Riots as Celebration

While the media pundits start on their predictable perspective regarding the celebrants of today’s various sporting events, I’m going to offer a counter explanation. For whatever its worth.

If you grow up in one of the various under served communities (aka poor) of Los Angeles then you’ll know all about social control, the method by which they keep humans in check. The city offers no social space, no gathering spots for celebration, no common grounds on which we can all gather to mark a significant moment. What to do? You make your social territory. You reclaim the space in which you can connect with others, consequences be damned. Thus, the motley congregations the helicopters are following tonight.

Isn’t the bullshit LA Live complex supposed to be our new destination spot, the center of LA cultural life? So why are people not being allowed to expend that jubilant spirit in this so called center of Life? Because its just another corporate park meant to further profits, not to enhance our social lives. Yeah, there was lots of stupid people out there tonight acting like jerks, but I put the blame squarely on a city that makes no concessions to human needs, that demands euphoria only come with a paid ticket.

In backwards Mexico, they have El Angel, a random spot where everyone knows they can go to celebrate, to expend energy, to be amongst others that just want to scream and shout for a few hours. In LA, they’ve got nothing. Just a sidewalk and whatever street you can use for a few minutes, ’til the cops come to take the party away.

No doubt there’s some jerks doing stupid things out there. But this wouldn’t be happening if you treated LA citizens like human beings with human needs. If we had a proper social space to congregate, our own Zocalo so to speak, then maybe we would be better equipped for something as joyous, and mundane, as the victory of a local sports team. Instead we get bullhorn messages regarding an illegal assembly and an order of dispersal. Just don’t be surprised when the jubilants shout out a wholly understandable ‘Fuck You’.

38 thoughts on “Riots as Celebration

  1. Good point. We’re pretty dysfunctional when it comes to public spaces to be social. The celebrants felt the need to take the party to the freeway, because well, that’s where Los Angeles lives. The freeways are our zocalos.

  2. Unfortunately, I will have to disagree with you. These fans were just plain outruly. They had no regard for private property. It had nothing to do with having a site they can go and celebrate it was about causing destruction and mayhem, whether it was downtown L.A. or East L.A., rich or poor, this was just bad behavior! What was the point of this, setting a cab on fire, okay. . . and that meant what? Truly unrespectful to the rest of us and definitely not indicative of all Latinos! Thanks for letting me share!

  3. Maria, where did they learn this behavior though? If you have no experience, no traditions to draw from, then how do you know how to act around a huge crowd of energized people?
    Those people in the streets of Downtown were created by the City of Los Angeles. They are products of our alienated, car-centric and non-communal geography.
    I was born and raised in Los Angeles and I’ve systematically witnessed the degeneration of our public spaces with the excuse that a large group of brown people will turn into a riot. Well, check out those clips of Mexico DF, they are not rioting but partying, dancing and singing together. Even if Laker celebrants kept their actions to these benign types of expressions, the police would still crack down because large groups of people on public streets cannot be tolerated.

  4. Maria,
    It’s ok to disagree with me, you’d be part of the majority. I just think it’s time to stop blaming the individuals within a messed up city instead of questioning those that help shape our city into something that is quite unlivable.

  5. They put cups in places where they expect violence. If there were no cops there by instead bands or whatever, I think people would jut have a good time and enjoy themselves. Instead it’s pavement and cops. Bad mix.

  6. A social order that can’t even provide public toilets (and U.S. cities in general are very bad on this count) isn’t going to manage to provide free public spaces for celebration. As to the question of individual responsibility, I don’t agree with the idea that people are purely products of their social environment. That makes us too much mere victims. Rather I see individuals actively, if incoherently, responding to that environment, proving that they aren’t mere victims. I will add though, that I do not have respect for private property and my response to drunken pendejos had more to do with their lack of targeting. Unfortunately, sports fans in general (the present company excepted, of course) cannot be expected to express a coherent social analysis in their celebrations, and for that very reason, a good wild dance might be the ideal way to celebrate.

  7. Sorry, man, but attacking people in cars as they’re trying to leave parking lots; attacking Celtics fans; attacking taxi drivers trying to work, and random acts of destruction are not making “your social territory.” If these jubilants were unsatisfied with being constricted in their joyous celebration, maybe a “fuck you” to the cops would have been appropriate. Instead, they sent the message to their fellow citizens. No mamen.

  8. Other larger city have plenty of meeting space NYC has central Park. Chicago has Millenium Park. LA has…….
    And its a shame. LA has no larger gathering space for amounts of people to gather and celebrate or mourn. or act as a community.

    But with that said i think its total bs to try to justify the violence and burning in downtown, because of lack of celebratory public space. How can throwing beer bottles at cops and fireman trying to put out fires be legitmately justified. Or the numerous other acts of violence and threats to human life.

    On the other hand, in other parts of the eastsdie, you had plenty of people out in front of their house and walking the street screaming. Cars driving around honking. and celebrating in public, without the need to damage anything. celebrating with respect.

  9. There’s a difference between justification and analyzation. You can condemn all you want but perhaps you can also try to understand why things happen the way they do.

