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Scattered Violence as Students Protest Police Shooting of Schoolmate

February 24, 1995

PATERSON, N.J. (AP) _ Community leaders pleaded for calm after an angry student protest over the police shooting of an unarmed teenager during a drug bust ended with scattered looting and violence.

The pleas led only to more chaos.

An NAACP meeting Thursday night quickly turned ugly. The crowd of 200 jeered officials as some called them ``sellouts″ and others shouted ``No justice!″

Much of the crowd’s anger was also focused on the media throng, and reporters and camera crews were roughed up and forced out of the building. A TV cameraman was hit on the head by a bottle and about 20 journalists said they were hit with pepper spray. Minor injuries were reported.

The 16-year-old student shot by the police officer is black; the officer is white.

The meeting was held hours after about 200 students from Eastside High _ the school made famous by bat-wielding principal Joe Clark and the movie ``Lean on Me″ _ marched on City Hall during their lunch hour.

The students demanded that Mayor William Pascrell Jr. talk to their representatives, and he did in a private meeting.

One representative, sophomore Tyrone Moon, emerged to declare the meeting a success. But his voice, amplified with a megaphone, could barely be heard over the boos.

``We don’t want to hear that,″ some in the crowd yelled. ``We want justice now!″ others shouted. ``No more talk!″

Pascrell also was shouted down when he tried to speak.

There was scattered looting when a crowd of youngsters broke off from the main protest and ran through the streets, breaking a few store windows before they were subdued by police in riot gear. Nine people were arrested; an 18-year-old student was critically injured when he was struck by a police car as he ran across a street.

The melee lasted about an hour before the streets became quiet.

Lawrence Meyers was unarmed when he was shot in the head by rookie housing officer Ronald Cohen Tuesday night. Meyers was in critical condition and on life support; a prosecutor said he had no brain activity and was clinically dead.

The U.S. Justice Department and a grand jury are investigating. Cohen has been placed on paid administrative leave.

``We are extremely concerned about the assignment of a young, inexperienced officer to such a sensitive task as a narcotics unit,″ the NAACP said in a statement issued in conjunction with the Gov. Christie Whitman, the mayor, the attorney general’s office and a coalition of ministers.

A demonstration Wednesday night in front of City Hall prompted by the shooting also turned violent. Four people were charged with assaulting police officers.

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