Canada Faces Aftermath of Booze-Fuelled St. Patrick’s Day Riot

Mike Maloney / THE CANADIAN PRESS  An intoxicated crowd of St. Patrick�s Day revellers sparked a huge riot in London, Ont., Sunday. No one was seriously injured.

Disgust and disapproval ran high in London, Ont., Sunday after an intoxicated crowd of St. Patrick’s Day revellers spent the previous night fuelling a street fire and attacking authorities who intervened.

While no one was seriously injured as a mob of some 1,000 people took over a residential area popular with students, police said every officer responding to the situation was attacked during an upheaval that could have turned into something far worse.

“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 said.

“We will not tolerate this lack of respect for our community, our laws and specifically this neighbourhood.”

The scene that drew 65 police in riot gear and 10 firefighters took place on Fleming Drive in the city’s east end. The neighbourhood near Fanshawe College was described as a student enclave notorious for its parties and has been the site of previous disturbances, although none as large as the latest one.

“It is obvious that the students and residents in this area are under the illusion that they can engage in unlawful behaviour, that they can commit serious criminal offences with impunity and they can reject the lawful authority of police and emergency services personnel,” said Duncan.

The scene, which Duncan described as a “dynamic, dangerous and highly charged situation,” began when a group of revellers took over a CTV news van, flipped the vehicle and set it on fire.

Some police officers later likened the scene to a war zone as party-goers fuelled the flames with furniture, fences and anything else they could find, while pelting authorities with bricks, beer bottles and tires.

“We can thank our lucky stars that nobody was killed… this is an injury for the whole city of London. They will pay,” Mayor Joe Fontana said.

Eleven people had been arrested as of Sunday and police expect to bring in more as they go through video and witness statements from Saturday night.

“It was pretty tense and it was kind of unusual, even for that area,” District Fire Chief Jim Holmes said.

The crowd continuously pelted officers with debris and refused to allow fire crews to douse the blaze.

“They kept feeding it. They brought a 60-inch TV from the basement of a house and threw it on. They uprooted some trees, threw it on the fire, mattresses, furniture all kinds of things,” said Holmes. “At one point somebody threw a 20 pound propane tank into the fire, so we had to move everybody back before it exploded. Fortunately it did not.”

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