A massive brawl during halftime of the boys' basketball game played at Monessen (Pa.) High School last Friday has once again drawn attention to the deployment of Tasers to control unruly sports crowds. According to local media reports, several individuals were stunned into submission during what law enforcement officials termed a "borderline riot." The fight involving dozens of students and adults was believed to have started as a hallway argument between girls' basketball players representing Monessen and visiting Washington High, which had faced off in the first game of that day's double-header. (Spectators had been subjected to a metal detector upon their arrival.)
The growing melee spilled into the gym, and it took local and state police 40 minutes to clear the capacity crowd. Ultimately, the game's second half was played in front of empty stands, and Washington emerged with a runaway 71-52 victory. But just how to score the ensuing Taser debate is less clear. Reaction in the blogosphere both questioned and defended not only the need for Taser deployment in extreme crowd control situations but the very necessity of high school sports. Monessen coach Joe Salvino, at least, knew his team's place within the chaos. "We saw the police on the floor and they told us to stay in the corner," Salvino told the Observer-Reporter of Washington. "They were using Tasers and they didn't want to electrocute us." Whether aftershocks in the form of police brutality allegations persist remains to be seen as the storyline continues to unfold. Eighteen-year-old Chancey Roilton of Washington, who was tasered during the brawl and later cited for disorderly conduct, was arrested today by state police on drug charges. Meanwhile, video of Monessen sophomore Mario Tarver being tasered was still making the Internet rounds. "One of the first things he said was that he hates police, and that's not how I raised him," Bylly Tarver, Mario's father, told Pittsburgh ABC affiliate WTAE. "But situations like that, that strain relationships between police and the community, from one bad officer, can have a long-term effect. So, I have to go through the process of making sure he understands that it's not everybody. That's not a reflection of all officers."