5 06-21-88 03:41 ped Mystical dawn rites turn into riot SALISBURY PLAIN, England (UPI) _

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5 06-21-88 03:41 ped Mystical dawn rites turn into riot SALISBURY PLAIN, England (UPI) _ Thousands of hippies hurling rocks, iron bars and bottles clashed Tuesday with police in clearings around prehistoric Stonehenge, turning mystical dawn rites celebrating summer solstice into a bloody riot under the floodlights of a police helicopter. Seven policemen, one with serious head injuries, and two hippies were hospitalized after the pre-dawn melee, described by Wiltshire District Police Chief Donald Smith as one of the worst nights of violence he had ever seen. Sixty people were arrested and charged with assault, breaching the peace, theft and other offenses, police said. "We came to watch one of the sweetest and most innocent of British religious rituals _ the blessing of nature _ but it was a nightmare," American tourist Joe Franklin told a London newspaper. But in what has become an annual ritual, an estimated 4,000 hippies started gathering during the weekend at Stonehenge to celebrate the first day of summer. Situated about 80 miles southwest of London, the towering stones of the mysterious monument, thought by some to be a temple for sky worship, were erected over 400 years, beginning 1,800 years before the birth of Christ. Their purpose still is unknown. The hippies set up roadside camps along the quiet country lanes of Wiltshire, quickly angering local people and landowners worried about the litter they would leave behind. The area is famous not only for Stonehenge but its hundreds of ancient burial mounds. Shortly before the summer solstice at 4:42 a.m., when the first sunbeams marking the longest day of the year shot straight under the huge, square Stonehenge arches, thousands of hippies began converging on a barbed wire fence around the monument to the beat of bongo drums, police said. Within the ring of stones, about 60 Druids wearing white robes and pointed hoods were preparing to celebrate the dawn when a group of hippies threw a metal barrier at a line of riot police. Others quickly surged forward hurling rocks, bottles and metal bars as a police helicopter clattered overhead, its search light illuminating the melee. "This is one of the saddest days of my life," said chief Druid Tim Sebastian. "The hippies are pilgrims and justly deserve a site near the monument to conduct their own ceremonies just like anyone else." Until the 1960's, only the "Secular Order of Druids," a modern sect claiming links with a mysterious pre-Christian Celtic cult, paid any attention to observances at Stonehenge. But then the hippies, mostly unemployed people who travel the countryside in an assortment of battered trucks and cars, discovered it, resulting in an annual ritual of pitched battles with police. After Tuesday's clash, the area near the huge square stone arches arranged in a circle was scarred with lumps of turf, debris and rocks, littering one of Europe's richest prehistoric landscapes. English Heritage, the government body in charge of the site, had issued only 1,000 tickets to prevent too many people trampling the ground near the stones. "A lot of us believe we should live and let live," said Jim Marchant, president of the local chamber of commerce, whose members are local store owners who have reaped monetary rewards from tourists at the site. "Hopefully next year a site will be sorted out, and these millions of pounds we have spent on policing will not be wasted again," Marchant said.

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