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Violence mars Mardi Gras parties in Austin, Seattle

Police clash with a Mardi Gras reveler in Seattle on Saturday  

AUSTIN, Texas (CNN) -- Police clashed with Mardi Gras revelers in Texas' capital city early Sunday, a day after a similar festival in Seattle ended with police using pepper spray to subdue an unruly crowd.

Police arrested about 35 people early Sunday in downtown Austin, said Rick Coy, the city's assistant police chief. Charges ranged from public intoxication and possession of marijuana to assault and failure to obey police orders.

"It's not typical," Coy said. "We have not had anything to this extent in a long time." Friday night festivities had been largely peaceful in Austin, with 21 arrests, mainly for public intoxication, he said.

At 2 a.m., officers were called to break up a fight on 6th Street in the downtown entertainment district, where a crowd estimated at 100,000 was celebrating the holiday. Instead, they ended up in the center of a melee.

"The crowd became hostile and began assaulting officers with bottles, rocks," Coy said. "The officers attempted to clear the whole street and basically became involved in a skirmish with the crowd that lasted over an hour."

The Seattle unrest occurred despite an increase in the number of police officers on patrol  

Windows were broken and side mirrors were ripped off of six police cars, Coy said.

A meeting was planned Sunday in Austin to discuss ways of reducing further outbreaks before Ash Wednesday ends the reveling.

And early Saturday, halfway across the continent, police in Seattle used pepper spray and rubber bullets to break up an unruly crowd of up to 2,000 people after bars closed at 2 a.m. Many in the crowd were drinking, removing their clothes or climbing on cars and light posts, police spokeswoman Pam McCammon said.

One officer suffered a possible broken arm, and a member of the crowd was stabbed, McCammon said. Police made six arrests, she said.

Police were called downtown to Pioneer Square at about 1 a.m. after a man reportedly ran through the crowd with a gun. After a chase, bicycle officers arrested the suspect. At that point, partygoers began throwing bottles and rocks at police officers who were trying to control the crowd, McCammon said.

There was no immediate word on the extent of the injuries. The Seattle unrest occurred despite an increase in the number of police officers on patrol, removal from downtown streets of items not bolted down and the spraying of vegetable oil on light poles to discourage people from climbing them.

Both cities are far removed from New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, the traditional home of Mardi Gras -- the street festival leading up to the Christian season of Lent, which begins on Wednesday.

New Orleans police last year tried unsuccessfully to crack down on public displays of flesh, which many revelers do in exchange for beads. The department is well-known for a restrained but highly successful method of crowd control during Mardi Gras parties.

Reuters contributed to this report.

New Orleans bares all for Mardi Gras
March 6, 2000
Mardi Gras madness on the Web
February 17, 2000

City of Austin Police Department
The Official City of New Orleans Website
Mardi Gras in New Orleans

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