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16 Face Charges After Police Break Up Pacific Beach Brawl

Police in riot gear sprayed smoke and tear gas to break up a hostile crowd throwing bottles and cans during a massive Labor Day brawl at Pacific Beach.

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Police in riot gear sprayed smoke and tear gas to break up a hostile crowd throwing bottles and cans during a massive Labor Day brawl at Pacific Beach.

Sixteen people were arrested and face charges of fighting and being drunk in public.

At about 5:15 p.m., beachgoers told lifeguards about a fistfight. When lifeguards went to treat a man who had been punched and kicked, people in the area pointed out six or seven men they said were responsible for the fight. At that point, new brawling erupted in the area, prompting lifeguards to call police for help, Lifeguard Service Lt. Nick Lerma said. The size of the crowd was estimated at about 500.

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Lerma said he did not know what triggered the initial fight.

Hecklers began throwing bottles and sand at police who were writing citations linked to the initial fight, prompting a call for riot-control teams, said San Diego Police Department spokeswoman Monica Munoz.

Lifeguards evacuated four towers, removed their uniforms and ran into the water to rescue boats waiting beyond the surfline, Lerma said.

"I can't remember that happening except for a few times in that area," Lerma said. "It just got out of control."

A police helicopter hovered over the beach blaring orders for the crowd to disperse while officers on the ground armed with pepper bullets and mace formed a skirmish line along the boardwalk.

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No officers were injured.

City Councilman Kevin Faulconer went to see the fight for himself and said alcohol likely played a part in it. Faulconer has in the past opposed banning alcohol outright at Pacific Beach and other nearby surf spots, but because of the brawl, he said he was considering a push to ban alcohol on city beaches.

Drinking is permitted from noon to 8 p.m. at Pacific Beach, as well as in neighboring Mission Beach and Ocean Beach.

Lifeguards said an estimated 364,000 people visited San Diego beaches on Monday.