Police seek to control rowdy fans celebrating Lakers title in streets outside Staples CenterBy Christopher Weber, Gaea News Network
Monday, June 15, 2009
LAPD seeks to control rowdy crowd after Lakers win
LOS ANGELES — Hundreds celebrated in the streets outside Staples Center after the Los Angeles Lakers’ NBA title win Sunday night, with some revelers damaging at least one police cruiser, throwing rocks and bottles at officers and setting bonfires.
At least five members of the rowdy crowd that split off to surrounding streets were arrested after police declared the gathering an unlawful assembly, police spokeswoman Mary Grady said.
Officer Karen Rayner said one or two police cruisers were damaged and reinforcement officers were called in from throughout the city to help disperse the crowd.
Aerial television footage showed people jumping on a police car, rocking vehicles attempting to pass through the crowd and throwing flares set up by police. No injuries were reported.
A gas station was looted and several cars and a news van were vandalized, police chief William Bratton told KTTV-TV.
Bratton commended officers for showing restraint despite “a lot of provocation from a number of knuckleheads,” he said.
“It’s not easy to stand there when cowards in the middle of the crowd are throwing rocks and bottles at them,” Bratton said.
Police department strike teams pushed people from the immediate area around the Staples Center into surrounding neighborhoods and were broke the crowds into progressively smaller clusters, Grady said.
The department declared a citywide tactical alert, meaning that all officers on duty were to remain on duty until the crowds had been completely dispersed, she said.
Across the country in Florida, the Lakers beat the Orlando Magic 99-86 in Game 5 of the NBA finals Sunday night to win their 15th championship.
The game was not shown at the Staples Center as it had been in previous years, but revelers from surrounding bars and restaurants and nearby neighborhoods descended on the area around the Lakers’ home for a postgame celebration.
Television reports also showed small crowds of people parading through the streets of East Los Angeles, where excitement over the Lakers’ Game 4 win Thursday night spilled into the streets, with rowdy fans swarming vehicles trying to pass through the area.
Bratton said that despite the problems the night went “all things considered pretty well” compared to expectations and the more widespread violence and vandalism of previous championship celebrations.
In 2000, after the Lakers won their first NBA title in 12 years, fans rioted outside Staples Center, burning police cars and leaving more than 70 vehicles damaged, many at nearby auto dealerships. At least 11 people were arrested and a dozen were injured.
Before the game, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said if the Lakers win they should have a victory parade in Los Angeles, despite the city’s budget woes.
Villaraigosa said he would work with the private sector to help fund the celebration, which was expected to occur on Wednesday.
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