London, Ont., police urge rioters to come forward

Police have arrested 11 people after St. Patrick's Day celebrations took an ugly turn in London, Ont., and they are urging others involved in the riot to "do the right thing" and step forward.

Seven of the individuals arrested after parties spilled into the street and became violent have been identified as students of the city's Fanshawe College, Police Chief Brad Duncan said Sunday.

Duncan said the charges they face include unlawful assembly, assaulting police and resisting arrest.

The chief said he has personally reviewed many video clips showing vandalism and other violence that left several people injured. He also vowed investigators will track down more suspects who were part of what he called a "dynamic, dangerous and highly charged situation" that continued into early Sunday.

"There were a number of individuals burned last night. The severity of this mob mentality could easily have resulted in death," Duncan said.

Firefighters were the first emergency responders, arriving to put out what was reported as a brush fire on Fleming Drive, just east of the college, at 10 p.m. Saturday, Duncan told reporters. But they had to call for police backup after they came under attack by flying bottles and bricks.

About 50 police officers later arrived and the crowd continued to grow in size to about 1,000 people, many of them students who surrounded a TV news truck that had been tipped over and set on fire.

Some in the crowd kept both police and firefighters away from the vehicle by continuing to smash beer bottles and throw other debris. At Sunday's news conference, Duncan praised officers for remaining at the scene and preventing nearby houses from potentially being vandalized.

"Every one of our members in attendance on Fleming Drive was assaulted last night," he said.

"They were literally attacked with full bottles of beer and liquor, bricks, wood planks, two-by-fours, debris, tires, rims and other various items. In addition, members of the crowd used laser pointers aimed at our officers eyes to try to disrupt our response."

An unspecified people suffered minor injuries, mostly due to broken glass. The police chief said officers donned helmets and other riot gear for protection. Some officers suffered soft tissue injuries from being struck by various objects, he said.

Students continued to form a circle around the TV vehicle even after the fuel tank exploded.

Platoon Chief Paul Carew with the London Fire Department told CBC News that rioters threw "whatever they had on hand on the fire, including mattresses and fence posts."

He said the fire department sent two trucks to the scene, but firefighters had to back away and let police control the crowd.

"In any city it's unacceptable," Carew said in an interview Sunday. "Watching the video made me sick. I hope those people are happy with themselves."

Carew said he had heard that some people were hurt with burns and cuts, but didn't have any information regarding any serious injuries.

Duncan said 17 police cars were vandalized, some when rioters hit them with planks of wood. He said the cost to provide police and fire department services, to clean up the mess left behind, and repair damage to vehicles, light standards and pavement will cost the city an estimated $100,000.