At least eight people were arrested as sporadic violence broke out among fans celebrating the Lakers’ NBA championship triumph in Los Angeles on Sunday, police and local media reported.
Thousands of fans gathered in front of the Staples Center and across the city to mark the Lakers’s 99-86 victory over the Orlando Magic in Florida, which gave them a 4-1 series lead.
Police later dispersed the crowd as celebrations turned ugly, with cars being attacked and bonfires lit, shortly after local TV carried a public service announcement urging fans to “celebrate with dignity.”
“This is your moment to shine,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said in the message as authorities sought to avoid a repeat of the violence which flared after the team’s NBA finals victories in 2000, 2001 and 2002.
Most fans gathered at the Staples Center began to disperse shortly after 9pm, leaving troublemakers who pelted police with rocks, bottles and fireworks, KCAL9 television reported.
“This is really awful for California and I’m really sad for this, I fear for my life, I’m scared to go home, can’t get home, I’m stuck down here — this is bad, really bad,” a woman at the scene told KCAL9.
Local television reported a shoe store and gas station being looted by revelers while police said an abandoned bus was attacked and covered with graffiti.
Fans gathered at traffic intersections near the Staples Center violently rocked cars from side to side as they waited at traffic lights.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca called on fans to celebrate peacefully.
“Fans — having a good time doesn’t mean hurting people,” Baca told KCAL9. “The Lakers are a sports team, not some kind of a destructive force, and therefore celebrate and enjoy, but don’t commit any violence.”
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