After the Brawl

Everybody heard about the tussle between white cops and black students but the discord at Coral Gables High goes far deeper than that

At a March 20 meeting, black community leaders appealed to State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle to find a way to drop the remaining charges. They particularly rallied behind Lorenzo Woodley, a 255-pound fullback on the Gables High football team and a popular student who is considering whether to accept a football scholarship to a junior college in California. "[Woodley] needs to go to college and needs to become productive," begged school board member Frederica Wilson. "He's going to college, and it's my concern that he not have a criminal record."

Assistant superintendent Barbara Carey suggested that the two sides A police and defendants A come together and settle the issue out of court. "I'm here so these students don't have a criminal record. I'll tell you," she added ominously, "it's not going to be healthy for this community if those students are found guilty of something and the police get off for free." While Rundle expressed support for this idea, she pointed out that technically speaking, the police officers were the victims in the fight and "they have a lot of role in settling this case."

Denying a request for an interview with her son for this story, De-Borah Dukes, the mother of former defendant Octavius Veargis, pleaded for a quick resolution to the matter. "Enough is enough. It's time for a closing, a closing on the six kids making the right statement, a closing on the parents and the police chief," she urged. "We all have a good understanding of this. We love our kids. Let them know that my son Octavius is the most important thing in my life and I'm not going to let anything come between him being a happy person in life.

"Two days ago was his [nineteenth] birthday," Dukes went on. "And it was very disturbing because he had to go in and be interviewed by the State Attorney. What a way to celebrate a birthday! Enough is enough. It's time for the kids to enjoy themselves."

But apparently enough is not enough, and efficient diplomacy, while attractive in concept, is hard to come by when feelings of injustice run deep. Attorney Stephen Malove has notified Coral Gables officials that his client, Octavius Veargis, intends to sue the city for the emotional and physical distress caused by the arrest. Asked to explain the contradiction between her stated desire for a rapid and diplomatic reconciliation and the legal maneuvering on behalf of her son, Dukes became indignant. "Who ain't supposed to fight?" she demanded. "Everybody knows who was wrong. This is a revolution thing. It's a black and white thing.

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