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World Cup: Despite concerns, Huntington Park quiet after Mexico draw

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Police prepare for rowdy World Cup crowds in Huntington Park
Mexico-Brazil match raises concerns in Huntington Park after past soccer violence

With Mexico and Brazil facing off in a pivotal match in the 2014 World Cup on Tuesday, Huntington Park police set up barricades and deployed officers in case rowdy crowds erupted much like they did during the Mexican team's 1994 and 2010 tournament runs.

But as of 2 p.m., things were calm along Pacific Avenue, the area where police say futbol fans often congregate in the predominantly Latino community. Mexico and Brazil played to a scoreless draw, leading to a calmer celebration.

The game was really intense. My heart was really pumping, I almost felt like crying at times,” said Gabriel Urrieta, 21, of Boyle Heights. “The goalie saved our team. Now the next game is the one that matters.”

Mexico and Brazil remain tied for the top spot in Group A. If the group phase ended today, both teams would advance to the next round.

Before the match, police were wary of large crowds forming in the area, the memories of melees during past tournaments still fresh in their mind.

“It’s normally in the World Cup where we have to prepare in advance,” Huntington Park Det. Elsa Cobian said. “It’s definitely a big game today.”

Police placed barricades along the town’s main street, Pacific Boulevard, and nearly 20 officers on foot and horseback were lining Pacific Avenue at the match's conclusion.

More than half of the town is made up immigrants with many listing Mexico as their place of birth, according to the Los Angeles Times Mapping L.A.

As a result, most root for their home country in the World Cup. Officials said the large Mexican fan base has led to large rallies.

Cobian said she witnessed the massive gathering that year. She hopes fans will remain peaceful should Mexico win.

“We just want people to celebrate and have a good time, but not to break the law,” Cobian said. 

The neighborhood has been home to some violence after matches before. When the Mexican team bested France in the 2010 tournament, police were sent to disperse crowds that were hurling rocks at cars and drinking in public.

In 2006, more than 500 fans gathered along the boulevard to celebrate Mexico’s 3-1 World Cup victory over Iran, according to the CBS-TV and KCAL-TV. 

A curfew was also imposed over the neighborhood in 1994. Police recorded 17 arrests, including at least one for assault with a deadly weapon, after the team advanced out of the group stage that year.

Police also said an estimated $10,000 in merchandise was looted from a charity fireworks stand that year.

Follow @JamesQueallyLAT for breaking news.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

2:15 p.m. - This post updated with comments from fans who gathered to watch the match in Huntington Park.

1:56 p.m. - This post updated at the end of the match.

This post was originally published at 1:40 p.m.

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