In The Pipeline: City’s heroes shine during riot

The employees at Easyrider who helped saved the store from looters after the U.S. Open of Surfing ended Sunday evening.
(Charles Epting)

You could hear a pin drop on Main Street at 10 p.m. Sunday.

It was eerie, abandoned and dead just an hour or so after having the life beaten out of it.

Broken glass crunched under each step while blue-and-red police car lights pulsated at each intersection where barricades had been set. It felt like a war zone, a post-apocalyptic nightmare by the beach.

The disturbance following the U.S. Open of Surfing had been quelled, thanks to a quickly coordinated, impressively executed effort by the Huntington Beach Police Department and assistance from other agencies throughout the county.

Were they properly prepared? Could the unrest have been prevented? I’m sure these will be the topics of discussion in the days ahead — and they should be.

But on this night, as my son and I stepped carefully through the remnants, it was all about the moment. The pavement was caked with tear gas residue and blanketed with garbage.

It appears to have begun with a handful of goons kicking over a bunch of Porta-potties.

Hundreds of people got caught up in the chaos, and as a wall of police and SWAT team members pushed down Main away from the ocean, part of the mob soon found itself in front of the Easyrider bicycle shop at 328 Main St.

That’s when a pair of stop signs were snapped from the ground and someone used one as a spear to smash the front window of the bike shop. A video on Facebook depicts the scene.

Ryan Hartzog, 28, is the store manager. He told me he had just returned home and got the call that the riot was swiftly moving toward the store. He rushed over to see the wall of humanity running from the tear gas and rubber “bullets” being used by police at the opposite end of the street.

Then came the plate-glass window smashing, followed by rioters trying to steal the bikes on display. They stole a $500 bike, but Hartzog described how his employees jumped in and played tug of war with the would-be looters, saving a $5,000 bike while fending off the thugs.

Then something else happened. He described how a bunch of “random local kids” locked arms out in front and protected the store until help arrived. They placed themselves in the middle of that insanity, spontaneously forming a human shield.

A video shot by a local woman, Margot Hamman, captures the moment when the stop sign destroyed the window and thugs began trying to steal bikes. It also shows somebody brutally blindsiding someone with a punch to the back of the head.

The coward then runs away. But it’s videos like this that do more than just show the story. In today’s digitally documented world, these videos are freely posted to Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, becoming evidence of crimes.

I managed to track down Hamman, who is an 18-year-old Huntington Beach resident, and she told me this:

“As I was shooting the video, I had no idea what was about to happen. There were a few times where the energy in the crowd would stir and something seemed eminent but it was just confusion. Then somebody starts waving around a stop sign and just runs it right into the window.”

Through all of the mayhem and destruction you have this story of the bicycle shop. You have employees who protected their place of business, and you have young locals who got involved to maintain some order until the police could get involved.

I initially felt anger inside as we walked the desolate Main Street. Our town had been mugged.

But after visiting Easyrider, I felt uplifted. In that shop, the spirit of Huntington Beach was alive and well. As the employees posed for a photo we took in front of the shop, they were clearly proud of holding down the fort during a violent storm. They seemed exhilarated as they watched video of themselves defending their store.

This story will no doubt be a black eye for the city and most of the coverage you see will involve the hooliganism of hundreds of out-of-control youths.

But please don’t forget the people at this bike shop, and the locals who stepped in and risked their own safety for the sake of doing what was right.

That’s what represents the city. Not the goons, but these tough-and-gutsy locals who held it together and got the job done when it counted most.

And if you’re looking for a bike, I can’t think of a better place to start looking than 328 Main St.

CHRIS EPTING is the author of 19 books, including the new “Baseball in Orange County,” from Arcadia Publishing. You can chat with him on Twitter @chrisepting or follow his column at .