  10. The LAPD targeted DTLA, and Whittier ave, and big shock, there were problems at those locations.

    At first I wanted to call bullshit on this post, but at this point I have to agree.

    In my neighborhood I drive by a huge park, next to a metropolitan reservoir.

    Shockingly there is a fence around it.

    The houses across the street from the reservoir have signs up that say, “save the meadow”.

    Save it from who?

  11. I will call bullshit on this… I like the blog and most of Chavo’s writing but making excuses for despicable behavior is dumb. There is no possible excuse. I don’t care how poor or so called ‘opressed’ you are, that does not give anybody the right to act a fool. I’ve lived in 90022 all my life and have never wanted to behave in a rioutous manner.

    Besides there are plenty of parks around if people want to assemble and celebrate, AND furthermore the opportunity will be provided to do so at the parade.

  12. Stop making excuses for horrible, absent parenting. I grew up in Boyle Heights 90033, and lived there during the Rodney King Riots. The idiots with bad parenting went outside and rioted, and looted the stores on Brooklyn Ave.

    Those of us with poor, church-attending, decent parents who taught us right from wrong stayed home and watched the 5% that were raised by the worst of the worst parents embarrass all minorities with their despicable behavior.

    From reading the blogs, I know “El Chavo” is nothing more than a vegetarian white guy trying to fit in in a neighborhood he ended up with only because he can’t afford to live elsewhere. You need to understand that only 5% of the Latinos that surround you in Lincoln Heights have good-for-nothing parents who didn’t teach them any better than to riot after a Laker victory. The other 95% are law-abiding citizens who despise the idiots who can’t control themselves and make the rest of us look bad.

    A lot of those that are out there rioting after a Lakers victory unfortunately are the sons and daughters of the same idiots who participated in the Rodney King riots. The cycle repeats itself.

  13. I’m pretty sure I don’t make excuses for meatheads beating people up, as we saw on the news last night. I just question a city that makes no plans for celebrations even when they know they will happen. They pump everyone up about the Lakers game and then when they win we are supposed to clap politely like were at some opera sipping tea.

    PS. Aww damn, Marcos figured me out!

  14. “From reading the blogs, I know “El Chavo” is nothing more than a vegetarian white guy trying to fit in in a neighborhood he ended up with only because he can’t afford to live elsewhere.”

    OMG, you totally have to put this on your bio page, awesome!

  15. El Chavo, you’ve been found out!

    Only fish-out-of-water white people can be vegetarians on the Eastside and have an analysis of what happened last night.

    I for one do not condone subsurvience, church-attending, or law-abiding. They all turn your minds to mush.

    The same people that frown on these sort of happenings sometimes like wearing Zapata shirts, how ironic.

    And in many ways the rioting is not about the outcome of the game, with that I agree.

    Also fellow Latinos: these folks don’t make “US” look bad, unless you WANT them to. It’s your choice.

  16. Completely disagree with your conclusion. We’ve always had a lack of public space in the city but we haven’t always had this pathetic behavior. Other things are going on here that are causing this thuggish behavior. What those things are, I don’t know yet. But general public behavior has gotten much more hostile over the last 20 years.

  17. As a poor working class chicano, church going, raised by descent parents, i still rioted. I still go to church…and love my country…but when it comes a celebration…i believe in illuminating the night, either with fireworks, cars, trashcans, a looted liquor store…

  18. There was a gang of cops posted on Broadway between Griffin and Daly in Lincoln Heights and I heard gunfire in Highland Park but the huge majority of people celebrated with a chug of beer and a yells of delight! Go Lakers!

  19. I agree with El Chavo.. Not just because I want to be on your “Hey I’m just a white guy vegetarian who can’t afford housing team I agree because it’s sad but true. If people like Marcos are getting their panties in a bunch then it’s because it’s the Truth and the Truth hurts!

    The 5% of the Latinos that surround you in Lincoln Heights 🙂

    If you build it they will come!

  20. If anyone doubts that the police and city government are corporations’ thugs they should have gone down to LA Live during one of the championship games. A friend, who is a huge Lakers fan invited me to go with her to Staples Center on the night of the first game. She wanted to get as close as she could and watch the game with other Lakersenthusiasts.

    The ESPN bar had a half block line with signs posted that the cover was $10 per person per hour. We ended up at an expensive upscale sushi chain. They didn’t have a minimum but I think the bill was $70 plus tip (still cheaper than a Lakers ticket.)

    My attention was not on the television but the police and security who slowly locked down “the square” as the game got closer to the end. Two LAPD officers were stationed at the entrance to the restaurant. People who were milling about outside trying to get a peek at the game at one of these private restaurants were asked to keep moving. By the beginning of the fourth quarter the barricades were in place.

    I couldn’t help thinking we had all been tricked. The big LED screens that we figured would be broadcasting the game ran ads all night and the sidewalks we thought were public are private.

