Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cops crash teen bush party

'Hostile' crowd of 400 taxed police resources for two hours

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ATTENTION parents in southwest Winnipeg -- do you know where your kids were Friday night?

Perhaps, they were among an estimated 400 people who gathered for a rowdy "bush party" that made life miserable for Winnipeg police and stretched resources to a bare minimum.

At least 20 police cars from every district of the city ended up being called in to help disperse a crowd that, among other things, began throwing bottles at officers and refused to leave.

Police eventually sent a paddy wagon out to begin hauling away troublesome teens and also called in a K-9 unit to make it clear they weren't fooling around.

Winnipeg firefighters were also called to douse a dangerous bonfire burning in the middle of the bush, while paramedics spent nearly an hour trying to navigate their way through the off-road party site to get to a young man who suffered a bad knee sprain in the melee.

He was taken to Grace Hospital in stable condition.

There were also concerns about the health of several teens who had been drinking heavily and appeared to be sick. Several ended up spending the night at the downtown drunk tank.

It wasn't immediately clear what, if any, criminal charges would be laid.

On Saturday afternoon, a Winnipeg police spokeswoman said officers are still investigating and she didn't have any details about how many people may have been arrested or taken to the drunk tank.

The spokeswoman said police responded to the party after receiving several calls. The incident began around midnight when several area residents complained about a large, loud gathering at Charleswood Road and Wilkes Avenue.

The first officers to arrive found a massive gathering of teens partying at the end of a long trail. They immediately called for as many units as possible to assist them, saying the crowd was growing increasingly "hostile."

Word of the party spread throughout the neighbourhood quickly as police reported a lengthy lineup of cars of parents waiting near the scene for their kids to emerge from the bush.

Police didn't get the area cleared out until around 2 a.m., meaning the entire city was without a regular complement of police resources for about two full hours.

That left units that weren't at the Charleswood call scrambling to deal with the usual array of Friday night activities, including a handful of large bar fights, a couple of street robberies, several domestic assaults, two gun calls and a serious car accident.

Several officers were asked to work overtime to help clear up the accumulated backlog of calls.

On Saturday morning, Charleswood Road residents Darryl and Gerri Link took it upon themselves to clean up the area for three hours.

But they weren't too upset. After all, they also took out $40 worth of empty beer bottles.

"It seemed like a lot of police just for a good ol' bush party," said Darryl, although he admitted he didn't see the rowdiness that prompted the police response.

Darryl, who has lived in the area for about 40 years, said he used to go to the bush parties when he was a kid. The last one he attended was about 20 years ago.

"All my teenage years, we used to do them," he said.

The Links also cleaned up empty bottles of hard liquor. There was smashed glass around the fire pit.

They recalled cleaning up after a bush party a year ago. "Last year there was more of a mess," he said.

Several Canadian cities have taken a tough approach on bush parties by beefing up police patrols in an attempt to stave off the violence that often erupts when you combine teens, testosterone, alcohol and other intoxicants.

Last year, a young woman was stabbed to death at such a gathering in Saskatoon.

Earlier this summer, Ontario Provincial Police learned of a planned bush party involving an estimated 700 youths through the popular networking website, Facebook. Police intervened by posting a warning message on the site that the gathering was illegal and would result in arrests.

- with files from Bill Redekop

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 23, 2007 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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