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Springdale protesters allege racial bias

| Monday, Oct. 4, 2004

SPRINGDALE -- The mothers of three black teenage boys arrested Friday outside a high school football game rallied in front of the police station Sunday to accuse police of violent and racist mistreatment.

"They beat my sons brutally," said Jacqueline Jones of Springdale, the mother of 14-year-old Ryan Parks and 16-year-old Thomas Parks Jr., who were arrested along with their father and cousin after clashing with police Friday night.

Jones said when she got to the door of the police station to retrieve her sons, she could hear Chief Joe Naviglia, who is white, yelling threats and racial slurs at her children.

"He said, 'I'm sick of you nigger kids coming into my town and ruining games," Jones told reporters.

Jones also said when she did get inside the police station, she could see her sons were bruised from being hit and choked by police.

Naviglia, who defended the police handling of Friday's events Saturday as appropriate, could not be reached for comment Sunday on Jones' new accusations.

Saturday, Naviglia said police from Springdale Borough, Springdale Township and Cheswick followed proper procedure when they were surrounded by crowds of people trying to free teenagers they had in custody.

The incident began when police tried to escort two of the boys from the football game for misbehavior. When they resisted, police arrested them, Naviglia said. He praised officers for extricating themselves and the boys from the scene without any injuries.

Lucille Wickline of Springdale, mother of the other boy arrested, 14-year-old Garret Wickline, said she returned her son to the police after he escaped in handcuffs. She said her son is a close friend and cousin of the Parks brothers. The boy jumped from the open door of a police cruiser and ran home because he was afraid police would beat or shoot him, Wickline said.

"He hid under the bushes like a scared bunny," she said.

All three boys are in Shuman Juvenile Detention Center today, facing charges. Wickline and Ryan Parks are charged with aggravated assault and escape. Thomas Parks Jr. is charged with aggravated assault, hindering apprehension and 14 counts of making terroristic threats.

Also arrested was the father of Ryan and Thomas Parks Jr., Thomas Parks Sr., 41, of Crawford County. Naviglia said Saturday that the elder Parks largely created the chaotic scene by reaching into a police cruiser to try to free his sons.

Jones said she had no comment on how her sons' father contributed to the disturbance.

"I can't comment because I didn't see that," she said.

Naviglia said Saturday that crowds of 30 or more people surrounded police three times Friday night while they tried to leave the area of the football field with the teenagers in custody. At least once, Naviglia said an officer brandished a weapon to disperse the crowds.

Alexis Radovitch of Springdale, who went to Sunday's rally, said she was one of the people who blocked the street to stop police cars.

"I thought it was right for their father to ask why they were in cuffs," she said.

The mothers complained that police should not have threatened the crowd with their weapons because the group was mostly children.

"I've known police officers who've been in the business for 35 years and haven't unholstered their weapons once, let alone in a crowd of children," Jones said.

Both mothers said they believed Naviglia and other police were persecuting their children. Thomas Parks Jr. and Garret Wickline have had trouble with police before, they said. Wickline confessed to vandalizing the borough's park earlier this year, his mother said. Naviglia arrested Parks last summer, only to have charges dismissed by a district justice, she said.

"He's had it out for our family ever since then," she said.

The women, flanked by about 20 people with home-made signs, demanded Naviglia's resignation.

"All of this just went much, much too far," Wickline said. "It's all unjust."

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