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Five students charged with hate crimes in 'racially motivated' incident, police say

Police said the suspects in the Wednesday morning attack at the Coconut Creek Recreation Complex in Florida shouted "It's Opposite Day!" and "brown power!"

Five Florida middle school students were charged with hate crimes after allegedly attacking a group of children while exclaiming “brown power!” — an incident police are calling a racially motivated crime.

The five juveniles, who were in sixth to eighth grade at Lyons Creek Middle School, were arrested on charges of battery and evidence of prejudice while committing a battery, a third-degree felony. In Florida, evidencing prejudice while committing an offense is considered a hate crime.

The incident unfolded Wednesday morning at the Coconut Creek Recreation Complex, about 40 miles north of Miami, according to arrest reports from the Coconut Creek Police Department. The center is across the street from the school.

The arrest reports list four victims.

According to the arrest reports, the students approached the victims, yelled “It’s Opposite Day!” and “brown power!” and beat them. The arrest reports noted that the comments were made before and during the alleged attack.

One of the victims ran up to an officer at the recreation complex crying, saying he had been battered, one arrest report said.

The student said that he was approached by a group of kids unprovoked who said to him, “You are white,” the arrest report said. He was then tackled to the ground by one student, which “subsequently allowed the group of the middle school kids to start hitting him with their hands, feet and phone chargers,” according to the report.

Another victim accused one boy using a piece of a stick to hit him on the leg. Other kids gathered around him and also tackled him to the ground, hitting him with their hands, feet and phone charger cords, the report said.

One of the victims told NBC Miami he was attacked after he was dropped off at the complex before classes. The suspects allegedly hit and kicked him and yelled comments that led him to believe he was targeted because he is white. 

“I put my hands up so they don’t whack my face,” the victim, whose father asked the news station not to show his child's face, said. “After they jumped me, they said, this is, like, revenge for what they did in the 1700s for slavery.”

NBC News has reached out to Lyons Creek Middle School and Broward County Public Schools for comment.

The district said to NBC Miami in a statement the principal of the middle school sent out a robocall to inform parents of the off-campus incident.

The district said it is always working to provide a safe and secure learning environment and will work to ensure that any off-campus incidents do not impact students at the middle school, the news station reported.

The father of one of the victims said school officials “can’t do anything to the other kids because it didn’t happen on school property.”  

He told NBC Miami that his son wants to go back to school “because all of his friends are there, but he doesn’t feel safe. There’s an opportunity to move out, but that seems like a punishment.” 

No serious injuries were reported, according to police.

Police said in a news release they will work with school officials “to see that the suspects are appropriately dealt with, the victims receive appropriate services, and that the incident doesn’t manifest into further conflict.”

“We are disappointed to take law enforcement action in response to a racially-motivated crime by school-aged children within the City of Coconut Creek," Police Chief Butch Arenal said in a statement. "This is an extremely rare occurrence in our community. But these are children, and as such, poor judgment can occur."

Lawyer information for the suspects was not immediately available.