“An organised brawl in Flaxmere was more about gang tensions than a rivalry between two high schools, says a 15-year-old witness who was hit by police pepper spray during the melee.
Flaxmere College pupil Rachel Walker said the fight, which attracted an estimated 200 young people, had been pre-arranged between pupils from her school and Hastings Boys High School at Flaxmere skate bowl on Tuesday.
Speaking at the the scene of the brawl yesterday, she was matter of fact about the reason for the confrontation. “It’s basically girls, territory, colours and gangs.”
Flaxmere College had the Bloods and Hastings Boys were Crips, she said.
Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule held a meeting with police and both school principals yesterday in the wake of the brawl, in which police officers were attacked. He said there were gang issues in Flaxmere but he had been assured the fight was nothing more than inter-school rivalry.
There was a heavy police presence near Flaxmere College as school ended yesterday, but no sign of trouble as groups of uniformed pupils stood around smoking and giving gangsta-style handshakes.
Rachel said she saw one youth during the fight “punch a police face and he got knocked down. It took six of them to put him down”.
She was trying to pull a friend away as a police officer threatened to use pepper spray. “I got pepper-sprayed in the eye. I felt like a bad person. It’s still sore.
She said that, though the fight was pre-arranged, there was no time to start it “properly” and most of the pupils had already abandoned it when police arrived. The brawlers then fled, leaving police to set about dispersing the crowd of cheering and jeering spectators.
Rachel said the trouble was that the district was too small. “All you can do is steal, rob, drink and smoke to fill in the time.
“Lots of teens go around causing trouble – robberies and bashing people. They just learn it from the community and they don’t know when to stop. Even the little kids are picking it up from the teens.”