A melee broke out at Arlington High School’s graduation Tuesday night, and the brawl between adults in the crowd has turned into a oft-watched social media video.
While Arlington High graduates marched into the Bellevue Baptist Church sanctuary to cheers and high fives, several adults were brawling a few rows away in a fist-throwing, hair-pulling, water-pouring, shoving fracas between people in the audience. No students were involved in the brawl.
The start of the graduation began and, initial reports indicate the whole wild affair caught on video may have resulted from the age-old problem for such big events — saving seats.
“We didn’t do anything, but sit in seats they said weren’t ours,” one woman says in a video.
“Last night we celebrated 500 students who graduated from Arlington High School,” Tammy Mason, superintendent of the Arlington Community Schools, said in a statement Wednesday morning. “This year’s class earned over $30,600,000 in college scholarships. It was unfortunate that a couple of adults in the audience exhibited the behavior they did prior to the ceremony beginning and thus has caused a distraction from the celebration of our students’ accomplishments.”
In the video, women on opposite ends of a row start arguing with each other. Several men are between the groups of women. Then, as “Pomp and Circumstance” plays melodically in the background, a fight erupts with pushing, cursing, shoving and wild swinging punches. One woman grabbed another woman by the hair and throws haymakers to the woman’s head. Several people tried to break up the fight.
Near the end, one woman was handcuffed, but it is unclear if arrests were made.
In that video, some of which is unintelligible, the woman who was pulling hair and punching, is handcuffed lying on the floor of what appears to be the church lobby. Another woman in the video is advocating for her friend, saying the man standing over the woman on the floor did not identify himself as security, did not show a badge and was not in uniform.
“Look, lady. I’m going to give you…fair warning, OK?” the man says to the woman standing to the side. “I’m going to show you my credentials. This is all I’m required to do.”
He shows a badge, then, his finger pointing at her with every word, the man says: “You’ve been advised by law enforcement to Shut Up!”
He then tells the bystander to leave. “I’m not leaving her in custody,” the woman said, adding: “Y’all might do anything to her.”
The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office said they did not respond to the fight, and that the church had its own security there.
Jim Barnwell, spokesman for Bellevue Baptist, referred all questions regarding the incident, including the status of the women, to the Arlington school district. “We just provide the building,” Barnwell said.
“The graduation ceremony was not affected by this incident due to the actions of Bellevue’s security team who promptly removed the adults from the ceremony,” Mason said in her statement. “It is our hope that the focus will shift to our students and their accomplishments instead of the poor decisions by adults in attendance.”
(c)2017 The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.)
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