Bondi revellers erupt into riot

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The Independent Online

of Reuters

Sydney - Rioting came to Bondi beach early yesterday as Australian police clashed with hundreds of Christmas revellers, police said. Two policemen were slightly hurt as officers were struck by bottles, stones and other objects thrown by revellers, many of them drunk, a spokesman said.

There were no arrests but the thousands of pounds worth of damage and tons of rubbish left on the beach prompted official threats to ban the traditional Christmas Day party.

The festivities attracted more than 20,000 people, many of them foreigners. The daytime party was peaceful, in contrast to previous years. But scores of riot police were called late on Monday after brawling broke out and crowds attacked a bus and police and private cars. The bus passengers were lucky to escape unhurt when revellers tried to overturn the vehicle. The driver escaped by steering his bus through the crowds.

A police spokesman blamed the fighting on "troublemakers" from the suburbs who were looking for violence.

Bondi's police patrol commander, Dick Baker, said he was considering whether to end the annual beach party, which has become a major Christmas attraction in thecity.

Alcohol regulations at the beach could also be considered, he said. "The international backpackers, because of their [party] day, created an audience and this probably caused the problem," Mr Baker said.

A crowd of about 3,000 had converged on Bondi late on Monday after the beach party where tourists, backpackers and locals had gathered in the sun to drink and frolic in the surf.

The wild scenes of previous years were largely absent, thanks to a heavy police presence. The situation changed as night fell and police had to call for reinforcements in riot gear. They cleared the crowds by about 1.30am. Mr Baker said no rioters were arrested, to avoid exacerbating the situation.