Saturday May 19, 2012

The melee involving more than 100 people as well as police officers from Pittsfield and surrounding communities is one of the more disconcerting events to happen in downtown Pittsfield in memory. Happily no one was injured and the incident doesn’t reflect upon the successful Third Thursday events that preceded it.

The melee apparently began when bicycle officer Cheryl Belknap tried to break up a fistfight at the intersection of Melville and North streets between two girls, one of whom resisted arrest, according to police. A large group of people joined the fray as three other officers arrived to assist. Further assistance quickly came not only from Pittsfield police but from Dalton, Lanesborough, the county sheriff’s office and the Massachusetts State Police as the melee escalated and spread down Melville Street. Six arrests were made, and four teenagers were arraigned on Friday.

Eyewitnesses have told The Eagle that the police were only trying to restore order while others claim they overreacted in some cases and pursued innocent parties. It is difficult to define a sequence of events or assign blame amid chaos, but the bottom line is there apparently were no injuries, which is remarkable and must be seen as a tribute to the responding officers.

The bicycle officer was attempting to reopen Melville Street to traffic when the incident began after the first Third Thursday event of the year.


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It was extremely well-attended, according to Megan Whilden, the city’s director of cultural development, with participants, retailers and vendors offering positive feedback.

More of a police presence may be needed at June’s Third Thursday, but this regrettable incident should have no impact on the popular downtown party. Whatever dynamic triggered the brawl may never be repeated, although court proceedings to come may provide some insight into it.