Morgan State to review police actions during melee at dedication ceremonies

September 20, 1991|By S. M. Khalid

The director of Morgan State University's police force said he was investigating how officers handled the melee at Dedication Day ceremonies attended by Gov. William Donald Schaefer yesterday that left at least two students, two officers and a 6-month-old infant injured.

But Reese L. Boyd denied charges by some students that his officers used clubs and handcuffs and threw punches to stop a (( student protest inside Murphy Auditorium, where the ceremonies were held.

"Our officers used very minimum force," said Mr. Boyd, director of the 33-officer force, who said he attended the ceremonies. "I did not see my officers use their nightsticks or throw a punch. I did not see any handcuffs used."

The incident started when Morgan State President Earl Richardson asked the crowd of 600 guests and students to applaud Governor Schaefer, who attended the dedication of five new campus buildings.

While most of the crowd stood to applaud, about 40 students demonstrating against a proposed merger of Morgan State with Coppin State College stood and booed.

At least six uniformed campus police and three plainclothes officers converged on the demonstrators, apprehending four and trying to eject them from the hall. The action prompted scuffles and heated arguments between the officers and student activists.

Lyle Grandison, a graduate student from another university, and Baruti Palmore, a University of Maryland student, said they were grabbed and punched before being handcuffed by campus police and led out of the hall.

"They were pounding me, hitting me," Mr. Palmore said. "I had no alternative but to fight back. They were trying to kill us in there. We had black college campus police officers beating the hell out of black college students."

Frank Uktiteyedi, 19, a Morgan State exchange student from Zaire, was being treated last night at Union Memorial Hospital for head injuries. Another student was released from the hospital after being treated for minor injuries.

Two campus police officers were injured, Mr. Boyd said. He said that Officer Thomas James, a three-year veteran of the force, was being treated for injured ribs and spleen and lung injuries. No information was available on the other officer.

During the melee, a 6-month-old infant was knocked from the arms of his mother and slightly injured when he fell on a seat, according to students. Police said the mother filed a complaint about the incident.

Several students said there had been student meetings and rallies during the past week to discuss, among other things, protests against the merger of the city's two historically black colleges.

Morgan administrators spoke with some students to discourage demonstrations.

Mr. Boyd said campus police had received reports about possible student disruptions of the Dedication Day ceremony, which he said included plans to throw eggs at the governor and for students to chain themselves to doors.

He said his officers stopped the protest because it "posed a safety threat to the guests."

But students leaders said they decided to boo the governor only after they were sitting in the auditorium.

The university later released a statement expressing its regret .. over the incident.

Mr. Schaefer's press secretary, Frank Traynor, said that the governor wasn't angered by the disruption and had expected some criticism of the plan to merge Morgan State with Coppin State.

Several hours after the melee, a group of about 100 angry students rallied in front of the campus police headquarters, where some of them filled out complaint forms.

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