Reader-submitted video of the disturbance on the corner of Melville and North streets in Pittsfield, Mass., after the Third Thursday celebration, May 17, 2012. Copyright, 2012, The Berkshire Eagle. This material may not be used without permission.

Friday May 18, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Dozens of police reinforcements, some from surrounding towns, streamed into downtown Pittsfield on Thursday night after a fistfight between two girls escalated into a melee involving well over 100 young people, according to police.

Six arrests resulted from the "large disturbance" that broke out shortly after 8 p.m. at the corner of Melville and North streets, according to Pittsfield Police Capt. David Granger.

No major injuries were reported in the incident.

Granger said a number of police officers were assaulted during the disturbance and that about 20 or 30 members of the crowd were "out of control" with the rest shooting video and yelling.

"If we had more police officers, there would have been more arrests," he said.

The incident began as Third Thursday festivities were winding down and two bicycle officers tried to clear a group of people, mostly teenagers, off the street so it could be reopened to traffic.

A fistfight then broke out between two girls in the group, and when the two officers went to break up the fight, Granger said, "mob mentality took over.


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The two officers, Sgt. Matthew Hill and Officer Cheryl Belknap, called for assistance, and all 20 police officers on duty at the time responded. Assistance was also provided by the Massachusetts State Police, the Berkshire County Sheriffs Office, and the Dalton and Lanesborough police departments.

"And we still had a very difficult time quelling the situation and getting the people out of there," Granger said. "It was an extremely dangerous situation for the officers and the civilians in the area."

Several young witnesses said the police started jumping on youths who weren't doing anything wrong, and that other young people started jumping on the officers to get them to stop.

Granger denied the allegation.

"The officers weren't doing anything but trying to break up a fight," Granger said. "There were two officers all by themselves in a large crowd. That just doesn't make any sense."

Arrested were three adult males, one adult female, one juvenile male and one juvenile female, all on assault charges, Granger said. The specific charges or identities of those arrested were not available.

Granger stressed the Third Thursday was an overwhelmingly positive event with double the attendance from May 2011 Third Thursday, and there were no other incidents. He also noted there would be a heavier police presence in future Third Thursdays.

"It a shame a few individuals had to cause problems this way," he added.

To reach Scott Stafford:
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