RIOTING youths as young as 14 pelted police with stones and engaged in 'wanton thuggery' after officers stepped in to break up a booze-fuelled outdoor fight.

The ugly violence erupted at Parklea and became so bad that two sets of police reinforcements had to be summoned.

A squad car was vandalised by the yobs and put out of commission.

Officers had to use shields to protect themselves from the hail of objects being thrown at them during the shocking early evening incident — and one PC was spat on.

Seven arrests were eventually made during last Friday's rampage — six males and one female — with the youngest person apprehended being a boy of just 14.

Inverclyde's police commander, Chief Inspector Debbie Reilly, said: "We've got a duty to protect the public, and that includes young people and we were there to do that.

"But what we will not tolerate is this type of wanton thuggery.

"It's disgusting that they think it is acceptable to turn on the very people who are there to help them when they need it."

Ch Insp Reilly says the out of control illegal gathering is all the more alarming given that it took place as the town was at the centre of a new coronavirus outbreak.

She said: "The fact that we were experiencing a spike in Covid in Port Glasgow means that they clearly don't understand the risk to the wider community."

Uniformed community officers had earlier spoken to some young people regarding the risks of alcohol.

Plain clothes officers visited the hotspot area as more people began to gather - and trouble flared when they broke up a violent altercation.

Chief Inspector Reilly said: "When they got there they observed a fight and in order to prevent injury the officers intervened and at that point they came under attack.

"That included persons preventing them from making an arrest, so much so that they had to call for urgent assistance.

"Officers who attended to assist were pelted with stones, to the extent that they had to deploy their shields in order to prevent injury to themselves.

"Such was the level of violence they had to wait on other officers coming from outwith Inverclyde to assist."

Chief Inspector Reilly is today pleading with parents to understand the risks young people are subjecting themselves to by going out to gather and drink.

The area commander said: "We do understand that young people are entitled to enjoy the free spaces Inverclyde has to offer.

"But obviously with the spike in Covid we're trying to prevent harm and we're trying to prevent risk to everyone.

"I am reaching out to every parent and carer, and everybody in the community, asking them to try to understand the risks that are out there for our children.

"They are placing themselves in danger of exploitation either through alcohol or drugs and they are putting themselves in risky situations."

An unmarked police car was stoned during the incident and also had one of its wing mirrors booted off.

The casing of the other was damaged, which meant it could no longer be used.

Chief Inspector Reilly said: "The fact that they've damaged a police car to such an extent that that car was no longer able to be deployed impacts on our ability to serve the wider public."

The arrested individuals are aged between 14 and 18.

It is understood that they will be reported to the fiscal for a variety of alleged public order offences.

Police returned to Parklea on Saturday night and had to make a further arrest.

Chief Inspector Reilly said: "Essentially we've had a large scale disturbance whereby officers had to request urgent assistance from colleagues both within and outwith Inverclyde.

"I have to say that not only is it disgusting behaviour, but part of me is really disappointed because often I try to defend young people because I feel at times they get stigmatised.

"I'm a great believer that they're allowed to use the free space as much as everybody else is, as long as we're abiding by the Covid rules of course.

"That's why I always ask the community officers to make sure that any engagement is a positive engagement.

"We do have levels of tolerance but what happened on Friday won't be tolerated at all."