Euclid Roller Rink Fight Raises Questions About Youth-Police Relations
The owner of a skating rink where a fight broke out between youth and police says he and other community members will attend a Monday night Euclid City Council meeting to discuss the value of youth recreation after the city filed a nuisance complaint against him and his business.
The fight happened the evening of June 12 during an end-of-school party at Pla-Mor Roller Rink in Euclid.
Euclid police say the rink was nearing capacity, and that when they told kids waiting in line to go home, fistfights and shoving started. But Pla-Mor's owner, Miguel Sanders, says the rink wasn't anywhere near full when police showed up.
"I told them we were at 250 kids right then. And [an officer] said, 'Well, we need to do a physical head count'," Sanders said.
Officers told the crowd waiting outside that only 100 more people would be allowed in, and later that everyone should go home, according to Sanders. Only then, he says, did the crowd become impatient and begin jostling each other.
"The crowd of kids were predominantly African-American, and I saw no African-American officers," Sanders said. "And I just don't think they were sensitive to those children. Mace and pepper spray, there was no need for that."
The incident lasted several hours. Three youth and one adult were arrested; the adult had facial injuries, according to police. There were no other reported injuries. The city later filed a nuisance lawsuit against Sanders and Pla-Mor in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas.
“Given the severity of the incident and potential to quickly escalate out of control, immediate and reasonable steps were taken by police to protect people and property,” the police statement said. “These necessary measures prevented the already serious situation from becoming much worse.”
But Sanders says the root of the problem is a lack of understanding between Euclid’s police and its youth.
"Kids need to do something," he said. "I mean, the fact that all those kids came out on a Wednesday night to skate, that shows you that there's a lack of structured activities going on right now."
Councilwoman Christine McIntosh, who represents the skating rink's ward, says she looks forward to discussion about how to bring people together in a city that’s demographically split between white and black, longer-term residents and newer ones.
"There needs to be a greater push to find positive, productive activities for youth in our communities," she said. "Anything that can bring everyone together, I'd be supportive of."
A historic decal from the original Pla-Mor Roller Rink in the Fairfax neighborhood of Cleveland. [ClevelandHistorical.org]
The rink was renamed in 2009 in honor of the historic Pla-Mor Roller Rink in Cleveland — the only black-owned skating rink in the city through the 1960s. It later became the University Party Center, which was burned during the 1966 Hough Riots.
The incident comes a year and a half following the reinstatement of a white Euclid police officer who was given his job back after he punched a black man during a traffic stop, leading to heated dialogue about police-community relations in the historically white, now majority-black suburb.