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Hysteria mars Lennon memorial in Liverpool

LIVERPOOL, England -- A mass of surging, hysterical teen-agers stormed a stage Sunday during a hometown memorial for John Lennon attended by more than 30,000 people.

Police said about 150 people, most of them girls 13 to 17 years old, were treated for shock and hysteria at the candlelight vigil in downtown Liverpool.

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'It was just like the Beatle era all over again,' said Hazel Abbott, 48, a nurse who treated some of the teen-agers. 'It was the same old scenes -- young girls were collapsing with total hysteria.'

'I was on duty in 1964 when the Beatle had their civic reception in Liverpool and it was just the same this time around,' she said

Liverpool was the hometown of Lennon and the other Beatles -- Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

The trouble began when more people than police expected -- about 30,000 -- began showing up at about 1:30 p.m. (8 a.m. EST) for the 7 p.m. (2 p.m. EST) memorial vigil held outdoors in front of St. George Hall in downtown Liverpool.

The memorial, organized by Sam Leach, a former concert promoter who handled the Beatles before they became famous, featured several live rock groups.

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But before the third group could start their act, witnesses said the crowd surged forward and flooded the makeshift stage, knocking over the drums, amplifiers, and blowing out the acoustic system.

'There was no security barrier and these kids up front just wanted to get closer to the performers.' one witness said. 'They were also being pushed by the crowd behind.'

At that point, police told the organizers to cancel the vigil and tell the crowd to disperse, but the organizers persuaded authorities to let things cool down and began playing old Beatles songs over the public address system.

The live music was canceled.

For the next few hours the audience sat quietly listening to the old songs, preparing for the 10 minutes of silence to honor John Lennon. Many carried old Beatles album covers, enlarged photos of Lennon, or placards reading 'Give Peace a Chance' and 'John Lennon, R.I.P. We Love You.'

Rev. David Arnott, 36, the Anglican chaplain of Liverpool Polytechnic, which now incorporates the art college where Lennon studied for more than two years, addressed the crowd.

'If anybody's commitment to peace has been strengthend by tragedy of last few days, then's John death has not been in vain.' hes said. 'For John's sake, mankind's sake, and for God's sake -- give peace a chance. Tonight pray for it. Tomorrow go out and do it.'

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