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Spanish youths take on police in mass drink binge

Written by: Staff

MADRID, Mar 17 (Reuters) Hordes of teenagers and students plan to swarm onto Spanish streets at the weekend for a mass drinking session, flying in the face of legislation introduced to stop the mass binges known as ''botellones''.

Youths have rallied revellers by email and SMS messages for ''macrobotellones'' in 20 cities around Spain, while authorities have pleaded with parents to keep their children under control and pointed out the danger of under-age drinking.

The botellon (big bottle) has become a seedy part of city life over recent years as teenagers, bored at home and too poor to go to bars, bought beer, spirits and cartons of wine from food stores and lounged around in plazas, drinking the night away.

Bombarded with noise, the stench of urine and vomit on the streets, and emergency rooms having to deal with drunks, many city councils brought in rules to ban drinking on the street.

Police now patrol many of the botellon hot spots at the weekends, moving along groups of teenagers who mix cocktails with cheap spirits or ''calimocho'' -- red wine and cola.

They are girding up for an extra fight this weekend.

In Barcelona, police plan to stop anybody bringing drink or glasses onto the picturesque Las Ramblas street, while in Madrid about 300 police will guard two plazas known for the botellon, taking personal details of youths who turn up.

In the southern city of Granada, authorities have taken a more liberal stance and have agreed to clear a road on the outskirts so the young can have a night out without disturbing the rest of the town.

The concern is that if the police overreact, teenagers will just rebel all the more.

''We shouldn't over dramatise the situation,'' leading newspaper El Pais said. ''The difficulty is going to be to apply the law gently. Anything else will only light the fuse.'' REUTERS SHR RN2133

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