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London revelers mark drink ban with subway chaos

  • Story Highlights
  • Revelers mark alcohol ban on London subway system, cause chaos
  • Police say at least 17 arrests, subways stations shut as thousands gather
  • Many had learnt of the event through social networking Web sites
  • London mayor says he introduced alcohol ban for better traveling environment
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- London's subway system was engulfed by thousands of revelers Saturday night, marking the introduction of an alcohol ban on the mass transit network.

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Revelers hit London's subway system Saturday night to mark the introduction of an alcohol ban.

Eyewitnesses have described how some drunken partygoers, often dressed in fancy dress, fought, damaged subway trains and vomited.

Authorities were forced to close six stations on the network, including major transportation hubs at Liverpool Street, Baker Street and Euston.

A spokesman for British Transport Police, which patrols the network, said that police had been told of a large "large amount" of disorder and "multiple instances of trains being damaged", causing them to be pulled from service, the UK's Press Association reported, adding: "This was an unfortunate end to what should have been a fun event." There were reports of at least 17 arrests.

Much of the disorder concentrated on the Circle Line, which encircles the center of the city.

Many reports say that the night had begun good-naturedly.

Web programmer, David Mudkips, 25, from east London, told PA that the event was "Like rush hour but fun. There were people's sweaty armpits in my face but I didn't care because I was drinking."

Student Frankie Abbott, 21, also from east London, said earlier in the evening: "It might be fun to do the whole night but I think it's going to get a bit messy. There are guys drinking from funnels already."

Sailor Peter Moore, 35, from Brighton on the southern English coast, told the agency his night was "Drunken, I just downed a can of beer in 10 seconds. It's sweaty on there but I'm going round and round until I vomit."

As the evening progressed the situation deteriorated.

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Photographer Desmond Fitzgerald, 48, from south London, told PA that by 11pm at Gloucester Road subway station he was afraid someone might slip onto the tracks due to the amount of spilt alcohol on the platform.

"At first the atmosphere was happy but anarchic, defiant," he said, with people wearing hats and having a good time.

As the journey progressed, more heavily drunk people joined the train, he added.

"Then a fight broke out between about five people, but because we were so tightly packed in it soon spread throughout the carriage and I had to struggle to escape to the next one," he told PA.

"The atmosphere had really changed by this point. People were ripping off adverts and maps and being sick all over the place.

"When it pulled in to Embankment people fell out and carried on fighting on the platform. Thankfully police were there, and they handled it very well."

Many of those gathered had learnt of the party on social networking Web sites, through groups with names such as "Circle Line Party - Last day of drinking on the tube", which had 850-plus members listed by Saturday lunchtime, and "Party/Flashmob on the Underground", with 1,300-plus names listed.

The anti-drinking strategy was introduced by newly elected London mayor Boris Johnson. He said before the party occurred: "I'm determined to improve the safety and security of public transport in London and create a better environment for the millions of Londoners who rely on it. The ban has the full support of the Metropolitan Police and British Transport Police.

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"I firmly believe that banning the drinking of alcohol on London's public transport will create a better traveling environment for all Londoners and that if we drive out antisocial behavior and so called minor crime then we will be able to get a firm grip on more serious crime."

But Bob Crow, General Secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport Union of which many subway staff are members, countered that the ban put workers at greater risk of of attack, reported PA, saying it was "half-baked."

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