By Ed Brock
A large fight at North Clayton High School that began with the throwing of a plastic bottle ended in 12 arrests.
Students at the school were attending an assembly in the gym around 11:15 a.m. Friday when the incident happened.
"They were having a Black History Month program in the cafeteria when one of the students started tossing a plastic bottle around," said Clayton County Police Capt. Jeff Turner.
That horseplay led to some fights in the gym and then more fights in the cafeteria.
"Before you know it the whole cafeteria was a brawl," Turner said.
Nine boys and three girls were arrested.
They included Amos Kendrick, 17, of Riverdale, Anthony Jackson, 17, of College Park, Rodney Scott, 17, of Riverdale, LaVincent Baker, 17, of College Park, Candace Edwards, 17, of Riverdale and Kevin Gould, 18, of Riverdale. Also arrested were four 15-year-olds and two 16-year-olds from Riverdale and College Park.
They were charged with affray, obstruction of police officers and disorderly conduct. Turner said the school's resource officer will review a video of the incident next week and more arrests may be made after that review.
A male teacher suffered an injury to his arm and was taken to a medical clinic for treatment.
Prior to the uproar the assembly had been going fine, said 18-year-old senior Harriet Witherspoon, with the school band playing music.
"That's when it all began, when the band played a nice song for us," Witherspoon said.
More chaos broke out as students tried to get off the bleachers and away from the fighting but teachers told the students to stay on the bleachers, said 18-year-old Rosalyn Ward, also a senior.
Initially the students were reportedly to be charged with inciting a riot.
"It wasn't a riot. It was nothing like that," Witherspoon said.
Witherspoon and Ward also complained that when police reinforcements arrived they began indiscriminately arresting students who were in the hallway.
"Innocent people were getting arrested," Ward said.
Turner said that police arrested students who they saw fighting firsthand or who school administrators and student resource officers pointed out as having been in fights before police arrived. The students may have thought some of the latter cases were innocent students because they were not fighting at the time of their arrests, Turner said.
Also, officers had to separate students when they arrived because the school was still in "pandemonium."
"We had to establish order first before ascertaining what was going wrong," Turner said.
The fight was not believed to be gang related.