A number of people are expected to be charged in court in the coming days after bottles were hurled during band marches at Zabbar yesterday.

The incident, the first of its kind following an agreement signed by the two band clubs in 1992, resulted in over 12 people, including six policemen, being slightly injured.

Assistant Commissioner Paul Sammut was hit by a bottle and inspectors Patrick Spiteri, Tony Cassar and at least three other constables were slightly injured.

The incidents erupted when supporters of Maria Mater Gratiae band club wanted to pass through Sanctuary Street and supporters of St Michael's band club refused to allow them through.

Sources in Zabbar said that this year the atmosphere was most calm, with rival club members co-operating with each other. "Suffice it to say that, three hours before the incident, members of both clubs were helping each other set up equipment used during the band marches," the sources said.

The agreement reached in 1992 between the band clubs had put an end to rivalry that plagued the Zabbar feast. The agreement, in the form of a booklet with many clauses, established the feast days and gave direction to both band clubs on routes, start and finishing times for band marches and areas they had to cover during the feast days.

It also has guidelines on what is considered provocative and what was acceptable. It also contained a section on the procedure to be adopted if breaches occur. Fines of Lm4,000 were contemplated.

At Zabbar, clubs invest in huge hydraulic operated umbrellas and other decorated gear, rather than fireworks. Following the incidents, all police permits for band marches were cancelled but the religious celebrations in connection with the feast this weekend are to go ahead as planned following an agreement between the two village band clubs, Maria Mater Gratiae and Ghaqda Madonna tal-Grazzja - St Michael, parish priest Fr Sebastian Caruana said in a statement yesterday.

The bikers' pilgrimage will also be held this morning. The procession leaves the church at around 7 p.m.

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