updated 9/4/2007 6:09:37 PM ET 2007-09-04T22:09:37

Police donned riot gear and used smoke and tear gas to break up a hostile crowd throwing bottles and cans during a huge, alcohol-fueled Labor Day beach brawl, authorities said.

Sixteen people were arrested and face charges of fighting and being drunk in public. No officers were injured.

When lifeguards went to treat a man who had been punched and kicked on Monday, people in the area pointed out six or seven men they said were responsible for the fight, authorities said.

At that point, a new brawl broke out, prompting lifeguards to call police for help. Hecklers began throwing bottles and sand at police who were writing citations for the first fight, police spokeswoman Monica Munoz said.

Lifeguards fled four towers and ran into the water to rescue boats waiting beyond the surf line, Lifeguard Service Lt. Nick Lerma said. He said he did not know what triggered the initial fight.

The crowd was estimated about 500 people, authorities said. A police helicopter hovered over the beach while officers on the ground formed a skirmish line along the boardwalk.

City Councilman Kevin Faulconer went to the scene and said alcohol likely played a part in the fighting. He said that because of the brawl he is considering a move to ban alcohol on city beaches.

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