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Drunken Santas run riot in Auckland

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New Zealand

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -- A group of 40 people dressed in Santa Claus outfits, many of them drunk, went on a rampage through Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, robbing stores, assaulting security guards and urinating from highway overpasses, police said Sunday.

The rampage, dubbed "Santarchy," began early Saturday afternoon when the men, wearing ill-fitting Santa costumes, threw beer bottles and urinated on cars from an overpass, said Auckland Central Police spokesman Noreen Hegarty.

She said the men then rushed through a central city park, overturning garbage containers, throwing bottles at passing cars and spraying graffiti on office buildings.

One man climbed the mooring line of a cruise ship before being ordered down by the captain. Other Santas, objecting when the man was arrested, attacked security staff, who were later treated by paramedics, Hegarty said.

The remaining Santas entered another downtown convenience store and carried off beer and soft drinks.

"They came in, said 'Merry Christmas' and then helped themselves," store owner Changa Manakynda said.

Two security guards were treated for cuts after being struck by beer bottles, Hegarty said. Three people, including the man who climbed on the cruise ship, were arrested and charged with drunkenness and disorderly behavior.

Alex Dyer, a spokesman for the group, said Santarchy was a worldwide movement designed to protest the commercialization of Christmas.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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