’s a pride thing between Muslims and black people,” she said. “They want their pride back for something. I don’t know.”
She also said “boys were hitting girls” and that some people were lying on the floor, with their hands over their heads, in surrender.
“They didn’t know if someone was going to bring out a knife, or if someone was going to bring out a gun,” Glasker said.
The fight, students say, was the result of long-simmering tensions between the 8 percent of students who are Somali Americans and the 20 percent who are African Americans.
School officials said dismissal would take place as usual and parents would not need to pick up their kids. Afternoon activities will also go on as scheduled.
Students were told to stay in their classrooms during class. The school remained on lockdown following the fight until the dismissal.
The school posted on its website, “Maintaining a safe environment for our students is a top priority. Fighting is not tolerated at school or on school property. We are committed to following the MPS discipline policy in instances of fighting.”
Stan Alleyne, the Minneapolis Public Schools chief of communications, gave a statement, saying South High is a school that continually makes the district proud.
“South is a very diverse high school,” Alleyne said. “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.”
Police are now reviewing video of the incident from several angles, as it was caught on surveillance cameras. No arrests were made.