The 1 1/2-hour protest ended abruptly as police, responding to several calls about property damage, dispersed the crowd and chased students down the street in squad cars. A group of girls screamed and cried as an officer approached them. One of those arrested told his attorney that he was bruised and scratched as police slammed his face into the ground several times and hit him in the stomach.
Minneapolis Police Chief Tony Bouza said yesterday that his department's internal affairs division is investigating allegations that officers overreacted and used excessive force.
The students were objecting to a recent school letter to their parents, stating that youngsters could be disciplined for wearing "overly conspicuous or overly distracting" dress such as spiked hair, studded bracelets, belts, gaudy makeup and shower caps.
The protesters, many of whom were not "punkish" in dress or hair style, argued that they have a right to wear whatever they choose and were exercising their freedom of speech yesterday. The director of the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union said the issue raises potential censorship questions.
Those arrested were released to their parents. Students who refused to return to school yesterday could be suspended, a school official said.
Several officials of the two-year school, at 5757 Irving Av. S., blamed the media for contributing to the disturbance. Some students expressed dismay and regret that what was to have been a peaceful hallway sit-in went out of control with the youngsters locked out. Principal Rachel Leonard could not be reached for comment.
"It became a riot and anarchy," said Scott Campbell, an eighth-grader. "We should have just sat."
Here's a chronology of what happened yesterday:
The planned sit-in began at 9 a.m. in the second-floor hallway. But within 30 minutes, the students were told to go outside because they had become rowdy and disruptive, said George Haakenson, an associate superintendent of the Minneapolis School District.
The doors were locked behind them, and the youngsters milled around the school chanting, marching and talking about their right to wear whatever they choose.
"What you wear has nothing to do with what you have up here," said Rhea Mayfield, 13, pointing to her head. Michael Keynes, 13, added that current expressions in dress and protest are akin to those of the 1960s hippie movement.
Students said they were told that if they left their second-period class they would get Fs for it and may face suspension. Several said Principal Leonard's letter to restrict dress to prevent disruptions in classes backfired. "Now we're outside and we're not learning," said Patty Humphries.
School officials refused to allow reporters into the school yesterday morning, and Leonard didn't return phone calls. At one point during the demonstration she opened the door and told reporters, "Thanks for all the help you did. You had three of the youngsters injured ... You encouraged students to come out "
Students said that shortly before 10:30 a.m. police warned them to leave or face arrest. Police also asked several reporters to leave, in order to discourage students from lingering outside.
But the students stayed. And with no warning or sirens, several squad cars arrived and youngsters fled with police following.
One youth, a student organizer of the protest, hobbled on crutches, stumbled and fell to the ground as three police officers subdued and handcuffed him. With his crutches nearby and his cheek pressed into the ground, he yelled, "You can't do this." Jim Gilbert, his attorney, later said, "It looks like an extreme over- reaction and excessive use of force."
Lt. Ron Findorf, of the juvenile division, said later that police acted properly and, professionally. "Anytime you make an arrest with a guy on crutches who doesn't want to be arrested, anything we do we're not going to look professional."
Several students watched the youth's arrest, occasionally yelling, "brutality." Two others were taken into a police van.
One girl screamed and cried as an officer grabbed her. Other girls around her also became hysterical, hugging each other and crying. The officer released her.
School officials at the doors told students they could come in if they wanted to return to class, or go home. Some girls clung to Scott Campbell, a student who had been talking to school officials, as he led them back inside.
By noon about 20 students remained outside. "I came here for a purpose and I won't go in," said Erin Perusse, 13, as she shivered without a coat. Some of them started to walk home.
Monika Cruse was among several parents who supported the students' stand. She came to the school around 12:15 to see what happened to her daughter, Antoinette, after hearing about the protest's outcome.
While she said she could understand the school's point of view, she said that "if the school is wrong, students have a right to let them know how they feel. They have freedom of speech ... When I was going to school, it was the miniskirts."
Haakenson, of the school district, said later in the afternoon, that a few students sprained their ankles during the demonstration. "I don't think the school did anything that was improper today" he said. "I don't think any student that I know of was prohibited from attending a single class at Anthony." He added that classes were held as students demonstrated outside, though many could be seen looking through the windows.
The protest does not change school officials' support for Leonard's letter to parents last week, stating that some of the students' outlandish dress was "distracting to the educational welfare of the students," Haakenson said.
He stressed that the school was not imposing a "dress code," but a dress restriction.
Matthew Stark, director of the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union, said the only legally recognized dress codes are those designed to protect health and safety. He cited a 1969 U.S. Supreme Court' ruling, which stated that neither students or teachers shed their rights to freedom of speech at the schoolhouse gate.
Terri Richards, mother of an eighth-grader, said, "What's the difference between this and the hairdos of 15-20 years ago -- the bouffants and the teasing? If the kids have spikes, it's their choice."
Police said they decided to disperse the crowd after they had received at least two reports of students jumping on a car and trampling through yards. Another complaint came from a resident who said students blocked the alley.
Police said the students arrested, one of whom was an Anwatin Junior High student, were released to their parents, and reports will be turned over to the County Attorney's office for review.