This Week in Celebratory Violence: the Pre-Winner-Take-All Game Seven Edition

From AP by way of

Police geared up to prevent violence in Los Angeles ahead of Thursday night’s Game 7 of the NBA finals between the Lakers and Boston Celtics.

But manager Jesus Rocha, who runs Joe’s LA Market and Deli near LA’s Staples Center, says he’ll close before the game ends just in case.

He remembers last year, when some fans celebrating the Lakers’ defeat of the Orlando Magic in Florida set fires, stole computers from a nearby office and looted a [Foot Locker] next door.

“We’re really worried,” he said.

Rocha, 42, said he told an employee: “You want to be safe. Forget about the business – close the doors and go home … (if) there are people coming in, you could lose your life.”

Rocha said he had no faith that police could protect the little corner store.

“The last year, they didn’t show up – nobody,” he said.

This year, police planned to have hundreds of officers massed around the arena to deter anyone from spoiling a potential celebration should the Lakers seize their 16th national championship.

City officials warned fans to stay away from downtown unless they have tickets to the game.

That’s just what Victor Lopez hoped to buy on Thursday.

In 2000, when the Lakers won their first NBA championship in a dozen years, Lopez was less than a stellar fan. He was part of a victory crowd that set bonfires, burned two police cars and damaged more than 70 others.

The crowd was watching the game on a huge TV outside Staples Center. After the victory, “someone just lighted a firework and people just went crazy,” he recalled.

“I was pushing a news van…. We were able to push over a police car,” Lopez said. “It was stupid.”  He was 18 then. Now, he’s a 27-year-old father with no plans for violence.

“I have responsibilities now,” he said. “It’s not worth it, going to jail.”  In fact, he might leave downtown earlier if the Lakers win.  “I don’t want my car to have windows broken,” he said.

Early Thursday, the number of Lakers fans near the center was dwarfed by thousands of visitors to the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the gaming industry’s annual convention, which was being held next door at the Convention Center.

A few visitors said they were worried that Lakers fans might become violent – especially if the Celtics won – but others said they were confident that police would keep things in check.

David Bamberger, a senior brand manager for Sega of America Inc., came down from San Francisco and said he was convinced by a police show of force during Tuesday’s game, which the Lakers won to tie the series 3-3.

Officers lined the area for nine blocks, he recalled.  “The overwhelming force we saw felt right,” he said.  Bamberger said he might be tempted to join revelers.

Some fans may have had a change of heart after seeing their city’s image trashed by violence, said Raul De La Fuente, who wore a yellow Lakers jersey as he helped his brother set up a pushcart to sell snowcones.

“I think we learned from the last time,” said De La Fuente, 61. The violence, he said, “made the whole city look bad – like hoodlums.”

About jamesrussellcraven
Native Philadelphian, longtime sports fan and man about bon vivant.

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