Protest Turns Unruly at Connecticut High School

Student disturbance required riot-like protection


BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Mayor John M. Fabrizi was jeered and pelted with bottles as he tried to quell a melee involving hundreds of students outside a high school.

The mayor, who was hit in the shoulder with a plastic bottle, was unhurt in the incident Tuesday. No students were arrested during the disturbance, which began as a protest against proposed school budget cuts.

Police said they will question a student suspected of vandalizing the locks of the mayor's city-owned sport utility vehicle.

The disturbance began at Harding High school when a fire alarm was pulled and hundreds of students surged onto a nearby street. Police closed the street.

Fabrizi went to the school to try to calm the crowd and was greeted with jeers and plastic bottles. Many in the crowd said his proposed budget threatens school programs.

The Board of Education sought $168.2 million for the fiscal year starting July 1 and the mayor's budget would provide about $8.5 million less. School officials say it could result in large program cuts.

School administrators with bullhorns urged the students to return to class, and many eventually went to the gym where Interim Superintendent of Schools Clarence W. Tolbert discussed school spending.

Police formed a protective circle around Fabrizi as several hundred students left the gym's bleachers and headed toward the mayor.

Jhataea Gates, 15, shouted at Fabrizi, "We were told you are going to cut sports, get rid of teachers and take away the school buses."

"It's absolutely not true," Fabrizi replied. "These students were misinformed to create a near-riot and the adults who did this need to wake up."

The crowd eventually dispersed and students returned to their classes after Fabrizi agreed to meet with leaders of the protest.