Firing bean bags and rubber bullets while spraying mace into a crowd of concert goers, Los Angeles Sheriff Department deputies closed down Sunset Boulevard from Doheny Avenue to San Vincente Boulevard for two hours last night. Backed up by members of the Los Angeles Police Department’s riot squad and the Beverly Hills Police Department, LASD arrived as patrons exited a punk rock nostalgia show featuring Ill Repute, TSOL and Youth Brigade at the Key Club on Sunset Blvd.
The riot began around 10:30 p.m. Thurssday night, and closed down Sunset Blvd. — the scene of much earlier clashes between law enforcement and non-mainstream types, like 1966′s hippie riots immortalized in the film Riot on the Sunset Strip and the punk rock riot when Black Flag played the Whiskey in August of 1982. Their second show for that hot August night was canceled and the Whiskey’s then-manager told the Los Angeles Times that
it wasn’t really a riot until the police showed up.
Kinda’ like last night.
By 11:00 p.m., patrons of other clubs were told to go to their cars or stay inside. Here’s an eyewitness account which differs substantially from that given by law enforcement.
According to man-about-town and punk rocker Andre Boutilier, before he and his friend entered the club to see the second billed act TSOL, there was scuffle at the club’s entrance. The guy causing the problem was joined by a couple of buddies; more bouncers joined in the melee. When Boutilier and his companion entered the club,
We noticed there were no bouncers that we could see, and so we figured they were outside dealing with the situation. After TSOL, we went backstage to chat with the guys. A club staffer came back and said Youth Brigade would not be going on, and told them to pack it up and leave. No announcement had yet been made in main part of [the 450-person capacity club]. We helped the bands get their stuff together and walked out with them chatting on the way to their cars. We saw about 50 or 60 kids out front and overheard them being told that they couldn’t go in, despite having tickets. [La Figa: Well, yeah, the show was over]. That’s when the sheriffs started arriving, just a few cars at first, some of which set up a barricade to the west, towards Beverly Hills. Even before fans left the club, the sheriffs were announcing that this was an illegal assembly and anyone remaining in the area would be arrested.
Boutilier and his friend had already left the venue and ducked into Shamrock Studio Tattoo. They witnessed the sheriff department’s riot squad take their position. About ten minuted after they were in place, fans were let out of club. It appeared to Boutilier that in a move coordinated between the club and LASD, patrons were being keep inside until the riot police were in place.
As patrons were exiting, the sheriffs made another announcement that everyone should walk east, while repeating that this was an illegal assembly.
Patrons tried to move eastward, but it was very slow going as 450 people squeezed into the sidewalk, some looking for their friends, others confused. They didn’t move fast enough for the sheriff’s riot squad, which started firing rubber bullets with backup by the LAPD and Beverly Hills Police Department. Both KTLA and FOX News LA covered the scene. Fox’s on-air coverage varies from Boutilier’s and KTLA’s reports; FOX’s spin on the incident suggests the fans started the riot by throwing rocks and bottles, in opposition to the other stories.
Boutilier who I spoke to at 4:00 a.m. before any news aired told me,
stupid kids threw rocks and bottles after the rubber bullets were fired.
(in the video the narrator says “automatic guns; he meant gunfire)
Police overreact to minor conflict outside club. Shutdown the show before YB can take the stage. Then fire rubber bullets into crowd, unload industrial fire extinguisher filled with mace. Beat up the wrong kids. In their defense some idiot kids throw bottles at the cops that broke at their feet which was stupid of them.
The versions aired by KTLA — yes I’ve watched the local news from 4:30 a.m. on — showed police arriving, firing of rubber bullets, macing the crowd, and then the fans throwing rocks and bottles.
Even with editing footage from the two-hour long riot, the footage on KTLA broadcast supports Boutilier’s version, showing a sheriff’s deputy holding a large canister of mace and spraying several nonviolent patrons at close range as they walked away form the club.
What KTLA didn’t show (perhaps because of fallout from Rodney King video and the MacArthur Park May Day riot?) but Boutilier saw:
The deputy, after he emptied the canister, began hitting kids with the metal container and several other officers had to pull him off.
The official law enforces chronology is different from that of Boutilier and KTLA. LAPD’s Sgt. S. Ruda told the LA Weekly:
Bouncers at the club got into it with fans outside the club, and responding deputies were met with rocks and bottles…Deputies responded and some patrons started forming a crowd..More deputies responded and they started taking bottles and rocks.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies arrived in riot gear and used rubber bullets and mace to try and tame the hostile crowd. The rowdy group threw rocks and bottles at deputies.
There have have been three reports televised by KTLA so far, each one progressively making fans look worse, but still showing the sheriff’s firing before fans react violently; one kids is shown kicking a street sign, and people are indeed throwing rocks — totally stupid. Don’t you ever wonder where these urban rocks come from? I have walked up and down Sunset plenty of times and never seen a rock. Bottles, yeah, but not a lot of them, and trash cans aren’t that easy to dig into in the hope of finding a bottle. The second KTLA report had a voice over from the Sheriffs’ Dept. explaining that the sheriffs responded to a 911 call from the Key Club and showed up; once patrons exited the club, they started throwing things at the sheriffs.
[all photos, video Andre Boutilier, used by permission]