4 Dec 2011

Haka performers pepper-sprayed in Utah

7:15 am on 4 December 2011

The police force in a small American city is to undergo cultural training after an officer pepper-sprayed a crowd of Polynesians performing a haka.

The canister was deployed after a high-school football game in Roosevelt, Utah, when the losing side did a war dance.

The officer's partner hit one of the performers three times with his baton.

The officer who used the spray says he apologised to the crowd and tracked down family members of the group.

Ranae Bangerter, a reporter with local newspaper Vernal Express, says most people know what a haka is, but not the police.

She says the Tongan culture is a big part of football games in Utah and the community is surprised the police department wasn't aware of the dance.