Originally created 02/25/02

Police disperse unruly Olympic crowd outside beer garden; 20 arrests



SALT LAKE CITY -- Police used foam-tipped bullets to scatter an unruly crowd outside a downtown beer garden early Sunday on the last weekend of the Winter Games. Police say 20 people were arrested.

The clash began when Bud World, set up for Olympic festivities, got too crowded and people spilled onto Main Street, just blocks from the medals plaza and main media center.

"The people who were standing on line got unhappy," said Scott Folsom, assistant Salt Lake City police chief. "We're just trying to clear the crowd."

He said he knew of no injuries and no calls for medical assistance. The only property damage he had heard of was a broken window.

He said 75 to 100 helmeted officers were brought in to quell the disturbance and close off the intersection. He described the ammunition as "stinger balls."

A helicopter with a strobe light circled the street. About a half dozen vans with police arrived at the intersection.

"They don't want to leave," said Sherry Thomas, an official with the Utah Transit Authority, who looked at the crowd while her light-rail trains idled on their tracks.

Some people in the crowds outside the beer garden threw beer cans and bottles, Folsom said. He said people became "really rambunctious" when they couldn't get in the pavilion.

Rob Garcia, 18, of Salt Lake City said the crowd was yelling at police and officers forced people against cars.

"I had just crossed the street," he said. "I heard people yelling. The police were pushing people. The cops just jumped across and set up a barricade."

About 20 people had been arrested by 1 a.m. Police Detective Dwayne Baird said by 2 a.m., the crowd had been mostly dispersed.

Normally, drunken revelers wouldn't be roaming through the streets of Salt Lake City. The state's strict Mormon heritage usually makes for quiet nights. But during the games, things have been considerably more active.

Security officials have said they feel fortunate there have been no major disruptions or threats against the games.

About $310 million has been devoted to Olympic security, and nearly 15,000 security workers are at the games. The disturbance Sunday was handled by local police, according to a spokesman for the Olympic Joint Information Center.