Work in Sports
Street party turns violent in L.A.
Posted: Wednesday June 21, 2000 01:34 AM
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Police will ensure the Democratic National Convention is not confronted with a repeat of the fires, looting and violence unleashed by a few hundred hooligans after the Los Angeles Lakers won basketball's biggest prize, the mayor vowed Tuesday.
"I am highly confident that we will do the best job of security in any convention in history," he said.
A peaceful celebration of the Los Angeles Lakers' first championship in 12 years deteriorated when a group of people who had watched the game on a jumbo screen outside started torching cars, looting businesses and setting bonfires in the streets around Staples Center.
They burned barricades, Indiana Pacers T-shirts, newspapers and tree branches.
Hundreds of police in riot gear restored calm early Tuesday.
"Last night we all witnessed pride and shame, winners and losers. Angelenos cheered and celebrated with pride as we saw our Lakers win the championship after a hard-fought competition with the Pacers," Riordan said.
"They were the winners who took pride in their team and their city, but it was with shame and anger that we saw not Lakers fans, but a few hundred hoodlums attempt to spoil our celebration," the mayor said.
Riordan said there were lessons to be learned from Monday night, but noted there were also differences between the game and the Aug. 14-17 convention.
"Last night was essentially a spontaneous event. The DNC will be a very disciplined, well planned, business-type event. The controlled areas around the Staples Center will be much larger than last night and anybody that wants to get into the controlled areas will have to have credentials," he said.
The mayor said there were no major injuries Monday night. Four of the 600 officers assigned to the center sustained minor injuries.
Most arrests were for misdemeanors, he said.
"It's pitiful. This is worse than anything I've ever seen down here," said Stephen Auth, president of the Kaiser Brothers car dealership. "We had one window broken out during the 1992 riots."
Riot police fired rubber bullets to disperse the crowd and many fled south through city streets, shattering windows and looting stores. At least 74 vehicles at seven car dealerships were damaged.
Most of those involved in the violence came from a crowd of about 10,000 that had watched the game on a giant screen monitor outside the arena on 11th Street.
As the violence broiled outside, some fans, coaches and players from both teams were kept inside the arena for up to two hours.
One group tore branches from trees and stuffed them into a car before setting it on fire. A city bus, two police cars, a van and other vehicles were also torched.
Fire engines raced down streets to put out fires, including three small ones in front of the Original Pantry, a landmark restaurant owned by Mayor Richard Riordan.
Mike Rice, manager of the Prestige Products auto accessories firm across from the Staples Center, said he was concerned about the police response. Some of his windows were shattered.
"My concern is the lack of forethought by police," Rice said.
Police and DNC organizers met with area business owners hours before the game to discuss convention security and traffic control preparations.
Rice now says he's worried about the arrival of the DNC.
At the news conference, police Chief Bernard Parks defended his officers, who he said made a disciplined effort to ensure that their actions did not cause an escalation of violence.
"We followed the plan to ensure that life was the No. 1 priority and the safety of those attending also was the priority," Parks said.
Lakers officials had appealed to fans to stay calm. Players, including Shaquille O'Neal, called on fans to celebrate with dignity in promos televised during the fourth quarter of the game.
"I urge you with all my heart, please, please calm down," Lakers owner Jerry Buss said on KTTV-TV. "Go home, celebrate and let's all enjoy this victory without provoking criticism."
Earvin "Magic" Johnson, a Lakers vice president and member of the last championship team, said the violence "takes away from what happened here tonight."
As the night went on, groups of men formed conga lines around scattered fires and danced in circles, while some occasionally broke free and leaped over the flames. Television images even showed some young men dancing in the rings of fire.
By 10:30 p.m., police began trying to force the crowd to disperse.
"We're just trying to get all the people out of the area," police Sgt. R. Harris said outside the arena.
As police forced rioters away, the crowds moved down quiet city streets only to unite again in smaller, more numerous groups.
By midnight, most of the crowds had dispersed.
Scores of people were stranded downtown as police and mounted officers blocked off streets. Officers refused to allow the motorists to return to their cars parked in lots near the arena.
Similar riots occurred in recent years in Denver and Chicago
following championships in professional football and basketball,