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All who threw punches at that Norristown carnival looked bad — including the cops | Jenice Armstrong

There has to be a more effective way to control a crowd of unruly youngsters than what appears to have happened on Saturday night at that church carnival in Norristown.

A Norristown police officer holds down a 14-year-old at a church sponsored carnival in Norristown on Saturday.
A Norristown police officer holds down a 14-year-old at a church sponsored carnival in Norristown on Saturday.Read moreNone

Fight videos are a thing now.

But that video of a melee at a Norristown church carnival Saturday night was ratchet even by World Star Hip Hop standards.

All involved looked bad. The youngsters who threw punches — and also the cops.

The worst part was watching a 14-year-old put in a police choke hold.

It made me flash back to Eric Garner and how his final words had been “I can’t breathe” shortly before he died in 2014 after being placed in a banned choke hold by New York City police on Staten Island. Reading the girl’s lips, I could see her mouth the same words: “I can’t breathe.” It was awful.

Granted, it’s easy to second-guess law enforcement. Those cops in Norristown were clearly outnumbered. The teens weren’t obeying their commands and were coming at them from all directions. The chaos easily could have ended with someone getting shot. Some youngsters got close enough during the fracas to have grabbed an officer’s weapon. I’m glad that didn’t happen.

It’s also worth noting that none of the officers appear to have brandished their firearms. That shows restraint on their part.

But I also think there had to have been a more effective way to have controlled the situation.

I mean, these were kids — unruly kids, but youngsters nonetheless.

When I was their age, my friends would have run off before daring to confront police as they did. The reality is that many in this generation don’t respect law enforcement. They’ve heard too much about police brutality. Many today don’t view law enforcement the same way previous generations did.

Earlier this week, dozens of students at Stewart Middle School in Norristown walked out in protest of the police response Saturday night.

Taneesha Webb, a mother of one of the teens involved in the melee, told me the drama stemmed from an altercation earlier this year between her daughter and two other middle-school girls.

Her daughter had encountered those same girls at Saturday night’s carnival sponsored by St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church. The daughter and the girls traded blows.

“When the police officers got to the scene, the fight had been over,” said Webb, who also arrived at the carnival later that night.

“It’s pouring down rain. My daughter had no shoes on. No jacket. There’s a bunch of confusion," said Webb, a stay-at-home mother. "The police officer with the white hair immediately grabs [one girl] and takes her down to the ground.”

According to Webb, that’s when things really spiraled out of control. Onlookers began demanding that the officer release the teen who appeared to be in distress.

It was a crazy melee, with officers pushing and hitting the teens and some fighting back. It didn’t end until another officer arrived, aimed a can of pepper spray and yelled, “Get back! Get back! Get the f— back!” That’s when the young people ran away.

Norristown police have launched an investigation. The students are calling for an independent investigation. There are still many unanswered questions. Video snippets don’t begin to show the whole story. I want to know what led the officer to grab a 14-year-old by the throat like that.

The girl had been doing nothing wrong, Webb said, and the police didn’t ask questions before grabbing her. She said her own daughter has been dealing with nightmares stemming from the experience. Webb worries about what would happen if her daughter got into another altercation. Would she summon law enforcement or would she now think twice?

As I pointed out earlier, that was a crazy scene Saturday night. The kids were out of control.

Webb told me, “You have to know the entire story to understand why it went the way it went.”

Until more facts emerge, I’ll have to take her word for it.