Huntington Beach riot: bike shop workers fought off looters

As downtown Huntington Beach businesses opened early Monday and merchants took stock of the damage from Sunday night's riots, one shop clearly took the brunt of the mayhem.

As police officers forced an out-of-control crowd Sunday away from the beach, where the U.S. Open of Surfing had just concluded, people were funneled down Main Street. At the Easyrider bike shop, some in the crowd tore down a stop sign and used it to ram through a glass storefront window.

Ryan Hartzog, a store manager, said he arrived to the store earlier in the evening after an employee told him there would be problems from the crowd gathered at the surfing contest.

PHOTOS: Huntington Beach disturbance

Employees closed down the store, and about a dozen people, including employees and their friends, stayed to defend the shop, he said.

The employees stayed in the shop, keeping the doors locked and the lights off, but then armed themselves with wrenches and bike seat posts when they saw people outside pull down a stop sign, Hartzog said.

He said rioters used the sign to smash through the window, stole one bike and tried to tried to take a second. Employees managed to hang onto the second bike in a tug-of-war with a looter.

The workers also recovered the stop sign.

Hartzog said at least six local residents aided in their efforts, lining up in front of the store and linking arms. At one point they chanted, "This is our shop," Hartzog said.

"It was a little intense. Who knows what could have happened?" said Hartzog, who kept the casing of a rubber bullet used by riot police as a memento.

Margo Hamman, a friend of several bike shop employees, recorded some of the violence on a digital camera.

Hamman said she went to Main Street after she heard that porta-potties were being flipped over. She followed the crowd down Main Street toward Easyrider.

"It was just a matter of what craziness was going to happen," said Hamman, who attributed the night's events to ongoing feud between locals and people from out of town. "I just knew I had to be there to capture it."

Several fights erupted along Main Street during the melee, said 14-year-old Dominic Coffey, who said he sought refuge in a coffee shop.

"Usually at the U.S. Open, people throw their trash everywhere, but I've never seen it get this wild," Coffey said. 

Hartzog, who has lived in Huntington Beach for 12 years, said he was not completely surprised that violence erupted. He said he had decided to leave for a Colorado River trip over the weekend, rather than deal with increasingly crowded event, he said.

"Every year the U.S. Open was getting a little too crazy," Hartzog said. "We figured this was going to happen."

The bike store, which does business at the corner of Orange and Main streets -- just blocks from the ocean -- opened for business as usual at 10 a.m. Monday. The broken window pane had been replaced with wood. The stolen bike remained missing, and a mannequin had been damaged.

Still, Hartzog said, "We're ready to sell some bikes!"

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Twitter: @emfoxhall

emily.foxhall@latimes.com

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