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Confusion Blamed in Beach Clash

Venice: Officers chased suspected taggers into the midst of a hip-hop concert, sparking a melee. LAPD says it didn't know about the show beforehand.

March 02, 1999|JOHN L. MITCHELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A rock- and bottle-throwing clash that erupted at a hip-hop concert on Venice Beach prompted the area's City Council representative to call Monday for better communication between police and agencies that issue festival permits.

"It's the same concern we have every spring and summer," said Councilwoman Ruth Galanter. "We want these areas maintained by the police for the community and the world. If trouble breaks out, we want to know that the cops are able to handle it."

The Los Angeles Police Department declared a citywide tactical alert at the peak of the Sunday conflict, rushing in 150 uniformed officers, many in riot gear, to break up a crowd estimated at more than 1,000 concertgoers.

Trouble began when a few officers--unaware that the concert was taking place--chased a group of taggers into the midst of the festivities, encountering hostility.

Eight people were arrested in the subsequent melee, in which two police cars and several news media vans were spray-painted and vandalized. No serious injuries were reported.

Galanter, who discussed the incident Monday with police, said that she was concerned about the lack of coordination between the LAPD and the city's Department of Recreation and Parks, which issued the permit to the festival organizers. Organizers could not be reached for comment Monday.

Galanter said she plans to ask both departments to coordinate permits and plans to ask for additional resources to beef up patrols in Venice, which normally draws heavy police deployment in the summer.

At midafternoon Sunday officers chased the suspected taggers into an area known as "the graffiti pit," near Windward Avenue and Ocean Front Walk, where the concert was being held.

"We weren't prepared for a meeting or concert or anything. We didn't know anything about it," said Pacific Division Capt. Gary Williams. "Once the officers ran in there, they were rocked and bottled, we had to come and rescue them out."

The concert was organized by a group calling itself Eternal Two Creation, which had paid $200 for a permit to put on the event. On the permit, the event was described simply as a "DJ and Dancers' Exhibit Meeting," anticipating 125 participants and about 400 spectators, Williams said. He said the LAPD had fewer than half a dozen officers on the boardwalk when the event began.

Williams said that when officers asked an event organizer to help quiet the crowd and allow them to pursue the suspects, she condemned the officers' actions over the loudspeaker, further inciting the crowd. When the crowd refused to disperse, the LAPD called a tactical alert, bringing in more officers.

"We asked people to move, we told them to move, but they weren't moving," Williams said.

As police began escorting people away from the event, the crowd grew angrier. Some people in the crowd attacked a police car, breaking a rear window and spray-painting graffiti on it. Rocks and bottles were thrown. It took nearly three hours to disperse the crowd.

Gilda Franklin, a city parks department spokeswoman, maintained that her agency had informed the LAPD of the event. She said personnel in the Pacific Division's Venice substation had been notified.

Along Ocean Front Walk on Monday, vendors suggested police were heavy-handed.

"The police seemed to overreact," said Richard Green, an artist.

"The police kept telling them to disperse, but the kids were playing," said Winston King, another artist. "They didn't take it seriously; they were dancing. I don't think the cops appreciated that."

Joseph Reyes, who sells oils, said: "It happens all the time. The police just want to show them who is the boss."

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