St Patrick's mob cause chaos in Canada

2012-03-19 13:20

Ontario - Celebrators set a large street fire and battled police and fire crews who tried to intervene after St Patrick's Day celebrations got out of hand in London in Canada, authorities said on Sunday.

Police said at least 11 people have been arrested so far, and more arrests were expected as authorities review video of the disturbance and witness statements. At least 17 police vehicles were damaged. No serious injuries were reported.

The trouble began on Saturday night when a crowd of about 1 000 people, many of whom had been drinking, celebrated in the streets in a district near Fanshawe College. This area is heavily populated by students and has been the site of previous smaller disturbances.

TV news van on fire

District Fire Chief Jim Holmes said fire crews were called to the scene after celebrators flipped over a TV news van and set it on fire, but were driven back when some people in the crowd pelted them with rocks and bottles.

The vehicle exploded and party-goers fed the street fire with furniture, mattresses, fences, uprooted trees, a large TV set, and a nine kilogram propane tank.

Authorities said the crowd continuously threw bricks and beer bottles at police officers and refused to allow fire crews to douse the blaze in a scene police likened to a war zone.

Police standing back

Police and fire crews made the decision to stand back to avoid escalating the situation further, but eventually moved in around 04:00 when the crowd had thinned out. Authorities estimated the damage at C$100 000 (R763 933).

"Going in there with that number of people might not have been good for anybody. So we just kind of stayed back and were patient until we decided it was time to move in," Holmes said.

Police said they would work with local residents and college authorities to ensure that similar disturbances won't occur in the future.

"Never in my 32 years as a police officer have I observed behaviours that escalated to the point where there was risk that individuals could seriously be hurt or quite frankly killed," London's chief of police Brad Duncan told reporters. "We will not tolerate this lack of respect for our community, our laws and specifically this neighbourhood."