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Massive fight breaks out at carnival, officer assaulted in viral video while trying to subdue one person

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Julie Shaw
The Philadelphia Inquirer

Norristown police are investigating a melee at a church carnival Saturday night during which cell phone recordings showed a police officer appearing to put a girl in a choke hold.

“My leadership team and I are investigating [Saturday] night’s events at St. Francis,” Police Chief Mark E. Talbot Sr. said in a statement posted Sunday on his department’s Facebook page. “A complete and thorough review will be conducted.”

The brawl occurred on the last day of the five-day Saint Francis of Assisi Carnival at Buttonwood and Oak Streets.

Talbot, in a statement posted Sunday on the Times Herald website, said that police “responded to a call for a large fight between more than 50 juveniles. Officers who responded to the scene attempted to break up the fight but were initially unsuccessful. The crowd ignored all orders by the police and continued to fight. Officers reported being kicked, shoved, and punched and were forced to call for assistance from several surrounding departments. Officers were eventually able to bring things under control but not before making several arrests.”

Cell phone videos recorded some of the action.

One onlooker’s video shows an officer appearing to control or arrest a girl, who is on the grass. As other youths scream at the officer, a second officer tries to push the crowd back. The first officer has his left arm around the girl’s neck in what looks like a choke hold. At one point, he swings his right arm to punch another girl confronting him. That girl then punches that officer.

The second officer then throws her to the ground while onlookers also attack the officers, the video shows.

Responding officers then arrive, with one holding what appears to be pepper spray and yelling to the crowd, “Get back!” as the onlookers disperse.

NBC10 spoke to the girl allegedly choked by the police officer. “I was saying, ‘I can’t breathe. Can you please let me go?’ It was pressing right on my neck. I couldn’t breathe at all. It was terrible,” the 14-year-old girl told NBC10.

Talbot met with residents Sunday afternoon at Norristown’s Municipal Hall to address concerns about what happened.

“This is not a racist police department,” Talbot said in an NBC10 video. “This wasn’t an act of terror by the police. These officers were overcoming a significant amount of resistance.”

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