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Fight erupts at Cleveland kindergarten graduation

| Friday, May 31, 2013, 9:03 p.m.
Cleveland police take a woman into custody after a fight that broke out at Michael R. White Elementary, Friday, May 31, 2013 in Cleveland. A brawl that started over spilled punch at a kindergarten graduation ceremony Friday resulted in the arrest of eight people, authorities said. Police were called when one participant pulled out a pipe and another a hammer. Two teenage girls apparently started hitting each other at Michael R. White Elementary School, and their families joined in, Cleveland police Cmdr. Wayne Drummond said. The fight involved adults and minors, he said.

CLEVELAND — A brawl that started over spilled punch at a kindergarten graduation ceremony on Friday resulted in the arrest of eight people, authorities said. Police were called when one participant pulled out a pipe and another a hammer.

Two teenage girls apparently started hitting each other at Michael R. White Elementary School, and their families joined in, Cleveland police Cmdr. Wayne Drummond said. The fight involved adults and minors, he said.

“You had adults fighting adults, juvies fighting juvies, and so forth,” he said as parents streamed into the building to pick up their children. “You just had a melee here.”

No one was hurt, Drummond said. It wasn't clear whether the hammer and pipe were brought to the school or were grabbed during the fight from a janitor's supplies or elsewhere, police spokeswoman Jennifer Ciaccia said.

No charges were immediately filed, but those arrested were being booked for aggravated rioting, Drummond said. By city practice, charges are filed after prosecutors review a case.

A parent of students at the school, Brianna Smith, was alerted by a neighbor about the fight and went to the school to get her 7- and 12-year-old sons. “It makes me not want to send them for the rest of the school year,” she told The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer.

City Councilman Jeff Johnson lives across the street from the school, which is in a blue-collar neighborhood overlooking the leafy University Circle arts and museum district. He said the spilled punch set off the fight, with one person pulling out a pipe and another a hammer, leading school security officers to call police.

“Mouthing off, one thing leads to another and it spills out here,” Johnson said.

At least 10 patrol cars went to the scene.

“It was a very chaotic scene,” Drummond said. The fight erupted as the ceremony was ending about 11 a.m. and then moved outside.

Officers quickly restored order, Drummond said. More than the eight arrested were involved in the fight, and the initial heavy police response came amid a call, which turned out to be false, about shots fired, he said.

No students enrolled at the school were involved, district communications officer Roseann Canfora said in an email.

“It is embarrassing that parents during a kindergarten promotion cannot control themselves, and what we tried to do was respond significantly,” Johnson said.

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