US cops in clear after batoning Haka dancers
Two US police officers have been cleared of wrongdoing for using pepper spray and a baton on a dozen spectators performing a traditional 'Haka' war dance after a high school football game.
Uintah County Attorney G Mark Thomas found the two officers were justified in taking action because they feared a riot and because they were unfamiliar with the Haka war dance --a tradition more often seen at New Zealand rugby games. The October incident was caught on a blurry mobile phone video, which was posted on YouTube and has logged 1.8 million views.
The footage shows police pushing back the dancers at a high school in Roosevelt, east of Salt Lake City.
To cheer their team after their loss, the spectators adopted a wide stance, folded their arms and chanted in unison.
The Haka has recently spread to at least a dozen US high school football teams, especially those with large numbers of Polynesians.
Mr Thomas called the pepper spray and baton appropriate "weapons" used by Roosevelt officers to clear a stadium exit that the dancers were blocking.
They repeatedly ignored police commands but they believed their routine had the tacit approval of school officials and football fans, he said.
"Therefore, I do not believe the performers 'recklessly' caused a public inconvenience," he said. In his 21-page opinion, Mr Thomas found that "the officers did not use unlawful force. Therefore, the officers cannot be charged with criminal assault."
Officer Luke Stradinger, who deployed the pepper spray, said in a police report that he "never seen such an event, or even heard of such a thing."
The police were working on crowd control at the game.