Call for tolerance training in Minneapolis schools after spat becomes 300-person brawl

By Stephen C. Webster
Monday, February 18, 2013 13:12 EDT
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Police on the campus of South High School in Minneapolis. Photo: Screenshot via The Star Ledger.
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A Minnesota-based Muslim group called for authorities to intervene in a Minneapolis high school with mediation and tolerance training, days following cafeteria spat between two girls that erupted into a 300-person brawl largely divided along racial lines.

The fight was so large that police were called in even after nearly 30 staffers intervened, according to The Star Tribune. Three Minneapolis South High School students and one faculty member were hospitalized following the dust-up, leaving police spokesperson Sgt. William Palmer to marvel that more damage wasn’t inflicted.

“We’re very fortunate no one got seriously injured,” he told the Tribune. “I honestly can’t recall a [similar] situation of this magnitude.”

Lori Saroya, executive director of the Council on Islamic-American Relations (CAIR) for Minnesota, told Raw Story that the fight last Thursday was the culmination of tensions between African-American students and the small minority of Somali-Americans attending the school.

“There has been tension at the school between different racial minority groups… It [boiled over] in a huge fight that involved between 200 and 300 people,” she said. “But I think this is a really good opportunity to promote inter-cultural understanding between two minority groups, African-Americans and Somalis. There is not a lot of interaction between those groups.”

CAIR said Monday in a release that school officials should use the incident to bring in outside mediators and teachers for cultural sensitivity training.

The fight comes against a backdrop of seemingly increasing racial tensions in the region, which was thrust into an uproar last month when students at the nearby Washburn High School caught national media attention by hanging a black baby doll in a school hallway.

“They called it a prank… [but it was] kind of like they were lynching the doll,” Saroya said. “It was clearly racist and promoted a lot of fear. A lot of students felt unsafe after that incident.”

“We see a lot of hate incidents in our state,” she added. “Everything from assault, arson, there was a cross burning not too long ago. Things that should not be happening in 2013, that are unbelievable they’re happening in this day and age.”

This video is from ABC Eyewitness 5 News, aired Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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