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Friday, May 16, 2008
A SMALL minority of yobs were to blame for the violence which marred the UEFA Cup final in Manchester, police and council chiefs said yesterday.
Hundreds of Rangers fans went on the rampage when a big screen showing the match in the city’s Piccadilly Gardens failed to work just before kick-off.
Fifteen officers were injured, as well as a police dog, and 42 arrests were made as hundreds of riot police and supporters fought running battles.
One fan of Rangers’ Russian opponents, Zenit St Petersburg, was stabbed but his injuries were not life-threatening. The match commander, assistant chief constable Justine Curran, said the response of her officers was "appropriate".
She said: "It was challenging and we were stretched. Our officers did come under a degree of violent attacks. I am happy we responded appropriately. We could not let those minor disturbances affect the day for everybody.
"I am satisfied our reaction was appropriate. I watched the scenes in Piccadilly Gardens from the control room. I saw officers chased down a street by a baying mob of around 200 people. We had to do something."
The screen that failed was one of eight mounted in the city for more than 100,000 ticketless fans who descended from Glasgow.
Council leader Richard Leese said the screen went blank 15 minutes before kick-off but had been working throughout the day. Around 11,000 fans were transported by shuttle bus to an alternative screen set up rapidly at the Velodrome near the City of Manchester Stadium. But a group of fans stayed and vented their fury at police.
He said: "We are clearly disappointed that a great night was soured by a number of small people."
A relaxed attitude to fans’ drinking in the street – normally outlawed – was adopted as supporters consumed alcohol from breakfast onwards. A lone police officer was tripped up and stamped on as he faced a baying mob of hundreds of Rangers fans.
Video footage showed him punched before one of the mob tripped him up. He was then set upon by a gang of about 20 fans, who kicked and stamped on him on the ground.
He eventually made his escape as a stream of fans proceed onwards, several with their arms aloft in celebration. Greater Manchester Police said the officer suffered bruising to both arms, sore ribs and a puncture wound to the elbow, but was now recovering from his injuries.
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