England fans arrested in clashes with police

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The Independent Online

Twelve England football fans will appear in a Portuguese court today after clashes with police in the first outbreak of violence at Euro 2004.

Twelve England football fans will appear in a Portuguese court today after clashes with police in the first outbreak of violence at Euro 2004.

The men were arrested during a night of widespread disorder involving 800 England supporters in the tourist resort of Albufeira, where thousands of fans are staying during the month-long tournament. In Oporto, in the north, 700 Dutch and German fans clashed before last night's game.

There was disagreement between police and football authorities about the nature of the trouble in Albufeira, with Uefa, the European game's governing body, claiming disorder was a regular feature at beach resorts and police insisting it was "unusual". The violence flared at 1.30am yesterday after fans were reportedly denied entry to a bar. Police tackled an increasingly rowdy group of 800 mainly England fans chanting, waving flags and drinking in a street packed with bars known among holidaymakers as The Strip. Mounted officers dispersed a crowd outside the La Bamba bar after police had been pelted with bottles. Witnesses said chairs and street signs were thrown as a police support group chased hundreds of fans. Eleven people were hurt, including an officer who needed stitches in a head wound.

The 12 arrested fans are aged from 20 to 40. Police spokesman Captain Manuel Jorge said: "The fans began throwing bottles at the police and we had to send in the horses to bring the situation under control." He rejected claims from some witnesses that his officers - from the semi-military GNR, which polices areas outside the towns and cities - had overreacted to the situation, or even provoked it. One witness, Florival Palma, 47, who runs several bars in the area, said "nervous" police provoked the trouble by using a baton on a drinker in the La Bamba bar.

Captain Jorge said: "There were some people who started to provoke the police. They started throwing glasses and bottles. The images on TV show the policemen were simply trying to contain the people, who had drunk too much."

Uefa and the Football Association officials stressed that events had not occurred directly before or after a game. A Home Office spokesman said disorder was predicted because 5,000 British holidaymakers were arrested every summer in Spain alone.A day earlier, Portuguese police had praised England fans, saying their dignified reaction to defeat by France was an example to other supporters.

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