Security will be beefed up at a popular night festival in the seaside town of Torquay after more than 100 youth set upon police in a wild brawl that left an officer injured.
Officers were forced to lock themselves in their cars and call for back-up from Melbourne and Geelong when the violent melee erupted on Thursday night and could not be contained for hours.
Torquay Sergeant Tim Bennett said two local police units responded to reports a large group of intoxicated youths running riot in Bell Street, near the Torquay Hotel, about 10.30pm.
When the officers arrived, the group began throwing glass bottles at police cars before an officer was physically attacked leaving him with cuts to his face, Sergeant Bennett said.
A witness said the officer was assaulted while arresting a teenager who had tried to sneak into the Torquay Hotel by climbing a side fence.
As the officer tried to put the youth in the back of a divvy van he was attacked by a group of young men, believed to be the the arrested boy’s friends, who jumped on him and began assaulting him, the witness said.
The witness described the rioters as Caucasian.
Police used pepper spray to subdue the crowd as more fights broke out between officers and youths.
Sergeant Tim Bennett described the behaviour of the mob in Torquay as “appalling”.
“We had one of our own members attacked, we had members who had to retreat into their vehicles and call for back-up to bring the situation under control. We had young people being hostile to police and staff at licensed venues, it’s completely unacceptable behaviour.”
Earlier in the evening, about 14,000 people attended the popular Nightjar Festival, at nearby Torquay Common, which ended at 10pm.
Sergeant Bennett said a ramped up police presence would be at the festival on Thursday evening and extra staff would be rostered on for the remainder of summer.
“It’s a busy time of the year with a lot of tourists in town and public safety is our priority so we often have extra police working,” he said.
“We have a zero tolerance on drinking on the streets or any form of antisocial behaviour that endangers the lives of others.”
A 21-year-old from Melbourne, a 25-year-old from Whittington and a 21-year-old from Torquay were arrested, charged with being drunk in a public place and issued with a penalty infringement notice.
A 17-year-old boy was arrested and is being charged on summons for assaulting police, being drunk in a public place and other related offences.
In a statement on Facebook on Tuesday, the organisers of the Nightjar Festival said they were disappointed by the incident and would be tightening security at the event this week.
“Nightjar festival is a family friendly event for all locals and visitors to this region,” the post read. “Underage drinking and unruly behaviour isn’t acceptable at our event. Sadly, there was an element of not cool behaviour on Thursday night, not just at Nightjar but within the town, both prior and after the Nightjar Festival had finished. This Thursday night you’ll notice extra fencing around the licensed area and further ID checks at licensed points and wristbands for ALL patrons over 18 – NO wristband NO service.”
Anyone who is deemed to be intoxicated will not be allowed into the festival, organisers said.