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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 December 2005, 04:49 GMT
Bad Santas run wild in Auckland
Father Christmas (archive)
The Auckland "Santas" said they were part of a global movement
A gang of "Santas" cut a trail of havoc across New Zealand's biggest city in what was meant to be a protest against the commercialisation of Christmas.

About 40 men in ill-fitting Father Christmas costumes ran around Auckland vandalising or stealing property, and throwing bottles, police say.

Two security guards were injured and three of the men were arrested.

A police spokesman described it as "fairly average behaviour" from "an organised group of idiots".

The gang first drew attention when they appeared on a motorway bridge on Saturday afternoon to urinate on passing cars and smash beer bottles, police said.

They then kicked over litter bins in a public park, hurled bottles and sprayed graffiti on office buildings.

'More like clowns'

According to the New Zealand Herald, they entered a casino where several of them vandalised a giant Christmas tree in the foyer.

When one of them climbed the mooring line of a cruise ship he was ordered down by the captain and arrested.

Other Santas attacked security staff in protest and two had to be treated for injuries.

The remaining Santas entered a convenience store in the city centre and stole beer and soft drinks.

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

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

Senior Sergeant Matt Rogers of the police said no warning had been received of the protest and the men had acted more like clowns than Santas.

But he added that identification of alleged wrongdoers might be problematic.

"With a number of people dressed in the same outfit, it was difficult for any witnesses to confirm the identity of who was doing what," Sergeant Rogers told Reuters news agency.

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