- The Washington Times - Friday, August 17, 2001

LONDON — A sporting goods store in central Belfast, Northern Ireland, sells 10 to 15 baseball bats a week.
"Funnily enough, I don't know of any baseball teams" in the area, said John Miskimmon, a salesman at Athletic Stores. He guessed that half the bat buyers wouldn't know a grand slam from a ground out.
"They don't really ask you about nothing, they just take it off the rack, bring it over," he said. "They don't really ask you about the quality of the bats, what the differences are or anything. Probably just the cheapest."
Baseball bats are turning up in riots from Amsterdam and Ankara to the tumultuous Group of Eight summit in Genoa.
The Irish Republican Army uses bats. So have Kurdish militants in Europe, skinheads in Slovakia and teen-age gangsters in Portugal.
Patrizia Bonalumi, a spokeswoman for the Genoa police, said six bats — and 30 hockey sticks — were found during a cleanup of the stadium where demonstrators camped out during the G-8 meeting.
Human rights groups have reported bats being used against inmates at prisons in Jamaica and Turkey.
In Slovakia, skinheads sometimes carry out attacks with them. A soldier used one to beat a 49-year-old Gypsy woman to death and club some of her eight children.
Kurdish militants, enraged by the capture of rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan in 1999, wielded bats to injure people in Germany and the Netherlands. One man toted a bat wrapped in newspaper at a Sarajevo rally against Serbian violence in May.
And in Portugal, the government promised last year to crack down on juvenile delinquency after a string of attacks by gangs of youths, some of them involving baseball bats.
"A baseball bat obviously is a type of product that unfortunately has some uses that we would not approve of," said Bill Williams, a spokesman for Hillerich & Bradsby, which makes Louisville Sluggers. "There's really not much you can do about it."
The Louisville, Ky.-based company makes about 3 million wood and aluminum bats a year, and exports them to more than 50 countries, including Britain.
In London, police say reports of assaults and even murders by bat may be misleading.
"I think that people use a colloquialism for something that looks like a baseball bat [like a truncheon or a wooden ax handle]," said Lisa Carroll, a spokeswoman for Scotland Yard.
Bats are available in Britain but tend to be relegated to the far corners of sporting goods stores.
Lillywhites, one of the biggest sports shops in London, stocks only a few baseball bats in its six floors of athletic merchandise — the wooden and aluminum bats from Rawlings, Easton Sports Inc. and Wilson Sporting Goods Co. sell for between $28 and $70. Manager Tom Bowkay said most buyers are members of corporate softball teams.
In the northern English town of Bradford, where white youths and people of South Asian descent clashed last month, police initially said baseball bats had been used against officers.
But Ann Clayton, a spokeswoman for the West Yorkshire police, said it was difficult to know for sure, because the weapons were not left at the scene.
Police reports of bats were based mostly on information from eyewitnesses, she said.
"It's a similar size piece of wood," she said. "I can't say it isn't a baseball bat. That is the thing that's most triggered in their mind, a good description of it."

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