Huntington Beach cleans up after weekend violence, looks ahead
The belligerent crowd poured onto Huntington Beach’s Main Street at the surfing competition’s conclusion near sundown, seemingly looking for trouble.
They tipped over portable restrooms, the waste flowing into the roadway. They rocked a city pickup truck — a Huntington Beach logo plastered on its door panel — and threw traffic cones and wooden planks pulled from barricades at its windows after they failed to flip it.
By the time the crowd reached the Easyrider bike shop Sunday night, pulling a stop sign from the ground and smashing it through the front window, employees had armed themselves with wrenches and bike seat posts.
As with other merchants along the main drag in Surf City U.S.A, they were making a stand to defend their shop.
“We figured this was going to happen,” said Ryan Hartzog, manager of the shop that opened Monday morning, business as usual, save for the wood replacing the broken window pane and the casing of a rubber pellet he kept as a memento.
On Monday, the day after the riot in which at least seven were arrested, Hartzog’s sentiment was echoed up and down Main Street, as locals surveyed damaged businesses and debris left behind by some who had attended the U.S. Open of Surfing, the eight-day competition that ended Sunday.
The city has regularly been the site of some of surfing’s top competitions, a tradition that dates back decades.
“The officials want to attract tourists,” said Larry Van Houten, who has lived at a trailer park near downtown for a decade, “and when the tourists arrive, some of them don’t respect the city like we respect it.”
Of those arrested in connection with the riot, only one was from Huntington Beach: 24-year-old Andres Gomez, who was booked on suspicion of refusing to disperse and resisting arrest.
Huntington Beach police said the others booked on suspicion of charges related to disorderly conduct and resisting arrest include Michael John Lytle, 30, of Anaheim; Michael Anthony Avila, 28, of Santa Ana; Joseph Monterrosa, 28, of Ontario; Adam A. Cecot, 18, of Irvine; Chase Scott Christman, 19, of Simi Valley; and Kyle Roger Crott, 18, of Riverside.
Additional arrests are expected as police sift through the dozens of photos and videos of the violence.
A photo of a man standing with his arms raised, moments after ramming the stop sign through Easyriders’ window, has gone viral. It was circulated not just on Main Street but also Facebook, where the image was shared more than 5,800 times, in the hope of identifying him. Several people on Facebook went so for as to offer up clues about his identity.
At a news conference Monday, city leaders praised police for their work in trying to control the crowd. Authorities said officers on the ground fired pepper balls and nonlethal projectiles at rioters.
Several officers sustained minor injuries, and one person was treated and released from a hospital after being hit by a rubber projectile.
“It could’ve been much worse than it was,” Mayor Connie Boardman said. “There was a plan in place to call on mutual aid in case it was needed. I think our police acted with great restraint given the crowd. They contained it very well.”
Huntington Beach police Chief Ken Small also lauded his officers for their composure as they faced “a barrage of bottles, bricks, rocks and other devices being thrown at them from a crowd of people who repeatedly failed to disperse after being ordered to do so.”
James Leitz, executive producer of the surfing competition, said an otherwise successful event was tarnished by a fraction of those who attended.
“It comes down to a few people,” he said. “They play a game of cat and mouse. They’ll start something here then go there. And that’s exactly what happened.”
Leitz said he hoped that the competition would remain in Huntington Beach, and city leaders said a downtown task force of residents and business owners would look for ways to make the event safer in the future.
Locals groused that for years the tournament has attracted crowds that drink in their cars, urinate in public and leave trash behind. Michael Heh, who has lived off the main drag since 2009, said the event this year seemed like more of a nuisance than in years past.
“It seemed bigger, more people and more rowdy,” said Heh, 48. “I’ve never seen this many people packed into Main Street.”
Kimberly Krosner, a kindergarten teacher, said she avoids Main Street during the competition. Krosner said she was frustrated with the rowdy crowds, particularly those from out of town.
“It’s way too crowded, and there’s no parking,” she said. “We who live here love our city. What I would say to the outsiders is: Why don’t you treat this as if it were your own home? You wouldn’t destroy your home.”
Times staff writers Rick Rojas and Anthony Clark Carpio contributed to this report.
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