Community leaders discuss chaos at Florida State Fair's Student Day
By: Jessica Vander Velde
February 18, 2014
TAMPA — Some blamed the Sheriff's Office, some blamed the schools. Many blamed the parents of misbehaving youths. Others said Tampa's churches need to be more involved.
All agreed that mass chaos at the Florida State Fair cannot happen again.
About 100 people gathered at Beulah Baptist Institutional Church on Tuesday evening to learn more about the Feb. 7 scene at the fair from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. Col. Jim Previtera described groups of more than 100 teens stampeding through the fair, breaking into fights and terrifying vendors.
He had videos that he said would speak for themselves. They would show the chaos, which prompted deputies to eject 99 people, arrest 12 and close the fair early on its first Friday, a free day for Hillsborough students.
But most clips, gathered off cellphone cameras, showed children laughing and running. One depicted a blurry fight. If they were misbehaving, the children did not appear violent in most of the footage. Some in the crowd at Tuesday's meeting grew restless.
"They're kids!" said Bridgette Welch, 44, who wondered if deputies were exaggerating.