Australian cops alert as Facebook chatter hints racial brawl

August 6th, 2010 - 1:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Facebook Melbourne, Aug 6 (IANS) Police intensified patrolling in this Australian city following chatter on social network site Facebook about possible racial violence involving teenagers.

Facebook is buzzing with talk that a wild brawl involving gangs of high-school students and up to 100 onlookers Thursday was only the precursor to a larger fight. The website claimed the violence, thought to be race related, would continue Friday at Craigieburn railway station in Melbourne.

According to The Age, a Victoria Police spokesperson said police were aware of the Facebook chatter, and in response would boost police patrols in the area.

A police helicopter, 15 police officers and an ambulance descended on a shopping centre carpark in Craigieburn, about 3.15 p.m. Thursday when two groups of students, aged about 13 to 16, gathered for an organised fight.

Sergeant Jamie Walker said the crowd turned on police when they tried to intervene, and officers were forced to use capsicum spray to quell the violence.

Four people - a 24-year-old woman, two boys aged 13 and 17 and a 38-year-old man believed to be the father of one of the youths in the fight - were arrested.

“The crowd was trying to incite a brawl between each other. Police turned up and tried to separate it, that’s when a couple turned on police,” Sergeant Walker said.

“Police had to arrest a couple of suspects, then fights broke out, that’s when a lot of them were sprayed with capsicum spray.

“The helicopter was basically to show a visible presence and hopefully to disperse the crowd that was milling around.”

A witness, Brooke, said the brawl involved students from Craigieburn Secondary College, in which students of Pacific Islander background were pitted against “Aussies”.

Brooke said she believed the brawl was sparked by an incident at the school this week.

She said most of the “islanders” were from Craigieburn Secondary College, while the

“Australians” were a mix of students and older non-students.

Another witness, also named Brooke, who works at a nearby childcare centre, said Thursday’s fight was organised on Facebook, and recent post suggested the tension would spill over again.

Sergeant Walker said police were investigating whether the fight was organised on social networking sites, and if it was racially motivated.

“We know there were probably 100 youths there, there were people of different backgrounds there. We’re looking into it,” he said.

“At this early stage we don’t know exactly what caused it. We believe it was probably something that was organised during the day but we don’t know exactly what started it all off.”

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