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Thu Apr 24 10:32:07 SAST 2014

Cops pepper-spray kids after mistaking haka for riot

Jennifer Dobner, Sapa-AP | 07 December, 2011 18:060 Comments
A police officer uses pepper spray while trying to make an arrest after the Tri-Nations Rugby League match between Australia and New Zealand at Telstra Stadium on October 15, 2005 in Sydney, Australia
Image by: Mark Nolan / Getty Images

The first time the police in the small Utah state town of Roosevelt saw a haka, they thought a riot was happening.

So they used pepper spray and batons on the spectators performing New Zealand’s native Maori challenge following a high school game of American football, including a dozen from a single family, one aged 4.

An investigation by the police of Roosevelt, 230 kilometres (140 miles) east of Salt Lake City, cleared their own officers of wrongdoing in the October incident.

But the Utah branch of the American Civil Liberties Union said the police report was “anything but objective,” and noted the police failed to consider a video of the haka or statements from 15 witnesses who said they did not feel threatened by the performance.

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