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Virginia Beach police made nearly 150 arrests stemming from a rowdy and violent weekend at the Oceanfront featuring large crowds for an event that city officials knew little about in advance.
At least eight people were injured on Saturday night and early Sunday morning when there were several shootings, stabbings and robberies.
Video submitted by a viewer to WAVY-TV also shows multiple people fighting on a public sidewalk.
The Virginian-Pilot reports that police estimate between 30,000 and 40,000 people congregated at the Oceanfront for an event known as College Beach Weekend 2013.
"It was just a drunk mess," Cate Major, a sales associate at 17th Street Surf Shop told the newspaper. "I've never seen the Oceanfront so packed. Ever."
Flyers advertised hotel and party specials at private businesses for students at Virginia universities, including Norfolk State, Hampton and Virginia Commonwealth. The events did not require city permits and city officials say they were caught off-guard by the size of the crowds.
Deputy Police Chief Bill Dean said officers made calls to local schools and Greek organizations when they heard rumors there would be a large gathering, but they didn't have much information to go on.
"We didn't really know who to reach out to," Dean said. "We were just kind of hearing rumors."
Some business owners say the weekend was reminiscent of Greekfest, a Labor Day party for students from historically black colleges in 1989 that led to rioting, looting and a National Guard presence at the Oceanfront.
Business owners said there were uncontrollable crowds, fighting, open-air drinking and marijuana use. City leaders disputed that assessment, saying those involved were likely local residents attracted to the event, and not college students.
"The tenor of this crowd was a lot different than the tenor of the crowds that we faced at Greekfest, and I think our strategy was a little different this time," Dean said. "It was more of a feel that we were there with the crowd this time as opposed to we were there opposing the crowd."
Rosalind Campbell, head manager of the Sunsations shop, said the crowd was disrespectful, vulgar and belligerent. When a Sunsations saleswoman left to get dinner, she was groped in the street by a stranger and quickly returned, Campbell said.
Later on, fights broke out near her store and police used pepper spray, making her and a co-worker sick.
A few blocks away, a 7-Eleven was flooded with a hundred people at time and items were stolen, according to Mona Liza Solis, who worked that Saturday night. Solis said when employees tried to let in just 10 customers at a time, those waiting outside pushed and pounded the doors.
At Flipper McCoy's arcade, people poured in to use the bathrooms and plug in their cellphones, trashing the bathrooms, according to Joe Horton, the arcade's operations manager. When Horton closed the bathrooms, people started urinating on the carpet and outside in an alley, he said.
"The language and the behavior was just atrocious," Horton said.
Dean and police Chief Jim Cervera were at the Oceanfront when the first shots rang out shortly before 11:30 p.m. on Saturday in front of closed shops on Atlantic Avenue. Police were helping that victim when somebody was stabbed near a Dairy Queen three blocks away. The incidents didn't seem to be connected, Dean said.
Throughout the night, there were 325 calls between 6 p.m. Saturday and 6 a.m. Sunday. That's about four times the amount they got the same days last year.
Councilman Bill Desteph will conduct a town hall meeting on Wednesday night at the Virginia Beach Convention Center to discuss the events that led to the violence.
James Ricketts, director of the Virginia Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau, told WVEC-TV that out of the 50 calls the bureau received following the violence, half expressed disinterest in visiting the area.
However, Ricketts said he's not concerned with the upcoming tourist season being affected because he believes many people view it as an isolated event.