Adults brawl at high school graduation ceremony
As Arlington High graduates marched into the Bellevue Baptist Church sanctuary in suburban Memphis on Tuesday night to cheers and high-fives, several adults in the audience were fighting a few rows away in a fist-throwing, hair-pulling, water-pouring, shoving fracas. No students were involved.
Initial reports indicate the whole wild affair may have resulted from an age-old problem for big events — saving seats.
"We didn't do anything but sit in seats they said weren't ours," one woman says in a video.
Tammy Mason, superintendent of the Arlington Community Schools, said in a statement Wednesday: "Last night we celebrated 500 students who graduated from Arlington High School. 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."
A frame grab from cell phone video of a fight at Arlington High School's graduation. In one 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 in the background, a fight erupts with pushing, cursing, shoving and wild, swinging punches. One woman grabbed another woman by the hair and threw 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 anyone was arrested.
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, with his finger pointing at her with every word, the man says: "You've been advised by law enforcement to shut up!"
He then instructs the bystander to leave, to which she replies, "I'm not leaving her in custody. Y'all might do anything to her."
The Shelby County Sheriff's Office said deputies 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."
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