On Sunday night, after LeBron James’ Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA title, thousands of fans of the team celebrated outside the Los Angeles Staples Center, but things turned ugly when some members of the crowd targeted police, hurling rocks and bottles at them.
Despite the coronavirus restrictions placed on public activity in California and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti urging fans to stay home and avoid congregating, fans ignored the warnings and gathered en masse.
“LAPD went into tactical alert and declared the gathering an unlawful assembly,” KABC reported. “Cars were seen performing ‘donuts’ and ‘burnouts,’ some cars were swarmed by fans in the streets. Multiple fireworks were set off and there were isolated reports of small groups throwing rocks and bottles at police.”
On Friday, Garcetti stated that fans should not jeopardize “all the progress we have made in our fight against COVID-19 isn’t reversed from one night of celebration. I encourage you to yell at the top of your lungs inside your homes, maybe even open up the window or step outside your door as we’ve done for our first responders and essential medical workers to thank them. Let’s thank the Lakers when they win, but let’s do it safe,” The Daily Mail noted.
Some fans trashed police cars:
Lakers fans trashing police cars pic.twitter.com/Koi9Rk5jvr
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) October 12, 2020
“The mob started as a few intoxicated and rowdy Lakers fans began throwing beer bottles and other ‘projectiles’ at uniformed police officers that swarmed the arena,” Bleacher Report noted. “The few isolated incidents soon grew to a large mob of sports fans which soon made their way down the streets of Los Angeles turning over police cars and breaking into local businesses. Some innocent bystanders became injured in the incident as the horde came rushing down the streets.”
Lakers fans have rioted after Lakers’ championships before. After the Lakers won the 2000 NBA title, CBS News reported: “Fans celebrating the Lakers’ first championship in 12 years set two police cars on fire and destroyed two other vehicles, including a TV news van. Businesses were vandalized, and fans threw rocks at baton-wielding lines of police. At least 12 injuries were reported.” Then-mayor Richard Riordan responded, “There was glory tonight and there was sadness. I condemn the lawlessness of so-called fans who destroyed property and endangered the safety of fans and families in the vicinity. Even though the unrest did not spread citywide, it was reprehensible nonetheless.”
After the Lakers won the NBA title in 2009, The Daily Mail reported: “Crowds gathered outside the Los Angeles’ Staples Center after the game with some fans damaging police cruisers, hurling fireworks, throwing rocks and bottles at officers and setting bonfires in the street. … Several police cruisers were damaged and reinforcement officers were called in from throughout the city to help disperse the crowd … Aerial television footage showed people jumping on a police car, rocking vehicles attempting to pass through the crowd, setting small trees on fire and throwing fireworks and flares set up by police.”