The unfortunate melee that involved about 100 citizens and 25 law enforcement officers last Friday at Mount Airy's Putt N Fun miniature golf course has a number of extremely ugly overtones that should concern all Carroll County residents.
One man is still in the hospital with a serious head wound. Another may need surgery to repair the injuries he suffered. In addition, the tension in the community has risen to a level that may precipitate another brawl with even more serious injuries.
There are a number of conflicting stories about the fight's origin, but one thing is clear: Intolerance and erroneous assumptions seem to have played a major role.
All accounts agree that members of one extended family were on one side and several unidentified men were on the other. According to one version, the fight was a continuation of a dispute earlier in the day at South Carroll High School involving interracial dating. Another version says that the fight started when a girl was threatened by a man when she went to buy chewing tobacco at a convenience store.
The result was a confrontation that broke along racial lines. Members of the extended family, who are white, started fighting with some black men. The family, uncertain that a black state trooper who responded would arrest a black man, decided to take matters into its own hands.
The result was more fighting and the arrest of Warren Sirk, the father of the girl at the convenience store. He claims he also received some rough treatment at the hands of the State Police.
It has been nearly two years since the peaceful town of Hanover, Pa., just north of Carroll's boundary, was convulsed by a racial brawl that involved over 400 people. That fight, too, started over a dispute about interracial dating. Mount Airy residents and police will have to take efforts to ensure the hard feelings stemming from this brawl don't produce future fights.
Mr. Sirk has filed a complaint against Trooper Damon Vinson, alleging brutality. The State Police must investigate his charges and release their findings as quickly as possible. In addition, it might be a good idea the next time a similar dispute arises for people to allow police to handle the job they are charged with -- maintaining order.