Facebook birthday invite leads to mayhem in Dutch town, authorities say

Chairs burn in the Dutch town of Haren late on September 21, 2012 after a teenager's birthday invite on Facebook went viral.

Story highlights

  • Video of the incident showed rioters hurling glass bottles and other debris at police
  • Haren is located about 115 miles northeast of Amsterdam and is home to some 20,000 residents
  • At least 36 people were injured, including one police officer
  • Prosecutors say 34 people were arrested Friday night and into Saturday morning

Hundreds of police confronted rioters in a small Dutch town where a 16-year-old girl's birthday party invitation on Facebook spawned a large gathering that turned destructive, authorities said Saturday.

Video of the incident showed rioters hurling glass bottles and other debris at security teams in Haren, which is located 115 miles (185 kilometers) northeast of Amsterdam and is home to about 20,000 residents.

Prosecutors said 34 people were arrested Friday night and Saturday morning after rioters torched at least two cars, threw stones and smashed storefront windows.

Police embrace social media as crime-fighting tool

At least 36 people were injured, including one police officer, according to police spokesman Paul Haedanus. One man suffered a broken jaw, he said.

"Last night, scum wreaked havoc in our community," Haren Mayor Rob Bats told CNN affiliate NOS. "Haren woke up this morning after a dramatic evening and night."

Bats said the incident had a "tremendous impact," even though authorities had been preparing for it.

Earlier, the mayor had persuaded the girl's family not to hold the party, authorities said, and unsuccessfully urged revelers not to attend.

Prior to Friday's mayhem, Oscar Dros, the town's chief of police, said he had contacted authorities in Germany to discuss their own experiences with riots.

"An incident like the one in Haren last night is unprecedented in the Netherlands," Dros told NOS.

Prosecutors said revelers began arriving Friday afternoon, though some appeared "ready and prepared for confrontation."

Authorities estimate that at least 3,000 people turned up for the event, and that specific "ring leaders" had contributed to the destruction.

News of the party had gone viral on social media before Friday, authorities said. There were multiple mentions of an American film called Project X, in which three high school seniors throw a birthday party that spirals out of control.

On Saturday, a group called Project Clean-X Haren emerged on Facebook, which posted video of organizers wielding shovels and carrying flowers.

Last year, the phenomenon emerged in other cities, including London and Philadelphia, where the city cited the culprits as members of a "flash mob" who decided to gather at a given place via e-mail and social media.

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