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The State

Oakland Cleans Up After Large Mob Runs Wild

Thousands take to the streets, burning cars and businesses, in mayhem after the Super Bowl. Mayor Brown says it 'could have been worse.'

January 28, 2003|John M. Glionna | Times Staff Writer

OAKLAND — Mayor Jerry Brown toured a midtown commercial boulevard Monday that had been overrun by thousands of unruly revelers after the Oakland Raiders' Super Bowl loss and declared that his city had dodged a bullet.

The mayor oversaw city crews who spent much of the day on cleanup duty after four hours of mayhem that followed Sunday night's game, mainly along economically depressed International Boulevard, east of downtown. Taunting crowds, referred to by one police official as "irresponsible idiots," burned a dozen cars, threw bricks through windows, overturned bus benches and trash cans, and set at least three businesses ablaze, including a paint store, fast food restaurant and auto repair shop.

Three firefighters suffered minor injuries.

Before the crowds finally dispersed after midnight, 400 officers in riot gear used tear gas, helicopters and "nonlethal munitions" such as sting-ball grenades to scatter belligerent people, many of whom ducked onto side streets only to later regroup, police say.

Brown said damages could run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. In all, 86 people were arrested, mostly for public drunkenness, and 60 cars were towed, many for drag racing and screeching tires.

"It could have been worse, far worse," he said. "You have a couple of thousand unruly people on the street and nobody is seriously injured other than a few firefighters with glass cuts to their hands -- but who still came to work today -- I'd say that wasn't too bad."

Drunken fan hijinks are not exclusive to Oakland. Los Angeles fans vandalized several downtown areas after the basketball Lakers won the NBA championship in 2000. In 1984, fans in Detroit set several major fires after the Tigers won the World Series. And San Francisco has seen similar disruptions after championships by its baseball and football teams.

Police spokesman Sgt. George Phillips said the trouble started about 8 p.m. as thousands of youths congregated along International Boulevard at 37th Avenue, a wide commercial strip popular for nighttime car races and "sideshows," in which drivers perform illegal stunts.

Police targeted the area when similar violence erupted a week ago after the Raiders won the AFC championship against the Tennessee Titans. On that night, 20 people were arrested for vandalism and being drunk in public.

Sometime around 8 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday, several people began throwing rocks and bottles at police who had congregated nearby. Gangs of youths soon began breaking windows as they moved down the boulevard.

Officers walking down the street arm in arm lobbed tear-gas canisters and sting-ball grenades, which release small rubber pellets in all directions, Phillips said.

"We don't know where these people came from," he said. "People told us afterward they were not demonstrating against the Raiders' loss. Some said they felt they got cheated when they didn't take part in the partying when the team won last weekend. So they made sure they were here this time around."

Mayor Brown called the "anger and mob behavior" the down side to all the Super Bowl hoopla. "This kind of excited drunken behavior is just validated by the way the whole Super Bowl comes down," he said.

Arthur Whitmore, a district store supervisor for Kelly Moore Paints, said that vandals broke all 28 of his plate glass panels. He said an undisclosed amount of merchandise was looted and that fans had dumped numerous gallons of white paint on the pavement outside and on cars.

"It looked like a snowstorm hit there this morning," Whitmore said. He said a neighbor returned several pairs of painter's overalls that looters had strewn across a nearby yard.

Whitmore said he thought the large windows to the store were just too attractive for unruly fans to resist. He noted that several businesses with barred windows and pull-down metal doors were not hit.

"This had nothing to do with the Raiders," he said. "This was just people blowing off steam. I mean, the Raiders won last week and they still rioted. So who can tell if these people are angry or overjoyed."

Joe Haraburda, president of the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, said the rioting did not give the city a black eye. "It's an unfortunate situation -- it's deplorable when you think about young kids running the streets. But remember, this was a very confined area of Oakland. What happened does not represent the entire city."

He said the city was rethinking a planned parade for the Raiders. "A parade concept is to have players there and celebrate a win, but it's a downer when you lose," he said.

But officials were considering a city center celebration. "If anything, we'd do it just to show people 'Hey, look, last Sunday night is not the way we are. We have peaceful activities in Oakland on a regular basis.' "

Asked if he had a word of advice for Oakland residents on how to avoid future riots, Brown said: "Find out where your kids are."

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