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LAKERS

Lakers parade goes off mostly without a hitch

Police arrest 15 and report limited property damage. The scene is far different from the chaos at Staples Center that came after the Lakers' clinching victory on Sunday.

June 18, 2009|Andrew Blankstein

The Lakers' victory celebration was already underway inside the Coliseum on Wednesday when hundreds of people rushed into a restricted area, knocking down fencing and climbing onto the roof of a building to catch a glimpse of the team.

Some in the crowd, which included women and children, hurled rocks and bottles at Los Angeles police officers dispatched to the scene.

A phalanx of officers in riot gear and mounted units reacted with speed and restraint as they pushed the revelers west, quickly defusing a dangerous situation just as an estimated crowd of 90,000 began pouring out of the Coliseum.

By the time the last stragglers exited the stadium grounds about 2 p.m., police had made at least 15 arrests and reported limited property damage. Two officers suffered minor injuries and a couple of horses were hit with bottles.

"We had knuckleheads in several areas," said LAPD Chief William J. Bratton, who was almost hit with a glass bottle as he surveyed the action at the south end of the stadium. "But generally, it went off very smoothly."

The celebration was in marked contrast to the one that turned ugly Sunday night after the Lakers' clinching victory in Orlando, when a raucous crowd outside Staples Center damaged police cars, set multiple fires, looted nearby businesses and pelted officers with rocks and bottles, sending a half dozen of them to the hospital.

LAPD Asst. Chief Earl Paysinger attributed the department's success to strategic planning that took on the dimensions of a military operation but with a decidedly human touch.

Inside the L.A. Convention Center, dozens of tables were set up for federal, state and local law enforcement agencies overseeing security operations. TV screens were tuned to local news stations; others broadcast live feeds from cameras placed along the parade route and beamed from helicopters.

Out on the street, hundreds of police officers on bikes, horses, motorcycles and squad cars kept watch on the crowd while eight MTA buses shuttled additional officers to the Coliseum once the parade passed.

The LAPD committed 2,000 officers to the Lakers' parade, many of whom gathered at the Convention Center in the pre-dawn darkness.

"We don't intend to let the few ruin it for the many," Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese told the officers before the festivities commenced.

Albanese and Paysinger reviewed last-minute plans and briefed top commanders before heading to the Coliseum after reports of overflow crowds at some stadium entrances.

The order was given to open the gates and the chiefs returned to Staples Center, where Albanese briefed Lakers officials and players about the LAPD's game plan, which included enlisting players Derek Fisher and Pau Gasol to address the Coliseum crowd if problems arose.

About a half hour later, the Lakers boarded double-decker buses for the trip down Figueroa Street to the Coliseum.

Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.

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andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

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