Today, up to 10 children will file into court in Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court, accused of both aggravated rioting and ethnic intimidation, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.
The newspaper tells the story of Juanita, 14 (a pseudonym because she is a sexual abuse victim) and Cleveland’s Wilbur Wright Middle School. Last May Day, Juanita saw a target, Melissa, 13, leave the school. Juanita yanked her hair and knocked her down, and an after-school brawl escalated. As many as a half-dozen kids jumped on Melissa, pounding and kicking her until she had a concussion. More kids supposedly shouted insults at her. The accused attackers and the jeering mob were all minorities; Melissa is white.
Some of the kids blamed it on May Day–“That’s the day blacks beat on whites.” For a generation, the legend of racial pummelings on May Day has been so ingrained that each year legions of white students avoid school on May 1, often at their parents’ insistence.
Cuyahoga County prosecutors insist that Cleveland’s race relations are not on trial; rather, several 9- to 15-year-old school children are. “The thought that those 18 kids conspired to go find that white girl and administer this beating because it’s May Day is giving these kids way too much credit,” said Carmen Naso, chief of the proosector’s juvenile unit.
Juanita admitted to felonious assault, and has agreed to testify against others. Most of the youths will be in court because Juanita put them there. Attorneys for several defendants say the credibility of her identifications will be ripe for undermining.