Nearly 80 people were arrested and eight police officers were injured overnight on Sunday in downtown Los Angeles after Lakers fans went on a rampage following the team’s 17th National Basketball Association (NBA) championship, police said on Monday.
“What started out as a largely peaceful celebration of the Los Angeles Lakers’ NBA championship in downtown Los Angeles, turned into confrontational, violent and destructive behaviour late last night,” the Los Angeles Police Department said in a statement.
It said that some 1,000 revellers gathered around the Staples Centre, the Lakers’ home arena, after the team beat the Miami Heat 106-93 in Game 6 to win the record-equalling title.
“Unruly individuals mixed within the crowd began throwing glass bottles, rocks, and other projectiles at officers,” the statement said.
“That is when an unlawful assembly was declared, and only a limited number of people complied and began to disperse.
“A larger portion of the group broke off and began vandalising businesses while continuing to engage in violent behaviour, some aimed at responding officers.”
Authorities said more than 30 buildings were damaged in the ensuing violence and 76 people were arrested for vandalism, assaulting police and failure to disperse.
Video footage of the unrest showed police in riot gear firing non-lethal rounds at the crowd. Several people in response hurled objects at police and some tried to damage police vehicles.
Authorities had urged people not to gather downtown because of Covid-19 pandemic restrictions and the game was not shown on screens outside the arena.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti had advised residents to celebrate safely at home and “not gather at Staples Centre” on Sunday night.
“As we cheer our Lakers’ 17th championship, please remember it’s still not safe to gather in groups. Let’s honour our city’s triumph by protecting others and making sure we don’t spread the virus,” he tweeted.
Los Angeles Police Department chief Michel Moore had also called on Lakers fans to “celebrate responsibly” after the game.