Spanish drinking binge ends in riots, 80 injured
By Raquel Castillo
MADRID (Reuters) - Mass street drinking sessions fuelled clashes between Spanish youths and riot police early on Saturday, leaving 80 people injured and 70 arrested in Barcelona and Salamanca, police said.
Tens of thousands of young people gathered in cities around Spain on Friday night in an attempt to hold the biggest street drinking session or "botellon" ("big bottle"). In the southern city of Granada, police said 25,000 people joined the botellon.
The most serious violence was in Barcelona, Spain's second city, where 68 people, including 37 police, were injured and 54 rioters arrested.
Barcelona police used baton charges and fired rubber bullets to try to control the youth, who had been throwing bottles and cans, according to media reports.
Firemen were called out to 50 blazes as the youths set fire to rubbish containers in the streets. Shop windows were broken and several shops ransacked, media reports said.
The Barcelona event degenerated into pitched battles between police and drinkers in the narrow old streets of the city centre that lasted most of the night.
Police blamed the disturbances on about 200 people who, police said, were out to cause trouble.
Another 12 people were injured and 16 arrested, including an Italian and a German, in clashes in the historic university city of Salamanca, 180 kms (110 miles) northwest of Madrid, officials said.
A government official in Salamanca, Jesus Malaga, said about 2,000 young people gathered early on Saturday and about 100 of them set fire to rubbish containers and litter bins.
A fireman and five police officers were among the injured when people in the crowd started throwing objects, he said.
The "botellon" has become part of city life in Spain in recent years as teenagers, bored at home and too poor to go to bars, bought beer, spirits and cartons of wine from food stores and lounged around in plazas, drinking the night away.
Bombarded with noise, the stench of urine and vomit on the streets, many city councils brought in rules to ban drinking on the street.
Police now patrol many botellon hot spots at weekends, moving along groups of teenagers who mix cocktails with cheap spirits or "calimocho" -- red wine and cola.
Youths rallied revellers by email and SMS messages for "macrobotellones" in 20 cities around Spain on Friday, while authorities pleaded with parents to keep their children under control and warned of the danger of under-age drinking.
Some cities, such as Seville, Granada and Valladolid, allowed the gatherings to take place in designated areas and up to 25,000 people gathered in the southern city of Granada.
"We've never seen anything like this in Granada," a police spokesman said. "There's no doubt that this is the biggest botellon in Spain..."