TOWNS WAGE CYBER WAR
By Will Jackson
AN ONGOING feud between Lismore and Byron Bay youths has spread to cyberspace with the two sides setting up rival web pages.
However, the dispute, which peaked in a series of violent incidents including a home invasion and bashings last year, seems to have settled down 'in real life'.
An unofficial truce has been reached with a number of young people from Lismore said to be avoiding the coast for fear of stirring up trouble.
Lismore 19-year-old Nillah Kamnerdkan, a 'friend' of the people responsible for the anti-Byron Bay MySpace page, said it was set up earlier this year as a response to an anti-Lismore MySpace page, which featured racist and denigrating comments and has since been taken down.
The anti-Byron Bay page ? which had 39 'friends' yesterday ? features threats of physical violence against 'Byron boys'.
It also refers to the Rex Hunt incident in 2005 and the alleged sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl by five teenage boys earlier this year.
Nillah said the site was part of ongoing hostilities which had intensified last April when the Byron residents started defending their territory more aggressively.
However, Byron youths claimed at the time it was 'Lismore thugs' that were causing the trouble.
The conflict peaked with a home invasion at Suffolk Park in October in which two 15-year-olds were bashed.
Some believe the incident was fuelled by grief following the death of four Lismore teenagers in a car crash near Broken Head.
After the attack Lismore and Byron Bay police formed a joint taskforce resulting in the arrest of three Lismore teenagers.
Nillah said things had 'quietened down' because the two sides were beginning to 'respect each others' territories'.
Some still feared they would be attacked if they went to Byron Bay, she said.
Paul Laverick from Community Connections North Coast said it was logical the turf war had spread to the web because sites like MySpace had become the primary medium of communication for young people.
He said the internet provided a space where young people could say whatever they wanted anonymously and where there were no immediate repercussions.
Paul, who gives Lismore school drop-outs surfing lessons as an incentive to continue their education, said he was aware of the rivalry but said it was not unusual, comparing it to the gangs in West Side Story and the mods and rockers of the 1960s.
"Kids are tribal," he said. "This sort of stuff has been going on since time immemorial."
Byron Bay youth worker Deb Pearse said there had long been a cycle of conflict between young people from the two towns but last year was the worst it had ever been.
She said it was particularly bad in Byron Bay because locals felt they had no space to call their own.