2009-03-13 / Front Page

Aftermath Of Irish Parade A 'War Zone'

By Howard Schwach

The police radio began to crackle incessantly right after the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade vanished from sight on Beach 129 Street and continued until well after midnight.

"Fifty youths fighting at Beach 129 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard."

"An intoxicated teen unconscious on the beach at Beach 130 Street. Put a rush on the [ambulance]."

"Two hundred disorderly youths in the St. Francis de Sales playground at Beach 129 Street. Numerous fights. Send additional units to location."

"Youth with a gun, Beach 90 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard. One hundred sergeant, please respond to that location."

"Two dozen youths tossing bottles at passing cars, Beach 92 Street and Beach Channel Drive in front of McDonalds."

"Large disorderly group at Beach 108 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard harassing automobiles. Check and advise."

The calls went on and on, sending precinct police officers and the special detail sent to Rockaway to cover the after-parade hours, all over the west end of the peninsula.

In all, police sources say, there were approximately 25 radio runs for parade aftermath related incidents. That, the source says, is triple the usual number of Saturday night calls this time of the year.

One local law enforcement source, who asked not to be identified, said, "It was like a war zone out there, and it's just pure dumb luck that nobody got badly hurt."

Captain Thomas Barrett, the commanding officer of the 100 Precinct, said that he was ready for the problems even before they began.

"We had a detail of two sergeants and 16 extra cops to cover the area," he said. "They came on duty right about the same time that the action started [after the parade] and we had the area around Beach 129 Street pretty well covered."

An eyewitness to the fights in the St. Francis de Sales playground said that cops quickly surrounded the area and made kids, some as young as fifteen and sixteen, he said, pour their beer into the ground and then throw away the bottles.

Another eyewitness said that he saw a number of young people in handcuffs, but police say that, while a number of violations and summonses were issued during the evening to individuals and businesses, nobody was arrested.

In addition, some juvenile cards were issued for underage drinking.

According to police sources, a number of bars were asked to close at midnight due to the problems with intoxicated youth on the streets of the west end. Some complied. Those that did not were constantly monitored by police officers, checking identifications to find underage drinkers.

Barrett said that several of the local bars were doing a good job of checking people as they entered in order to weed out the underage drinkers.

The evidence of underage drinking, however, was seen during the parade as well as after.

Young people, both boys and girls, pulled wagons full of beer or carried several six-packs in their arms, as the parade progressed to Beach 90 Street. Many of the young people with loads of beer looked younger than the required drinking age, according to one observer.

That source told The Wave that he saw young people whom he believes were under the legal drinking age, leaving local bodegas and grocery stores loaded down with beer earlier in the day, but he declined to say which stores he was talking about.

Monsignor John Brown, the pastor at St. Francis de Sales, used his pulpit to make what he termed a "public announcement" about public intoxication.

Speaking about underage drinking, Brown said, "I have seen the good [in Rockaway] and the bad, and tonight I have seen the worst," he told the parishioners at the evening mass on Saturday.

Barrett said that the underage drinking problem and the excesses that it leads to are bad, but that the events in the west end on Saturday night were not necessarily as bad as they looked.

"It actually seemed worse than it was," Barrett said. "Nobody was hurt. What it really amounted to was kids being stupid."

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