How Facebook 'night of mayhem' lived up to its Park Lane billing

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The Independent Online

It was billed as a night of mayhem and it certainly delivered. Riot police yesterday evening fought running battles with party-goers after an illegal rave in a multi-million mansion attracted thousands of teenage gatecrashers like hedonistic moths to a flame.

The party was advertised widely on Facebook as a “night of mayhem” to celebrate squatters taking over a six-storey Georgian mansion on Park Lane. The squatters are thought to be part of an anti-capitalist collective who believed that the unoccupied mansion was owned by HSBC.

But events rapidly spiralled out of control when thousands of teenagers heard about the planned revelry through social networking sites, passed the invite to their friends and then descended en masse.

Police officers arrived shortly after 11pm to try and stop revellers from climbing onto the building’s roof which they feared would collapse under the weight of so many people. They called for riot police to back them up after a small number of partygoers started hurling bottles and bricks in protest.

Jamwam Anstruther, one of the teenage revellers, updated his Twitter account throughout the night. At 1.30am he wrote: “There’s like 300 riot police outside. Closed down whole of Marble Arch. F***ing riot police raided. Batons and all. Intense.”

Another attendee, Fiona Hicks, wrote: “New York fashion week can stick it, I’m on top of a £30,000,000 Park Lane mansion squat party doing lines off the roof.”

Both the western edge of Oxford Street and all of Park Lane was closed off for more than three hours as officers tried to persuade the revellers to leave.

American singer Courtney Love, who lives off Park Lane, had to abandon her much anticipated first comeback gig because she could not get through the police lines. Love had been due to play a short midnight set with her newly reformed band Hole at Proud Bar in Camden. But as she wrote on her Twitter account: “There was...a massive riot tonight outside my house, the cops wouldn’t let me leave.”

Zosia Swidlicka, a spokeswoman from Proud Bar, said: “She was due to go on stage at midnight to play some of the songs off her new album but she couldn’t even get here. It was kind of annoying really because Courtney is sort of known for being a little bit unreliable but this time it wasn’t even her fault.”

The party is thought to be the biggest example yet of a Facebook event going viral, resulting in hordes of gatecrashers.

Yesterday morning the invite, which was cryptically titled “Nicolas Cage Mansion Party”, already had more than 4,000 people saying they were hoping to attend and a further 5,000 people still undecided. Police put the total number of revellers on the night was “in excess of 2,000”.

Although party goers complained at the heavy police presence there were genuine concerns for the integrity of the building. At one point fears of a collapse became so great that at least one hospital across put staff on a “no break” order in case they were suddenly inundated with injuries.

London Ambulance treated two people for injuries at the scene and even felt compelled to send in their Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) - a specially trained crew who are qualified to take on potentially toxic situations such as a chemical spills or, in this case, a large gathering of unwashed over-excited teenagers.

Organisers of the party sheepishly admitted yesterday that it had got a little “out of control”. Oliver Appleyard, an 18-year-old sixth-form student, told the Evening Standard: “What’s really sad is that this is not what we wanted. We wanted people to have a good time and to be safe. We did have lots of friends controlling the situation, but a small majority were badly behaved. We did have the feeling this morning of, ‘Oh God, I hope nothing serious happened’. The average age was 16-18, so that age group was always going to be hard to control.”

There were no arrests yesterday but police say they are looking to speak to the organisers of the party.