Yeshimabeit Milner was in high school the first time she saw kids she knew getting handcuffed and stuffed into police cars. It was February 29, 2008, and the principal of a nearby school in Miami, with a majority Haitian and African-American population, had put one of his students in a chokehold. The next day several dozen kids staged a peaceful demonstration. It didn’t go well.
That night, Miami’s NBC 6 News at Six kicked off with a segment called “Chaos on Campus.” (There’s a clip on YouTube.) “Tensions run high at Edison Senior High after a fight for rights ends in a battle with the law,” the broadcast said. Cut to blurry phone footage of screaming teenagers: “The chaos you see is an all-out brawl inside the school’s cafeteria.”
Students told reporters that police hit them with batons, threw them on the floor, and pushed them up against walls. The police claimed they were the ones getting attacked—“with water bottles, soda pops, milk, and so on”—and called for emergency backup. Around 25 students were arrested, and many were charged with multiple crimes, including resisting arrest with violence. Milner remembers watching on TV and seeing kids she’d gone to elementary school with being taken into custody. “It was so crazy,” she says.