A GANG of youths has gone on the rampage in a city centre fast food restaurant, hurling chairs and exchanging punches as terrified staff cowered behind the counter.
Diners were forced to flee as a group of between 15 and 20 teenage boys and girls invaded Burger King on Princes Street and began the wrecking spree.
One of the yobs captured the mayhem on a mobile phone camera which has since been posted on the internet.
Police are now studying the film after being alerted to its existence by the Evening News.
The film shows some of the youths playing up to the camera, with one girl stopping to grin at it as she brandishes a chair above her head.
In one scene on the video, which lasts for one minute and 13 seconds, staff members are seen cowering for safety behind the counter as a girl hurls something at them.
One witness described seeing chairs thrown over the counter at serving staff during the disturbance on Friday, December 1, at 10.30pm. It is not clear whether the melee was deliberately staged with filming in mind, or events were spontaneously recorded after trouble broke out.
The disturbances lasted only for a few minutes before police arrived. The youths involved are seen running for the doors as officers arrive outside.
Council leader Ewan Aitken today condemned the website YouTube on which the video clip has been showing, for allowing yobs to "glorify" mindless violence.
The incident has also increased concerns among businesses about the level of drink-fuelled trouble in and around Princes Street.
Staff at nearby businesses said gangs of youths regularly congregate in the area around the restaurant at the east end of Princes Street.
The video clip - mockingly entitled 'Burger King Banter' - shows several youths brawling in the restaurant, lifting metal chairs and hurling them in the direction of the counter.
Accompanying text to the video, which was posted on YouTube on Wednesday, says: "Ma M8 got lifted and smashed and a walk-in at the end. F****** s****. lol."
Witnesses said the mayhem inside the restaurant was clear to passers-by on Princes Street, with a small crowd gathering outside the Balmoral Hotel to watch events unfold.
Kirsty Paton, 31, from Lochend, was getting off a bus at Waverley Steps when she saw chairs being flung about inside Burger King, shortly followed by a large group of youths fleeing from the police.
She said: "There was a commotion and we saw chairs flying through the air. They were red so you could see them clearly. I saw chairs being thrown over the counter towards staff."
The graphic artist said there had been quite a large group of people involved.
"There were maybe 15 to 20 kids inside in a commotion which went on for three or four minutes. Then we saw the police arrive and suddenly the kids all ran out."
Mrs Paton said she saw the police catch one or two people and the rest ran off up West Register Street or across North Bridge.
"We had to go over North Bridge afterwards and we were a bit worried in case they were still there and in fighting mode.
"It was crazy. I've not seen anything like that for years."
One staff member at Burger King said: "A few random kids were drunk and started throwing things. They threw chairs around but the tables were glued down. No-one was hurt as far as I know."
Cllr Aitken called for tighter control of what is allowed to be shown on sites like YouTube.
He said: "It saddens me that sites like YouTube allow these things to be glorified. This must have been absolutely horrendous for anyone in the restaurant.
"This mindless act could see the many teenagers who lead positive lives tarred with the brush that all of them are hooligans."
A total of 18 council-funded police officers had been added to the city centre beat over the autumn, and community wardens were working to deal with such crimes, he said.
However, Cllr Aitken he said parents had to take responsibility when their children behaved like this.
"In the end we have to ask who are the role models that taught them to do this," he added.
The city's Tory leader councillor Iain Whyte said: "This is disgraceful behaviour, taking over a public place and endangering the public. It sounds like the type of behaviour more often seen in football casuals. Princes Street is by its nature a very busy place and where people gather there is the prospect of trouble.
"The council has recently invested money in city centre policing. I hope that would be put directly into a greater police presence in areas that are hotspots for problems.
"Also, the council should ensure CCTV in the area is trained on specific areas at certain times of night. We should use everything from CCTV to greater policing to ensure crime is reduced."
Graham Bell, of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said there had long been concerns about drink-fuelled behaviour on the city centre streets in the evenings.
He said: "Any incident in which staff are threatened is a major concern. There are concerns in the business community about the level of unwelcome behaviour on the streets at night, which by and large is drink-fuelled.
"The general feeling amongst businesses is that Princes Street is open to improvement and Edinburgh City Centre Management and the council are looking at ways to lift the ambience of the whole area in the long term."
A Burger King spokesperson said: "We take this incident extremely seriously as the safety of our staff and customers is of paramount importance. Fortunately on this occasion, no customers or staff were injured. This matter is being handled by the relevant authorities, to whom we have provided our full cooperation."
Three youths have been arrested and charged in connection with the disturbance.
• Watch the video