- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 7, 2008

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — About two dozen teenagers were detained yesterday afternoon during a rowdy protest outside the State House.

The students — who were calling for more funding for education — were handcuffed after trying to carry a cardboard coffin up the steps of the State House.

Shouting, “No education, no life,” the students said they were calling for more public school funding from Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat.

“They’re taking away money, which is taking away education, which is basically taking away life,” said Arnisha Owens, 17, a student at Baltimore City College, a public high school.

About 300 students attended the protest on a field trip. As students shouted their support for funding education, about two dozen of the protesters attempted to haul a fake coffin made of cardboard and wrapped in black cloth inside the State House. They were cuffed by State House police and detained in a legislative hearing room for about an hour before they were released.

It was not clear what exactly the students were protesting. They mentioned cuts to the Thornton educational funding formula, and might have been referring to a phase-in to a portion of that formula. Others mentioned protesting a recent Baltimore City Schools proposal to pay students for high test scores.

State House police said the students had a protest permit, but that the permit did not allow entry into the building. Police said they gave the students a lecture and then released them.

The cuffed teens waited a few moments on the steps of the State House, then were taken inside an office building across the street. Soon after, public school buses arrived to take the remaining students home.

State authorities downplayed the protest.

“Kids will be kids,” said Al Collins, secretary of the Department of General Services, which handles State House security. “It’s serious, but kids are kids.”

Mr. Collins described the detained youths and one adult as “more aggressive” than the other protesters.

“It’s a warm day in February. The kids really got into their civics lesson,” Mr. Collins said.

Cedrick Smith, a humanities teacher at Baltimore City College, clutched a copy of the book “A Civil Action” and said the students were prepared to be arrested during the protest.

“Young people are serious about their education,” Mr. Smith said. “Pretty much everything that happened was planned to happen.”

The trip was authorized by Baltimore schools. A spokeswoman for Superintendent Andres Alonso, Edie House, confirmed that the field trip was approved but would not comment on the unruliness of the protest.

“It was a sanctioned field trip, and they were there learning about the political process, and that’s all I can really say about it,” Miss House said.

Many of the students were affiliated with an after-school tutoring organization in Baltimore called the Algebra Project. Algebra Project office manager Faye Brown said all city public school students were allowed to go to Annapolis and that six buses loaded with students were sent to the rally.

Miss Brown called the protest a success. She said those detained came “from somewhere else,” but did not elaborate.

“I’ve been sitting in the office all day getting calls about the protest,” she said. “And that means someone’s listening.”

Delegate Nathaniel T. Oaks, Baltimore Democrat, left a committee meeting to check on the protest and talk with the detained students. He said they were in high spirits and reminded him of protests he attended as a youth in the 1970s.

“I picketed the State House, too. We did the same thing,” Mr. Oaks said.

A spokeswoman for the governor said Mr. O’Malley’s proposed budget for next year adds $184 million for the Thornton education funding formula.

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