Police break up crowd outside Anchorage teen dance

Posted: Sunday, February 16, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A series of fights involving scores of teenagers Sunday ended with two arrests and a crowd of about 300 dispersed by police in riot gear using pepper spray.

Dozens of police cars sped to the Egan Convention Center in response to fights at the Fur Ball, a teen dance that is part of Fur Rendezvous, an annual Anchorage winter festival.

The dance, scheduled for 14- to 19-year-olds, drew a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd inside. Police estimated that more than a thousand youths attended.

Egan Center staff told police the dance was over capacity with a hundred or more teens lined up outside the door. According to police, teens waiting to get in grew impatient and attempted to break glass windows in front of the center.

Inside, ''There were fights the whole time,'' said Shawna Martin, 16, who attends Chugiak High School. She estimated there were four fights during the evening, which culminated in a single brawl at the center of the floor.

Security people at the dance turned on the lights and started pushing people out the door, she said.

Crowds of teenagers and curious bystanders gathered outside.

About 70 officers responded. Police in riot gear and others with billy clubs, rifles and dogs blocked off part of Fifth and Sixth avenues for nearly an hour as they hustled youngsters out of the center.

Police ordered the crowd to leave and repeatedly warned that pepper spray would be used, they said. According to the department, a crowd of nearly 300 confronted police by spitting, throwing rocks and bottles, kicking, overturning trash cans and newspaper stands and inciting others to riot.

Police formed a line and moved the crowd out of the area, using pepper spray several times.

''I know they (police) were swinging at kids'' with billy clubs, said Robert Robinson, 18. ''I saw it.''

Frantic parents who had come to the center to collect kids tried to locate their children. After the center had been emptied, the area was a mass of police, crying youngsters and vehicles with horns honking.

About 20 officers stayed in the area afterward to help stranded teenagers get home police said.

Police received no reports of anyone seriously injured. Besides complaints of irritated eyes and lungs from the pepper spray, several teens reported injuries caused by fighting among themselves, police said, and one officer was hit by a rock.

Warren Baker, 18, and William Abfalter, 36, were charged with disorderly conduct. Each was cited and released on his own recognizance.

Mayor George Wuerch and Anchorage Police Department commanders announced Sunday they would be available to answer questions from parents and the public about the incident Monday at the convention center.

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