The chaotic scene near Lake Ainsworth in Lennox Head yesterday as fighting broke out amongst the crowd. Police estimate up to 500 people were involved in the fighting.
The chaotic scene near Lake Ainsworth in Lennox Head yesterday as fighting broke out amongst the crowd. Police estimate up to 500 people were involved in the fighting. Gareth Cody

Argument over barbecues sparks riot at Lennox

SIMMERING tensions between two rival towns and a tug-of-war over barbecues exploded into a drunken brawl involving up to 500 people at Lennox Head during Australia Day celebrations yesterday.

Police officers descended on the Lake Ainsworth foreshore just before 5pm after receiving more than 30 separate calls of complaint that teenagers were drinking heavily.

According to witnesses, by the time police arrived a number of fights had broken out between intoxicated young revellers from Lennox Head and Evans Head.

“A couple of young people were spewing their guts out,” Gail Clarke, from Nimbin, said.
“I’ve seen 120 cops in Nimbin, but I’ve never seen anything like this.”

One long-time Lennox resident, who wanted to be known only as Chris, was appalled by the level of alcohol consumption.

“There were girls paralytic and spewing. They were pretty young,” he said.

“Alcohol. It’s terrible. Were did they get it all from?”

The brawl was triggered in part by arguments over who could use the public barbecues, according to one reveller who said the fighting spoiled anotherwise great day.

Ballina resident Mark Miller said non-locals had gone to Lennox ‘and harassed the locals for space’.
“They wanted to use the barbecues. It ruined Australia Day,” he said.

While campers who observed the events unfold praised police for their response to the brawling, some of the young people involved accused the officers of excessive force, including improper use of capsicum spray.

Police had arrested two people by early evening.

Richmond Local Area Command Inspector Nicole Bruce could not say whether they would be charged, or what the charges might be if they were.

“We responded to 500 people brawling down here and lighting fires,” Inspector Bruce said. “There were several groups of people brawling and a number of intoxicated persons.”

She said it appeared some were under-age, but police had not identified any of them as yet.

Revellers said the ongoing rivalry between young people from Lennox Head and those from Evans Head was reignited by a pre-Christmas fight.

“Evans Head people came and beat up Lennox Head people in two vans, with four to five people in each van,” a Lennox local, who identified himself as Matt, said.

Volunteers with the Lennox Head Surf Life Saving Club, who watched from across the road as the afternoon descended into violence, said a number of those involved were clearly under-age.

“It was a huge gathering of very young people with a lot of alcohol,” surf life saver Tree Beckerleg said. “Very, very young girls – at least 13 years old. Where are their parents?”

 A camper said the violence was sparked by a small group of ‘silly children” and the day had been mostly relaxed.


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