Following the conclusion of the US Open at Huntington Beach, riot police were called to the event to break up an unruly crowd that had gathered at PCH and Main Street. Bedlam appeared to ensue as the crowd tipped over numerous Porta Potties and ran amuck in the streets. According to reports, it took hours before the police were able to calm the violent crowd. Eventually, the Huntington Beach Police Department called in reinforcements to help deal with the situation.
The Huntington Beach Police Department issued this statement: “Officers encountered a large crowd at Main and Pacific Coast Highway. The crowd had gathered at the conclusion of the Van’s US Open of Surfing, an 8 day surf and skate event. A large fight broke out and when officers attempted to break up the disturbance the crowd moved into the downtown area. The crowds began fighting, damaging property and refused to disperse. HBPD requested mutual aid from other agencies to help disperse the crowd. The area was declared an unlawful assembly and officers have moved in to deal with the crowd and make arrests. The police now have control of the downtown area and the disturbance quelled.”
The LA Times is reporting that the situation stemmed from a fight that occurred around 7 p.m., after the event finished. As the events unfolded, World Tour surfer Ace Buchan tweeted the following: “Riots going on in Huntington Beach right now. Choppers and sirens everywhere. Sad end to a good week but it doesn’t surprise me.”
According to reports, HB police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. It was also reported by NBC News Los Angeles that the mob vandalized the EasyRider storefront.
“We were all huddled inside the building and we had the lights off because all the people were up here mobbing around, and I was inside and I saw them tearing down the stop sign,” said Burt Etheredge, who works at the EasyRider. “As soon as that stop sign came down, I knew that stop sign was coming through the window. And sure enough, two seconds later, it did.”
Norman Hortano was a spectator at the event and described the scene at HB as chaotic and dangerous. “It was total chaos. There were more than a hundred people going totally crazy. They were setting small fires, fighting, kicking over Porta Potties, and tearing out street signs. It felt like a mob mentality had taken over.”
After three hours, the crowd was finally subdued by the police. It’s not yet known if there were any injuries or arrests made. Every year, tens of thousands of spectators attend the event.
This was not the first time that crowds have grown unruly at the US Open. In 1986, a riot occurred at the event where a mob overturned police cars and destroyed a lifeguard tower.