Punks beat up on the Citizen Herald

New in the “grounded for life” category…it looks like our beloved Belmont Citizen Herald got more than it was bargaining for with the recent Cassie Norton story in last week’s issue on the “near riot” at the VFW Hall after drinking and fighting at a punk rock show got out of hand. As you may know from reading the story, things got out of hand after a hired security officer tried to remove a 16 year-old girl who had been fighting from the venue. According to the BCH report, which was based on the Belmont PD log of the event, the girl’s friends tried to “free the girl”‘ from the security officer while she was being led from the building, then harassed Belmont police officers when they arrived to lend assistance. According to reports, around 20 people surrounded the officers, pelted them with things and tried to take the officers’ portable radio. Mace was used to disperse the crowd.

But some of the kids in attendance and band members who were performing are using the BCH Web site to take the BPD to task for causing the riot (by *gasp* trying to remove a reportedly belligerent and intoxicated girl) and castigating the BCH for its allegedly inaccurate reporting. Almost sixty people have registered comments on the newspaper’s Web site in a heated back and forth concerning the night’s events. Included in the thread are gems like the one from a reader who used the online handle “ha” to rail against “corrupt Belmont pigs” who “desserved (sp) the humiliation they got and the riot was well worth 7 bucks.

According to the comments, some of the band members and attendees allege that the BPD was too aggressive in escorting the intoxicated teenager from the building and in handling the crowd that was gathered at the VFW to see the show.

Tony Schinella, the News Editor, admits that the VFW story was put together well after the fact — 10 days to be exact — after a review of the Police Log, and didn’t interview folks from the opposing side, though the paper is now trying to get differing accounts of the events that transpired that night.

While it’s often a case of “he said – she said” with these types of things, posts like the one from a reader who used the handle “christopherwalken” (somehow I don’t think it’s the world famous actor at work here) make it pretty clear where the fault lines. “Mr. Walken,” who apparently was in attendance, recalls that “what happened was one kid threw an empty water bottle that happened to hit a cop and he maced everyone. no one assaulted a cop, sure there was swearing at them, but thats no reason for mace,” then goes on to call the article “a complete lie.”

“Mr. What,” another poster who claimed to be a member of a band playing that night also acknowledges that “kids were voicing their opinion. Ok so maybe it seemed disrespectful, but if you saw someone being brutalized for nothing, wouldn’t you stick up for him or her,” and that “the throwing was stupid i’ll admit, but no reason to go SWAT team on a group of 14 year olds.

Oh, OK. Chris and What. So someone in the crowd that was swearing at the police and keeping them from doing their job just happened to lob a water bottle in the air that hit them. (I guess he was aiming for the recycling bin?) Then…lo and behold…the cops overreacted at being pelted and verbally abused and actually used their pepper spray to disperse the crowd (not actually hurting anyone as they could have with, say, the police issue batons they also carry).

I’m sure its no fun to be pepper sprayed, but let’s be honest here, even if the reports of cops being surrounded were inaccurate, the kids who commented admitted that attendees were drunk, they were swearing at the cops and pelting them with stuff. From the police perspective, they’re outnumbered and have no way of knowing that a water bottle is the worst thing coming at them — does someone who’s lit up on booze or ecstasy or whatever have a knife or gun? At that point, their job is to get the drunk kid arrested and get the situation calmed down, fast.

Hey, if this is a political event or a rally or any other peaceful gathering and you feel like the authorities are trying to squelch your free speech or constitutional right to assembly — I’m all for passive, nonviolent noncooperation. Get your cell phone camera out and make sure the world knows about it, too. But this appears to have been about drunk kids misbehaving and its hard to make an argument in favor of allowing that. Police are “officers of the peace” after all, and fighting, swearing and throwing stuff is disturbing the peace. Period. And, remember, it’s not the punker rockers’ peace but Belmont’s peace, and from the BPD’s perspective, that’s the only peace that matters.

As for all the blow back and the “you should have stopped us drinking if you didn’t want us to riot” comments — please. Where’s the sense of personal responsibility?