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In The Pipeline: City's heroes shine during riot

July 29, 2013|By Chris Epting
  • The employees at Easyrider who helped saved the store from looters after the U.S. Open of Surfing ended Sunday evening.
The employees at Easyrider who helped saved the store… (Charles Epting )

You could hear a pin drop on Main Street at 10 p.m. Sunday.

It was eerie, abandoned and dead just an hour or so after having the life beaten out of it.

Broken glass crunched under each step while blue-and-red police car lights pulsated at each intersection where barricades had been set. It felt like a war zone, a post-apocalyptic nightmare by the beach.

The disturbance following the U.S. Open of Surfing had been quelled, thanks to a quickly coordinated, impressively executed effort by the Huntington Beach Police Department and assistance from other agencies throughout the county.

Were they properly prepared? Could the unrest have been prevented? I'm sure these will be the topics of discussion in the days ahead — and they should be.

But on this night, as my son and I stepped carefully through the remnants, it was all about the moment. The pavement was caked with tear gas residue and blanketed with garbage.

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It appears to have begun with a handful of goons kicking over a bunch of Porta-potties.

Hundreds of people got caught up in the chaos, and as a wall of police and SWAT team members pushed down Main away from the ocean, part of the mob soon found itself in front of the Easyrider bicycle shop at 328 Main St.

That's when a pair of stop signs were snapped from the ground and someone used one as a spear to smash the front window of the bike shop. A video on Facebook depicts the scene.

Ryan Hartzog, 28, is the store manager. He told me he had just returned home and got the call that the riot was swiftly moving toward the store. He rushed over to see the wall of humanity running from the tear gas and rubber "bullets" being used by police at the opposite end of the street.

Then came the plate-glass window smashing, followed by rioters trying to steal the bikes on display. They stole a $500 bike, but Hartzog described how his employees jumped in and played tug of war with the would-be looters, saving a $5,000 bike while fending off the thugs.

Then something else happened. He described how a bunch of "random local kids" locked arms out in front and protected the store until help arrived. They placed themselves in the middle of that insanity, spontaneously forming a human shield.

A video shot by a local woman, Margot Hamman, captures the moment when the stop sign destroyed the window and thugs began trying to steal bikes. It also shows somebody brutally blindsiding someone with a punch to the back of the head.

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