Cherie Burford, 17, was at a disco dance with 750 other Washington high school students early yesterday morning when some people in the crowd began throwing folding chairs through the air.
"Everybody started shoving and screaming, and one of the chairs just missed me," she said.
Minutes later, police officers arrived and ordered the crowd out of the Radio Music Hall at 815 V St. NW. As the youths surged outside, they began throwing bottles and rocks at the officers.
They threw bottles for nearly an hour, until 2:20 a.m., throughout a three-block radius of 8th and V Streets NW. It is a run-down are of apartment buildings, warehouses, vacant lots and street-level stores.
One policeman suffered cuts on his leg. A dozen police cars were dented. Broken glass from the bottles filled the streets. Five windows in the music hall were shattered. But no arrests were made, and there were no serious injuries.
There was no looting. After about and hour, the youths drifted home, on buses and on foot.
"They threw bottles because they were mad at the police for making them leave," said Harry Coleman, 17, a senior at Cardozo High School who is a member of the disco band that played for an hour last night at the hall. "They paid $5 to dance all night and they couldn't get their money back."
The youths, who attend high schools throughout Washington, spend most friday and Saturday nights disco dancing. The Radio Music Hall was packed to capacity early yesterday morning, and a crowd of several hundred teen-agers waited in the pleasantly warm night at the front and rear doors, hoping to get inside.
They were anxious to dance to the music of three local disco bands: the Peacemakers, Rare Essence, and Trouble. Around 1 a.m., when members of the Rare Essence slipped into the building, about 300 youths who had been standing outside stormed inside the building with the band members, according to the police. The youths began shoving and pushing the teenagers in the already packed dance hall.
Members of Rare Essence, who attend Ballou High School, set up their instruments on the balcony above the dance floor. But they decided not to play because of the confusion. When they refused to play, about 30 youths on the balcony began throwing chairs at the band members, according to Goffrey Adams, security guard at the dance. Some chairs fell from the balcony onto the wood dance floor, hitting a few youths.
"The band members were defending themselves with microphone stands," said Officer J. J. Adamany. "They were fighting for their lives. They were never so happy to see police."
Police ordered the youths to leave. It was then that the teen-agers began throwing bottles and rocks.
"We had hundreds of people throwning bottles in all directions," said Sgt. Richard Straitt, holding a shotgun.
About 25 police officers from five of the seven police districts moved among the teen-agers, ordering them to disperse. Some officers had dogs with them. Three sergeants carried shotguns.
"We were worried about looting," said Officer Adamany. "We tried to protect the liquor stores along 7th and Florida. If this had been Connecticut Avenue, we would have had a problem because of all the clothing stores."
James Howk, property manager of Radio Music Hall, said the teen-agers broke about 75 of his chairs, worth about $400. "We usually have gospel programs here," Hawk said. "I never seen anything like this before. I don't think I'm going to let any kids in again."
At 3 a.m., in a station wagon parked two blocks away from the music hall, Peaches Johnson, 19, wearing dark slacks and spiked heels, was crying.
"She was shoved around and landed on her face." said her sister, Tania, who was sitting in the front seat next to her. "We were out for a good time, but it was terrible."
The disturbance was the third here in recent months involving crowds gathered for rock concerts.
After a Sept. 3 concert in Anacostia Park that also featured "Rare Essence," a crowd of youths smashed a number of display windows at Morton's department store at 2324 Pennsylvania Ave. SE and looted it. Store officials estimated the loss at $75,000.
One Oct. 28, part of an overflow crowd of teen-agers waiting to get into a concert at the Ontario Theater at 1700 Columbia Rd. NW, looted the nearby Casa Zpata clothing store of $20,000 worth of goods.