Four arrests and 11 fines for teen's vigil - but friends slam 'rave' label
- Credit: Submitted
Rave legislation was used to disperse an 100-strong vigil in Great Yarmouth as police arrested four people and handed out 11 FPNs.
More details have emerged about the break-up of what officers referred to as an "unlicensed music event" being held on North Drive for 17-year-old Domantas Baksaitis who died on March 2 in a motorbike collision.
Police said officers attended the gatherings and established road closures on Saturday and Sunday in an attempt to "encourage the group to adhere to Covid-19 regulations" - with both events being brought to a "controlled close".
On Sunday, police said the vigil spilled over into St George's Park and the Market Place.
11 fines were handed out for breaches of Covid regulations as well as "a number of warnings".
Four people - two in their 20s and the others in their late teens - were arrested on suspicion of public order offences, for which enquiries are ongoing.
Temporary Chief Superintendent Dave Buckley said officers were deployed to the area following complaints from residents, who broke up the Saturday gathering using "rave legislation".
He said this was because the noise levels, numbers in attendance and complaints meant it was categorised as such.
He added: "We do understand that people wanted to pay their respects and we know these are difficult times which sees everyone having to play their part and make sacrifices to protect one another.
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"Public safety will always be our priority and we will continue to take action against blatant breaches of the regulations, when it is proportionate and necessary to do so.”
One of Domas's closest friends said: "We expected that many people to show up because absolutely everyone loved him. There wasn't one person there who didn't know him and didn't want to pay their respects.
"The event started at 7pm on Saturday, with people coming and going, then finished around 11pm. On the Sunday people were there from about 2-3pm before police cleared everyone on.
"It was so far from a rave. It was a socially distanced vigil where we let off lanterns, balloons and played a few of Domas's favourite songs. I don't understand where this has come from."
She explained it was "confusing" and "upsetting" to hear police calling it a rave - with their actions at the time suggesting the authorities were okay with what was happening.
"The police let people come and go for hours before they got involved," she said. "They blocked the roads and were telling people to pay their respects and move on, which most people did. Surely it could have and should have been shut down immediately if it was an illegal rave?"
One community member criticised the police for branding the grieving youngsters as "thugs", while another echoed that the event on the whole was "respectful" - despite the behaviour of a small minority.
She said her son, who knew Domas well, had gone to lay flowers and say goodbye to his friend - not "to party, socialise or have fun".
"I know he and most others wore masks and kept their distance, all the things we would do in a supermarket with hundreds of others," she added.
Others said no matter how difficult the circumstance the vigil should not have gone ahead - with one resident pointing out that hundreds of thousands of people have had to make sacrifices during the pandemic.
She said: "They could have found other ways to mourn such as a virtual vigil. But these people decided to breach the rules."
One man who attended the event said there had been a large number of bikes "driving dangerously for the best part of an hour" up and down the seafront, and that some people had clearly shown up "to cause trouble".
Police have asked that anyone who witnessed the events over the weekend and has video footage to contact the Great Yarmouth Neighbourhood Policing Team via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or contact PC Andy Elvin on 101 quoting incident 99 of Sunday 7 March 2021.