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Lakers officials want peaceful victory parade

June 18, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
It was a great performance by the Los Angeles Lakers at Game 7 of the NBA Finals on Thursday, but a not-so-great performance by fans. The LAPD said nearly 40 people were arrested, and their bad behavior took some attention away from the Lakers victory.

According to the LAPD, 36 adults and two juveniles were arrested. One arrest was for vandalism, and two arrests were for arson. Most of the 38 people arrested are charged with misdemeanors, but 15 are facing felony charges.

Police declared an unlawful assembly and started clearing the streets shortly after the game, but in spite of the massive police presence, there were several ugly incidents.

Rocks and bottles were thrown at the hundreds of police officers stationed in the area, and one of those officers suffered a broken nose when a flying object ricocheted off his protective helmet.

A man used a sign to smash the window of businesses. The windows of several vehicles and businesses were also broken.

One man was caught on camera lighting a taxi on fire, and flames shot into the air from the burning vehicle. The cab driver was dragged out and beaten, but was reported to be OK. His cab, however, was destroyed.

Firefighters were called to put out at least three vehicle fires, as well as several fires in rubbish bins. Fire crews dealt with more than 35 fires and other incidents within a half-mile radius of Staples Center.

The incidents included 15 rubbish fires, 1 vegetation fire, three vehicle fires and 18 medical aid requests for injured individuals. Eight people were taken by LAFD ambulances to local hospitals.

Several people were arrested for public drunkenness.

Hundreds of police officers in riot gear moved into positions, trying to clear the scenes.

Officials said the hottest trouble spots were Grand Avenue and Olympic Boulevard. They also said Flower Street and Sixth Street were breeding grounds for chaotic activity.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck spoke about post-game troubles at a news conference at 11 p.m. Thursday.

"I give the game a 10; I give the celebration about a 5," Beck said. "We made multiple arrests, we used overwhelming force, we had a maximum number of police officers deployed here to clear out the crowds around Staples Center and disperse them."

Beck said that the number of police officers near Staples Center was four or five times the number from last year and included undercover police officers.

Beck said at least one police vehicle was damaged, but not severely, by thrown objects.

The arena wasn't the only place police targeted. The L.A. County Sheriff's Department deployed hundreds of deputies to East Los Angeles near Whittier Boulevard, which was closed to vehicle traffic between Easter and Garfield avenues for the duration of Game 7 and for hours thereafter.

At an LAPD graduation Friday, dozens of young police officers were warned by Beck that this is what they'll face as they hit the streets. Beck said that such rioting will most likely happen again no matter how well prepared the police are in the future.

"That's what happens when mobs of people take matters into their own hands," Beck described Thursday's riots. "But given the fact that we had about 10,000 people that decided they didn't want to comply with the law, I think we dispersed them very well and very quickly."

The rookie officers will quickly learn that bad things will likely happen no matter how well they train and how well they police.

"In a city of 4 million people, there are always going to be a couple of knuckleheads, and that's what these people were who engaged in these disturbances," said L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Pockets of violence broke out in the downtown area, but it never got completely out of control as such incidents have happened after three past championships.

"I will deal with people who come in and vandalizes and act foolish and take advantage of crowd situations," said Beck. "The reality is we need to change the way people think about how to celebrate. That's the lesson."

The after-event analysis is currently under way, but as Beck indicated, unless people change their thought processes about celebratory activities, events like Thursday's riots will continue to happen even in the face of police efforts.

Although the chaos following the game was unfortunate, Lakers fans won't forget the real reason for all the celebration - winning the NBA Finals Championship.

The Lakers will host a celebratory parade for all local fans on Monday, June 21, starting at Staples Center and traveling south through downtown. The parade will begin at 11 a.m. The team is picking up the tab for the parade.

Unlike last year's parade, which was followed by a celebration complete with speeches and Laker Girl performances at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, there will be no post-parade event on Monday.

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