Beat Up a White Kid Day refers to a custom among some minority children in the city of Cleveland, Ohio of beating up white children on May 1. The only incident of this resulting in a court case or media attention occurred in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2003. The judge in that case concluded, "based on the evidence I've heard, May Day is reality and the evidence was overwhelming that this was an attack based on May Day and that the victim was chosen because she was white," the attackers explained the attack as being motivated by "May Day" or "beat up a white kid day," and many readers wrote in to the Cleveland Plain Dealer to report similar experiences.
May 1 traditionally has been a celebration of spring, a day of political protests, a day for organized labor and, in many countries, it is a national holiday. May Day (a name used interchangeably with International Workers' Day) has long been associated as a day honoring the working class—those who sell their labor efforts for wages and do not own the means of production. This "Day of the Worker" originated with the 1886 Haymarket Riots and has long been a focal point for demonstrations by various socialist, communist, and anarchist groups.
On May 1, 2003, school officials and students at Wilbur Wright Middle School separately notified police that "a large fight" was planned for after school near the intersection of Almira Avenue and West 110th street in Cleveland, Ohio. Initially, it was believed that police arrived as the attack was under way. However, two police cars were there prior to the attack and when school let out, they saw a large group of students walking in the street on West 110th. From their automobiles, the police warned them to walk on the sidewalk.
Some of the students moved to block the police cars as part of the preplanned attack. With the police kept at a distance, a pack of twelve girls and six boys, ages 9 through 15, began to run towards Melissa King, a 13-year-old white girl who was a student at Wilbur Wright and was walking home with two friends. On reaching King, one girl grabbed King's hair from behind and yanked her to the ground. Then the black and Hispanic youths, 17 of whom were students at Wilbur Wright, beat, kicked, and choked her. As they pummeled and scratched at King, the attackers called her "honky," "white trash," and "white bitch." One attacker was overheard saying, "I hit her and got my stomp in."
By the time police broke up the attack, King suffered serious injuries to her head, arms, face, neck, back, and an eye and experienced dizziness and blackouts that required repeated visits to the hospital. When the attackers were asked separately by the police officers why the victim was jumped, each one stated, "It's May Day!" They each went on to explain that May Day "is the day blacks beat on whites" and is known as "beat up a white kid day." Others familiar with the attack said that it wasn't personal, but that it was merely in keeping with the May Day tradition where minority children get a "free shot" at white children simply because of their race. However, defence lawyers and prosecutors both agreed that the attack sprang from a personal vendetta between Melissa and one girl. This girl testified that Melissa had overheard her talking to a school counselor after she was sexually abused and attempted suicide, and claimed that Melissa had spread gossip about this. Within a few days of the attack, Wilbur Wright school responded by suspending five of the eighteen attackers from school for ten days.
When the attack was publicized a day later in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, more than 100 readers contacted the newspaper to confirm that the May Day ritual had been alive and well for years and "celebrated" in desegregated communities throughout the United States. Many in their 20s recalled staying home sick from school on May Day in the 1990s or hurrying home to avoid getting hurt. Some teachers did not give homework that day because they knew attendance would be down. Although annual assaults on white children by minorities is rooted in certain public schools on Cleveland's West Side, the event may have multiple origins. For example, one man recalled that when he served in the military, many of his friends reported, participated in, or became victims of this annual ritual in desegregated communities throughout the United States.
In June 2003, the juvenile justice unit of the Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office filed felonious assault and aggravated riot juvenile charges against the eighteen attackers. Noting that the attack was some sort of May Day ritual with the "focus to beat up a white kid," the juvenile justice unit also charged the attackers with ethnic intimidation—a hate-crimes law. In July, Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court Judge Joseph F. Russo entered not guilty pleas and appointed lawyers for the youth, and issued arrest warrants for the four who failed to attend the court hearing. Judge Russo ended the trial on October 2003 with six convictions. These six individuals admitted aggravated rioting, and two of those admitted to felonious assault. Judge Russo said that testimony from prosecution witnesses including Melissa was too conflicting, inconsistent and sometimes obviously false to prove the culpability of four defendants beyond reasonable doubt. However he concluded that "based on the evidence I've heard, May Day is reality and the evidence was overwhelming that this was an attack based on May Day and that the victim was chosen because she was white." In drawing such a conclusion, Judge Russo suggested that white students in Cleveland's integrated public schools have reason to fear assaults by minorities in so-called May Day attacks every May 1. In acknowledging the existence of Beat Up a White Kid Day, Judge Russo reasoned that "This terrible tradition must be stopped by sending a message."
