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Jackson Arrested at Decatur Protest

November 16, 1999

DECATUR, Ill. (AP) _ Leading a made-for-TV demonstration that evoked the style of the civil rights movement, the Rev. Jesse Jackson was arrested Tuesday as he stepped onto the grounds of a high school to protest the expulsion of six students for a brawl at a football game.

Jackson was taken away in handcuffs after leading a throng of ministers and other protesters to Eisenhower High. He had promised to force his own arrest to dramatize the students’ cause.

Four other demonstrators were arrested, Jackson’s aides said. Police would not say who they were and what charges Jackson or the others faced, and it was unclear whether he would post bail or remain in jail.

The arrests came nine days after Jackson’s arrival in Decatur brought national attention to school officials’ decision to expel the students for their part in the Sept. 17 fight.

Jackson had indicated earlier he would try to bring the students back to school, but the teen-agers did not approach the police line.

``We want the youth to stand still knowing that their parents and their ministers would cross the line for them,″ Jackson declared. ``The parents will fight for their children. And that is a good and noble thing.″

Jackson inched toward the school through a phalanx of reporters, photographers and TV crews holding boom microphones high overhead.

At one point, he asked the media throng to move out of the way so he could approach the police line and get arrested.

At the law enforcement center where he was held, about 75 people gathered, chanting, ``Let the children in, let the reverend out.″

Jackson had spent Tuesday morning in closed-door talks with school officials but made no headway.

An emergency school board meeting was set for Tuesday night, but school officials indicated they were unlikely to offer further compromises.

The six students were expelled after in a brawl in the stands at a football game. A seventh student was threatened with expulsion but withdrew first. Three of the seven also face criminal charges.

Under pressure from Jackson and some state officials, including Gov. George Ryan, Decatur’s school board voted last week to reduce the expulsions from two school years to one, and to let the students attend alternative education programs immediately.

However, Jackson wants them reinstated as early as January if they do well in alternative school.

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