  21. What’s with the comparisons between this and the Rodney King riots? The Rodney King riots went on for 3 days. Several people were killed. Property damage, both public and private, was off the charts, some lots that occupied buildings destroyed in the riots haven’t been redeveloped to this day. These comparisons in here between the Rodney King riots and the rowdy Lakers celebrations the past two years are just short sighted. As a matter of fact, the damage of the Rodney King riots goes further to back up El Chavo’s point. When Angelenos want to riot, they fucking riot. They don’t just march down the street and shake cars. Last nights events, and similar events a year ago, were really more indicative of a city with no place to celebrate.

  22. That was a brilliant essay, and so true.

    The people want street parties and block parties. They are doing it in a spontaneous manner.

    I don’t care about bball or futbol, so I didn’t think about it. When you’re having a good time, and it ends, you want it to continue.

    They have block parties in philly. I’m not from there, but saw some videos on youtube. It looks cool. The kids are out playing ball in the street, riding around on bikes and tricycles.

    People are hanging out in their yards, eating or whatever. They bring out the stereo. It’s all pretty sedate unless some party crew is putting it on.

    We just need a thousand people organizing a thousand of these parties around LA and there wouldn’t be any “riots” or even huge street celebrations. People would just have small ones.

  23. “The city offers no social space, no gathering spots for celebration, no common grounds on which we can all gather to mark a significant moment.”

    uhh… Pershing Square? they use it for all the time for all kinds of festivities.

  24. hilarious! lack of gathering spaces?
    some people just dont know how to act. plain and simple.
    did any of you see the massive crowds of south koreans sitting and watching their team play on out door screens along wilshihre. no riots there.

    some people got no kind of sense.
    chusma de lo peor.
    even the mexicans didnt get that crazy in HP when MX won. plaza mexico in lynwd was a great place to catch the game also.

    its just some dum young punks who like to cause problems. like to fuck with cabbies and peoples businesses. thats indefensible.

    its not the lack of public gathering space. its idiots that have little respect for themselves or others.

    y por unos pierden todos.

    i was hoping the police would start bean bagging people. turn the hoses on them.

  25. It wasn’t even that bad. One burned car. Wow. You know how many hooligans it takes to burn a car? One. One. One guy can break a window with a brick and throw a malatov in there, just like that. Could have been a cop for all we know. Probably wasn’t. Just making the point that the damage that ensued from this celebration didn’t take masses to accomplish. Just some sporadic bullshit here and there. Whenever there’s a bunch of people walking the street in Los Angeles or Oakland, the news choppers show it and people think it’s the end of the world. They kept showing it here in Sacramento. Nonstop footage of people just walking down the street in LA. They kept saying, “we’ll be monitoring the situation throughout the night and keeping you updated”. And, they did. They gave updates about every 10 minutes during Jimmy Kimmel of people walking down the street, and doing nothing. Just walking. Then they kept cutting to that footage of the car burning, just in case any pesky, open minded liberals might start to question their headline that all hell is breaking loose in LA. We’ve got a car burning, folks. A car burning. Anyone going to question that, huh? Burning car!

  26. And look what you have today: A parade. Huge event. Thousands of people. No incidents. Goes further to back up the author of this thread’s point. It’s an “if you build it, they will come” thing. Announce there’s going to be one place for celebration, and everyone will be there because it’s the place to be. It’s easier for the police to keep an eye on things with everyone in one place. They could have organized thursday night’s celebrations the same way.

  27. Nah Rob, some people go to downtown to do crazy shit.

    The whole scene is pointless if it’s all cops, copters, and people trying to get away with vandalism.

    Some people just need ways to get crazy and work off energy, without hurting anyone.

  28. Alienation, the “crazy shit” you speak of that most people were doing Thursday night was walking down the street and yelling “Lakers”.

  29. Isn’t Pershing Square a public place? Near the Staples Center and public transportation. Or MacArthur Park, also near public transportation and the site of frequent public events.

  30. not enough cabs near Pershing square. and no one wants to riot in Macarthur park, you are liable to mess with the wrong people. Picking on cabbies and vandalizing property is easier when the victims are defenseless.

  31. How old is that video? I think I saw Bill Walton and Lew Alcindor torching cabs.

  32. Yes that was most people, but a handful go with some inkling of ripping shit up. Since there’s only one active location, and a lot of likeminded people have been there before, there’s a certain expectation that the same thing will happen again.

    Other people, like me, would go there just to see what craziness happens. Vandal voyeurism.

    People have these desires to vandalize and disrupt, and they get expressed, but they’re ultimately pretty negative desires. They’re not victimless actions, and they’re to for some larger political reasons.

    Everyone would be better off if the enegry, even angry energy, is able to be expressed in a more positive way. (That was one of the great things about punk and metal – negative energy could be transformed into something really beautiful, or at least something “heavy”.) You can do that with different kinds of celebrations.

    Vandalism voyeurs would be deprived of their riot porn, and would have to learn to engage their internal conflict in a direct, and hopefully more productive manner.

  33. Excellent analysis El chavo. Isnt it frustrating and sad how many people cant discern analysis from excusing despicable acts?

  34. Isnt it frustrating and sad how many people cant discern analysis from excusing despicable acts.


    Ay Cabron we are just too estupido to discern analysis. I cant use any apostrophes isnt it annoying?

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