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Pepper spray used to disperse dancers after Union, Uintah game

Published October 22, 2011 10:55 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Roosevelt police are investigating an incident that left several people covered in pepper spray.

On Thursday after a football game between Union and Uintah high schools, police said a group of people began to perform a ceremonial Polynesian dance to honor players from the Union team.

The people began performing, but were blocking an exit as team players and game officials attempted to leave, police said.

Two Roosevelt officers and some school officials tried to provide an exit but failed. Then officers used the pepper spray, according to a news release from the police department.

Several people were reported to have been affected by the spray. Police said many people in the crowd knew the group was going to dance but others, including the two officers, didn't.

Zack Aguiniga, who was at the game to watch one of his younger brothers play, said people were standing by the field entrance and as the players got closer, the group began to sing and dance. "As we're there watching, we could hear the cops say, 'make a hole,' " Aguiniga said. "But they were in the middle of their dance, and if anyone knows the Haka dance, they're loud and talking in unison."

All of a sudden, Aguiniga said, the cops started pushing, and out came the pepper spray. "They [the dancers] were confused as to what was going on, and so was everybody else," Aguiniga said.

Some people reported being hit with police batons.

Jessica Rasmussen went to the game to support a friend in the team. That friend, who is a senior at Union, had about 20 family members attend the game. Rasmussen said about 10 or so of his male relatives were the ones who decided to perform the dance for him and the rest of the players.

Rasmussen said that the crowd, coaches and players told police that everything was fine and they should let the men do their traditional dance.

"Five seconds into it, the police officers started coming at them with their clubs, telling them to make room . . . They started spraying Mace," Rasmussen added.

Aside from those doing the dance, Rasmussen said she and others watching also got spray in their eyes, ears and mouth.

Police are asking anyone with information on what happened and those wanting to file a complaint to contact Chief Rick Harrison or Detective Pete Butcher at the Roosevelt Police Department on 255 S. State St.




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