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Magic Mountain Reopens After Melees : Crime: Park quickly cleans up and restocks shelves after Saturday's violence. Causes remain unclear.

April 19, 1993|ALAN ABRAHAMSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Magic Mountain reopened Sunday to an enthusiastic spring break crowd as law enforcement officials, park managers and a music promoter tried to pinpoint blame for two melees that damaged both the park and its reputation as a place for family entertainment.

An all-night repair job replaced broken windows and looted merchandise in time for Sunday's 10 a.m. opening. The most noticeable effects of the violence were the presence of more sheriff's deputies and intensified searches of purses and bags by park security.

Hundreds of rowdy youths rampaged through the park and nearby Santa Clarita in two waves of violence Saturday, first in the afternoon and again at night, leading to dozens of minor injuries and three arrests. Sheriff's deputies at the Santa Clarita station were told at a Sunday morning briefing that damage could reach $750,000, Deputy Doug Schoenborn said.

The cause of Saturday's violence was unclear. Magic Mountain blamed the crowd attracted by rap music, the promoter blamed the amusement park for overbooking and the Sheriff's Department said it is not sure who is responsible.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday April 20, 1993 Home Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Column 6 Metro Desk 3 inches; 74 words Type of Material: Correction
Magic Mountain--A story Monday about the weekend disturbance at Six Flags Magic Mountain reported erroneously that rap singer Paperboy planned to sue Magic Mountain for damages. The statement was attributed to a man identified as John Riley, whose name and phone number were circulated to media outlets Sunday by a local news service. Riley told reporters that he was the singer's manager. A spokeswoman for the singer, Phyllis Pollack of def press, said Monday that Paperboy has no plans to sue and has no manager named John Riley.

But the Sheriff's Department said its emergency planners, worried about the potential for violence around Los Angeles County after the verdicts in the Rodney G. King federal civil rights trial, were not prepared for trouble at Magic Mountain. Department officials said the park had not notified the department in advance that the concert was scheduled.

On Sunday, the Sheriff's Department pledged an investigation into park--and concert--admission practices. Entrance to the park did not guarantee a seat at either of two evening shows by the groups TLC and Paperboy, which cost $1 extra. All 6,250 tickets to the concerts quickly sold out to patrons inside the park, leaving many without tickets.

Magic Mountain spokeswoman Eileen Harrell said park officials did nothing wrong. She blamed the violence on a crowd attracted by "that type of music" and vowed, "We won't be scheduling any more groups like that in here, ever." Paperboy's promoter threatened to sue the park, saying Magic Mountain oversold the concert.

Unlike Disneyland, which attracts many families with small children, Magic Mountain and its thrill rides are geared toward a more adventurous crowd, especially teen-agers. The park also sponsors concerts to attract teen-agers and young adults, including Saturday's shows.

The two groups that performed are regarded as milder than the hard-core "gangsta" rap groups more commonly associated with violence at concert venues. TLC, a three-woman group with several top 10 hits, is known for wearing condoms on their baggy, psychedelic outfits. They had a hit last year with the racy "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg."

Paperboy's song "Ditty" is currently No. 5 on the national pop music charts.

The afternoon trouble began after the park reached capacity and officials closed the gates. The crowd was estimated at about 40,000 people, one of the largest in the 21-year history of the park, officials said.

The California Highway Patrol closed nearby freeway off-ramps, permitting only residents with identification to exit. The result was an eight-mile backup on the northbound side. The ramps were reopened at 1:15 a.m. Sunday, the CHP said.

A crowd of 300 to 400 people moved down the hill from the amusement park entrance onto a commercial strip of restaurants and gas stations bordering the Golden State Freeway, breaking windows and looting. Sheriff's deputies arrived to clear the streets but were met by a volley of rocks and bottles.

At a Wendy's hamburger stand, the mob broke 11 windows, smashed a salad bar and dented cash registers, an assistant manager said. The windows were fixed Sunday but the computerized registers remained broken, forcing clerks to look up prices and calculate sales tax on handwritten order tickets.

Schoenborn of the Sheriff's Department blamed hard-core gang members for the outbreak of vandalism. "They started all the trouble and then others just got swept up in it," the deputy said.

Harrell denied allegations by some youths that gates were closed early because the concert was attracting large numbers of blacks. "That is simply ridiculous," she said. "Absolutely ridiculous."

She did, however, link the violence to tensions associated with the verdicts in the King civil rights trial.

"There was a lot of pent-up anxiety because of the verdicts," she said. Referring to TLC, she added, "This group and the day was a bad combination."

About 8:30 p.m., as the first scheduled concert was ending, another outbreak of violence erupted, this time inside the park. Witnesses said it began after park officials closed a crowded dance club called After Hours. People outside the club broke down the door and that set off looting, which spread through the park, several witnesses said.

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