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ACLU Of Utah Responds To News Reports That Haka Dancers Were Pepper Sprayed And Struck With Batons At Roosevelt High School Football Game

24 October 2011 Published in Legal Advocacy

The ACLU of Utah called upon the Duchesne County Attorney to conduct an independent investigation into a recent claim of excessive force by the Roosevelt Police Department (RPD). This claim arose from an interaction between the RPD and a group of football fans, who were performing a Polynesian victory dance known as the “Haka,” in the stands during an October 20 game between Roosevelt and Uintah High Schools.

 

ACLU Of Utah Responds To Use Of Pepper Spray And Batons To Break Up Haka Dancers At Roosevelt High School Football Game

Duchesne County Attorney Should Independently Investigate Use of Excessive Force Against Haka Dancers, Says ACLU

 Posted 12/5/11 - The ACLU of Utah (“the ACLU”) called upon the Duchesne County Attorney to conduct an independent investigation into a recent claim of excessive force by the Roosevelt Police Department (RPD). This claim arose from an interaction between the RPD and a group of football fans, who were performing a Polynesian victory dance known as the “Haka,” in the stands during an October 20 game between Roosevelt and Uintah High Schools.

Read the press release >>


Roosevelt Police Department's Refusal to Publicly Release Report on Pepper Sprayed Haka Dancers is Inappropriate

Posted 11/2/11 - On Wednesday, November 2, the Roosevelt Police Department and Mayor's office issued press releases indicating that an investigation into the use of pepper spray and batons to break up a traditional Haka dance had been completed, and the report found that the officers had acted within department policy and state law in the use of force. The department has refused to release the report for public analysis without an official GRAMA request.

Below is a statement from the ACLU of Utah, attributable to Joseph Cohn, Interim Legal Director of the ACLU of Utah:

"The ACLU has read the press releases about the Roosevelt police findings with respect to last weeks troubling incident where Haka dancers were pepper sprayed and struck with batons at the Roosevelt High football game. We have not yet obtained a copy of the actual report. When we have reviewed the report we will be in a position to evaluate the credibility of its findings.

The ACLU of Utah contacted the Roosevelt Police Department to request a copy of the Report. The Roosevelt Police Department refuses to send it to us until we send them an official GRAMA request. Nothing in the law prevents the police from sharing its report with us or the general public. Their refusal to release the report immediately for public scrutiny is inappropriate and raises additional red flags. We continue to be deeply concerned by the actions of the Roosevelt Police Department."

Salt Lake Tribune: Police: Officers who used pepper spray Haka dancers within policy >>


Posted 10/24/11 - News reports and video’s posted on Youtube have brought to the ACLU of Utah’s attention that on Thursday, October 20, 2011, officers from the Roosevelt Police Department used pepper spray and batons on a group of people performing a Haka Dance at the conclusion of the Roosevelt High School football game.

According to published news reports, the Roosevelt Police Department is conducting an investigation into the incident. The ACLU of Utah is deeply troubled by the images and accounts of the incident, and we have written to the Roosevelt Police Department requesting that we are sent a copy of any report that results from that investigation.

In our letter we expressed our hope that the Police Department will conduct “a fair, comprehensive, and unbiased investigation into this matter, that to the extent that your report reveals wrongdoing, those who are deemed to have used excessive and unwarranted force are held accountable, and that training will be provided to your force to ensure that another incident like this is never repeated."

Accordingly, we encourage anyone with information regarding the incident to report it to the Police Department, so that they have an opportunity to assess the information and respond appropriately. At the same time, we encourage those with first hand knowledge of the incident to share that information with us, so that we can adequately monitor the situation as well. Our online law enforcement complaint form can be filled out here >>

Read the ACLU of Utah letter to the Roosevelt Police Department >>

Deseret News - ACLU responds to post-game pepper spray incident >>
Fox News - ACLU reviews claims of excessive force in Roosevelt Police pepper spray incident >>
KSL video story - ACLU responds to post-game pepper spray incident >>