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Police Control Soccer Fans

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Hours after hundreds of flag-waving soccer fans danced and cheered peacefully in Huntington Park, police arrested 30 people for hurling rocks and bottles at officers and smashing car windows after Mexico’s second-round exit from the World Cup, authorities said.

About 500 revelers spilled into the streets to rally behind the Mexican team, despite its 2-1 loss to Germany. No injuries were reported.

A disturbance last week turned violent shortly after fans took to the streets. Monday, police sought to keep tight control over the celebration from the beginning.

About 350 officers from police departments across Los Angeles County set up barricades and patrolled streets around Pacific Boulevard and Florence Avenue, where 31 people were arrested last Thursday after fans smashed windows, tried to overturn cars and pelted police with stones and bottles.

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This time, fans caused little trouble immediately after Mexico’s loss. Dozens quickly gathered outside a Mexican restaurant where fans have traditionally flocked after games--and chanted “Viva Mexico!” as police in riot gear stood by.

“It’s the saddest day of my life, but we’re going to try to make it the happiest,” said Justin Ochoa, who brought his wife and 3-year-old son to the restaurant. “We lost, but we’re still No. 1.”

Word soon spread that city officials had brought a mariachi band to nearby Salt Lake Park, and a crowd of fans marched to a chorus of car horns up the middle of Pacific Boulevard toward the park.

As police followed the crowd, a couple of firecrackers were thrown in their direction, but officers made no arrests and quickly left the park once fans began dancing and cheering.

“We were concerned that people would get a little crazy,” said Huntington Park Mayor Jessica Maes. “So we asked businessmen who were concerned as well to bring in the music and allow people to celebrate without creating a disturbance. . . . This is a good outlet for people.”

But the calm of the day’s celebration was punctuated at 1:30 p.m., when a group of youths left the park and began throwing rocks and bottles at squad cars, said Huntington Park police Lt. Michael Gwaltney.

Police arrested most of the group, including one for assaulting an officer. Police arrested three others around 3:50 p.m. for smashing car windows with a wooden ball, a spokesman said.

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