NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CBS) – Moments of sheer chaos all caught on camera after a brawl erupted at a church fair in Norristown. Cellphone video shows people attack police and one officer putting a young woman in a chokehold.
A brawl between teenagers and police at Saint Francis of Assisi’s carnival saw several minors arrested. But now some are questioning police tactics over how an officer took one girl into custody.
Tensions were at a boiling point Sunday at a Norristown town hall meeting over a video showing police scrambling to break up a brawl involving about 50 kids at Saint Francis of Assisi’s carnival Saturday night.
Eyewitnesses say things went sideways as police were attempting to gain control.
During one arrest, someone in red shoes tried to get between the officer and the girl he was trying to put in handcuffs.
In the video, you can see the officer push that person away. That was when another girl in a black hoodie and jeans tried to intervene and ignored officers’ commands.
A fight then broke out between the girl and the officer. Another cop then threw the girl to the ground and a third officer appeared to pull out pepper spray while the crowded dispersed.
It turns out, however, that the officer didn’t spray anything.
“Very little force was actually used here,” Norristown Police Chief Mark Talbot said. “I had the opportunity to talk to (an officer) today and he said he’s glad he made it out of there.”
Parents of the teenagers say they’re all between the ages of 12 and 16.
Alisha Bates’ daughter was caught in the middle as punches were flying.
“I still see it in my mind and I hear the people screaming and the terror in their voice because of how afraid they were,” Bates, of Royersford, said.
The images of a violent altercation now fuel calls for an independent investigation.
Talbot argues the video doesn’t give a sense of what happened before things got out of control.
“Nobody takes a video until they think you’re doing something wrong,” Talbot said. “You can’t go back with the video and look and see what happened ahead of time. But they don’t capture all that we need to look into.”
Tanesha Webb’s 14-year-old daughter was also in the middle of it.
Witnesses say police threatened to use pepper spray but the crowd broke up before that happened.
“Clearly the training that they have doesn’t work,” Webb said. “Because if it did, none of these young women would have had a hand laid on them at all.”
“OK so everybody is talking about some type of restraint,” said Tara Green, an aunt of one of the kids. “We’re talking about a 16-year-old who just got punched in the face. Period. That’s the bottom line.”
Police wouldn’t comment on the status of the officer captured in the altercation, but they preliminarily say the use of force appeared to be in-line with what officers were confronting.
CBS3’s Matt Petrillo and Joe Holden contributed to this report.