Turning a Negative Into a Positive–After the Huntington Beach Riots

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By Chris MacDonald, Writer/Photographer, HB Ambassador/The Local News Columnist

History does repeat itself, as evidenced by the riot that ensued in downtown Huntington Beach on Sunday evening, July 28, when crowds refused to disband and back-up police were called into the area. Looting in the Easyrider store, lock-downs in Active and several shops, and early closures by Merrilee’s, Johnny Rockets, Dukes, The Surf City Store, The Kite Connection and Ruby’s were a few reported efforts by merchants to avoid potential damage from unruly crowds.

It has been 27 years since the 1986 Riots at this same event, marred the image of the friendly beach town and caused it to be scaled back. The scaling back did not last indefinitely, and in fact, the it has grown to include live bands at free concerts on the beach, shuttle buses transporting crowds to the event and multiple arenas for more sports and attractions. What started as a surfing event has morphed into X-treme. Merchants we spoke with before the July 28 invasion said they felt that it wasn’t a matter of if but when violence would happen again. In fact, some of the popular local stores were ransacked by looters and more than one manager made the decision to bring in security rather than endanger employees, who were told not to confront potentially violent thieves. The guards helped create a sense of security for employees overwhelmed by groups that arrived in mass, using diversionary tactics to steal what they want.

The culmination of this type activity resulted in the Easy Rider shop on Main Street having its glass window broken out with a stop sign that was ripped from the sidewalk, allowing a looter to steal a bicycle. A white City of Huntington Beach truck was attacked, as rioters shook the vehicle back and forth, trying to tip it over.

Will Huntington Beach recover to hold future special events? I’m sure it will. It always shows its resilience and it’s made up of mainly wonderful, caring, law-abiding people. Merchants we spoke with before the incident were dissatisfied with the way the US Open of Surfing had been handled for several years. They said the event is too big and is a danger to public safety. Many, like longtime surfer, surfboard shaper, former surf shop owner and current real estate businessman, Bob Bolen, say the event should focus only on surfing, not other sports and not free concerts. At a special City Council meeting, several locals echoed a similar plea that the festival go back to what it used to be all about–surfing.

This and other issues have led to the creation of a Downtown Task Force, made up of residents, merchants, City Council members and City staff to improve the area and make it a friendlier, safer, saner place to be, not only during special events but all year as well. HB has a positive future, and working together, its best is yet to come.

(Huntington Beach Police Chief Kenneth Small said they have been looking at video and photos from citizens and social media to help identify additional suspects involved in criminal activity during the disturbance. He requests people email any video or photos to hbpdfiles@gmail.com or call their hotline at 714-375-5066 with information.)

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Photos:
1. News Trucks Boradcasting Live from the Media Conference at the Pier
2. Huntington Beach City Officials & Media after The Press Conference
3. Huntington Beach City Council Member Jill Hardy, Huntington Beach Fire Chief Patrick McIntosh and Huntington Beach City Attorney Jennifer McGrath at Press Conference.

This entry was posted on Friday, August 2nd, 2013 and is filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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