A high school student has told of horror scenes in yesterday's mass brawl at Auckland's Mission Bay where they thought someone was nearly beaten to death.
It has also been revealed students were drinking vodka Cruisers at the beach prior to the fight, which ended in police pepper-spraying the crowd.
As many as 100 students from several Auckland schools descended on the east Auckland beachfront yesterday afternoon for a massive brawl reportedly organised through Instagram. It was said to be one of many upcoming brawls involving students of schools in the "dirty south" and "west Auckland".
A student who was there told the Herald it was meant to be a gathering of students from various schools to celebrate the end of the school year.
But some students from certain schools used the gathering to organise a massive fight, circulating messages through Instagram stories.
As students started arriving from midday an "atmosphere of violence" began to grow.
"There was a vast amount of students gathering and we heard swearing and people running," the student said.
"And among all this chaos were repeated gang and school gestures, commentary such as: 'We go'nna f*** your school up'."
The fights began around 3pm after a beer bottle was crushed on the head of a student, they said.
The student phoned 111 as "multiple fights" broke out all around them.
One student was grabbed by a group from one school, and punched onto the sand, before being kicked while they lay on the ground.
"The amount of kicks to the head, made us think that he was dead because of the way he was laying lifeless there, with blood all over his face.
"Glass bottles were thrown everywhere on the ground."
The student said police arrived and attempted to break up the fights, and eventually used pepper spray on the brawling students.
Different fights were taking place all over Mission Bay and police seemed unable to control it, they said.
Witnesses reported about 40 police officers descended on the scene to break up the fight around 3.30pm.
Eight youths were eventually arrested, one for assault. One person was taken to hospital with minor injuries.
They were all released without charge and would be dealt with by Police Youth Aid.
The brawl was reportedly advertised through Instagram for the past two weeks, with messages such as: "Open Invite ... This Friday bring your boys to Missions bring a box (alcohol) ... May the toughest school win."
Builder Francis Mann was working on a site near Mission Bay on Friday and confronted the group when he and his colleagues popped down to the beach for a lunchtime dip.
"There was probably 50 or 60 of them walking around with vodka Cruisers, open bottles, clearly drunk and being very intimidating.
"Growing up, I have been around similar situations, but never anything like this. They were so brazen in public, no care for any kind of repercussions."
Mann said he confronted some of the students asking them to tone it down, but they tried to fight him.
He then phoned the schools of the students - some were wearing their uniforms - but claims he was told by staff it was not their responsibility as the students were not at school.
"I was quite shocked at their response. I think the whole incident could have been avoided if there was earlier intervention."
He then phoned police.
Mann said there was a similar incident a few weeks ago, and he'd heard students were already planning round three with messages circulating through Instagram.
"It's not who we are"
The exact schools the students involved in the brawl were from have not been identified, but witnesses told the Herald there was one group representing south Auckland and another west Auckland.
Manukau ward councillor Efeso Collins, who has worked in the education sector, said he'd been phoning around teachers and social workers this morning and there was a deep sense of disappointment at what happened.
"I woke up this morning feeling deflated. It is coming to the end of the year, these students should be studying hard for their exams, and getting excited for the summer ahead.
"What they have done reflects poorly on their families, and on the community.
"It plays into that negative south Auckland narrative I've been fighting against for so long.
"It's not who we are. It's not the south Auckland I grew up in."
While there had been issues with youth gangs in parts of south Auckland recently, this was the first Collins had heard about students organising large fights.
He said it was important to reach out to those involved, to find out what was going on and find ways to support them.
"I wonder if they have become a little cynical of the world. Like with youth gangs, a lot turn to them when they feel rejected from society.
"School fights are also often exacerbated from the sense of identity school gives you, the same sense of identity as living in west, or central or south Auckland.
"Then when someone makes a comment about that, they want to defend that identity, and are not able to tame their impulses. But it has a big impact, not just on them but causes shame and disappointment in the whole community."
Collins said he would be contacting teachers, social workers, church leaders and sports clubs to identify and find ways to reach out to those involved in the fights.
"Our young people need have someone they can talk to if they need and to feel part of the community, so then they look after it.
"They should be able to go anywhere in Auckland and feel at home."