Irvine city officials said Sunday that they will strongly urge the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre management to ban the Grateful Dead rock group from the facility following what one councilman described as "a near riotous condition" at the band's concert over the weekend.
Saturday night, the second of a 3-night stand by the group, about 500 fans without tickets reporteldy started throwing rocks and bottles at police and security guards and lighting bonfires when they couldn't get into the venue.
Two unidentified police officers were slightly injured, officials said, and about 40 people were arrested, most of them for drug-related offenses and assault. Officers from five other jurisdictions were called in to help Irvine police quell the outbreak, city officials said.
Police reported no problems at Sunday's show, Sgt. Steve Shrew said. Nine persons were arrested Sunday, he said, compared with the 40 on Saturday and 25 on Friday. "It's been very mellow there tonight," he said.
Last week, some Irvine councilmen, including Mayor Larry Agran, had expressed concern about this year's Grateful Dead concert because of past problems with drug use, vandalism and noise at the group's events.
An enormously popular band, the Grateful Dead has been playing since 1965 and has a loyal following of fans, many of whom journey from city to city to see the group.
Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre management officials had responded that they would deal with the problem this year by trying to disperse campers and fans without tickets.
"The pressure is really on us this year to demonstrate that we can do this properly, and I think we can," Paul Hegness, an Irvine Meadows partner, said last week.
Sunday, Hegness called the weekend incident "very disturbing. We really can't think of anything more we could have done to provide security."
He said the Amphitheatre management is "going to sit down with the city officials and do a post-mortem on this."
Agran said that despite Saturday's problems, the city has no authority to order the Amphitheatre not to book the group anymore. He said city officials would renew their efforts to persuade Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre not to reschedule the Grateful Dead.
"This is not an attempt at censorship or a condemnation of the Grateful Dead," Agran said. "It's just based on very practical reasons. So many people follow this group that it creates enormous traffic problems. A concert like this stretches our resources to the limit, and it's something we prefer to avoid."
Irvine Councilman Cameron Cosgrove, who was at the Amphitheatre to inspect security, witnessed Saturday night's melee.
"I would say it was a potential riot," Cosgrove said. "It was apparent that it was more than oxygen that people in that crowd were breathing. It was remarkably lucky to disperse that many people who were in a mood to raise hell."
He said that about 9:30 p.m. he saw a mob of about 500 non-ticket-holders near the Amphitheatre's entrance at Irvine Center Drive begin moving toward security officers and throwing rocks and bottles.
"Our police did not have the immediate manpower to disperse that crowd," Cosgrove said. He said Irvine police called for and received assistance from the California Highway Patrol, the Orange County Sheriff's Department and the Police departments of Newport Beach, Santa Ana and Costa Mesa.
"I was inside working with (an) undercover narcotics officer when the call (about the angry crowd outside the Amphitheatre) came over the police radio," said Cosgrove. "There were about 500 out there by Irvine Center Drive, and they had already destroyed an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) out there.
"A police helicopter overhead broadcast messages for them to please disperse. A police car loudspeaker out there also urged them to disperse, but this just seemed to spur them on. They had bonfires going. They were trying to get around to the back of the theater."
Cosgrove said that with the arrival of police reinforcements, enough officers were available to move the crowd "down Irvine Center Drive towards Lake Forest, where many of them had parked."
Cosgrove said that only about a dozen remained "who were still agitating the crowd" after the mass dispersal. "They were still throwing rocks and one officer was hit," he said. "About eight to 10 of those (throwing rocks and refusing to disperse) were arrested for assault."
Irvine Police Sgt. Steven Olson said Sunday, "I think a couple of our officers were hit (Saturday night), but it caused no major injuries." Olson estimated that about 40 persons were arrested Saturday night, but he said most of those were arrested on drug charges inside the Amphitheatre.
Laguna Hills Complaints
Olson said that police received few complaints about Sunday's concert from Irvine residents, but that several came from residents of nearby Laguna Hills. The Amphitheatre, which is off Irvine Center Drive near the San Diego Freeway, is located near residential areas of Laguna Hills.