- Jim Nichols (October 3, 2003). "Four May Day defendants are cleared But judge says lore about day to attack whites is true". Cleveland Plain Dealer: pp. B1. Archived from the original on 2007-10-01. http://web.archive.org/web/20071001010641/http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/plaindealer/access/417722301.html?dids=417722301:417722301&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&date=Oct+3,+2003&author=Jim+Nichols&pub=The+Plain+Dealer&edition=&startpage=B.1&desc=Four+May+Day+defendants+are+cleared+But+judge+says+lore+about+day+to+attack+whites+is+true. Retrieved 2007-05-29.
- Ross, Shmuel. 2006. May Day. Obtained. April 25, 2007.
- The FHL Research Team. (May 20, 2005) May Day. Obtained April 25, 2007.
- Regina Brett (June 18, 2003). "All bigotry is equally bad". Plain Dealer: pp. B1. Archived from the original on 2007-10-01. http://web.archive.org/web/20071001000037/http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/plaindealer/access/348842511.html?dids=348842511:348842511&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&date=Jun+18,+2003&author=REGINA+BRETT&pub=The+Plain+Dealer&edition=&startpage=B.1&desc=All+bigotry+is+equally+bad. Retrieved 2007-05-29.
- Miller, Steve. (June 20, 2003) Washington Times "Special day probed in girl's beating 18 preteens, teens charged in attack on white victim, 13." Section: Nation; Page A12.
- Albrecht, Brian E. (June 14, 2003) Plain Dealer (June 14, 2003) "18 kids are charged with racially motivated beating of teenage girl." Section: Metro; Page B7.
- Hiaasen, Scott. (July 26, 2003) Cleveland Plain Dealer "May Day suspects say they have alibis; Youths are accused of racial beating." Section: Metro; Page B1.
- Dissell, Rachel; Hagan, John F. (June 22, 2003) Cleveland Plain Dealer "May Day': Fact and myth Legend of annual race attacks in schools fuels fear, assaults." Section: Metro; Page B1.
- Fulwood III, Sam (June 26, 2003). "Race and rape: Shock enough for all.". Cleveland Plain Dealer: p. 1. http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/plaindealer/access/352097171.html?dids=352097171:352097171&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&date=Jun+26%2C+2003&author=SAM+FULWOOD+III&pub=The+Plain+Dealer&edition=&startpage=01&desc=Race+and+rape%3A+Shock+enough+for+all.
- Cleveland Plain Dealer (October 2, 2003) Template:"'May Day' case winding down." Section: Metro; Page B3.
- Nichols, Jim. (September 30, 2003) Cleveland Plain Dealer Template:"'May Day' assault left girl in fear, pain, mom says." Section: Metro; Page B2.
- Pitts, Leonard. (June 20, 2003) Miami Herald "Two racism cases, different lessons." Section: Local; Page 1B.
- Morris, Phillip. (May 11, 2004) Cleveland Plain Dealer "May Day legend, like casino slots, is a sucker bet." Section: Forum; Page B9.
- Brett, Regina. (June 20, 2003) Cleveland Plain Dealer "May Day violence far from myth." Section: Metro; Page B1.
- Nichols, Jim. (September 29, 2003) Cleveland Plain Dealer "Prosecutors say race relations not on trial in 'May Day' case." Section: National; Page A1.
- Pitts Jr., Leonard. (June 21, 2003) Charleston Gazette "Racism occurs because America is racist." Section: Editorial; Page 4A.
- Cleveland Plain Dealer (July 13, 2003) "May Day beating case in court." Section: Metro; Page B3.
- Nichols, Jim. (October 21, 2003) Cleveland Plain Dealer "Instigator apologizes for attack." Section: Metro; Page B4.
- Feagler, Dick. (October 5, 2003) Cleveland Plain Dealer "Curse of racism comes in more than one color." Section: Forum; Page H1.
- Brett, Regina. (October 8, 2003) Cleveland Plain Dealer "May Day ritual accepted as fact." Section: Metro; Page B1.