Should L.A. pay $2 million to protect parade from 'knuckleheads'?

Rioting broke out after the Lakers won the NBA title Sunday. The city is guarding against a similar problems during Wednesday's victory parade.

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

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    Los Angeles Laker Girls perform behind photographers on the sidelines during Game 2 of the NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Orlando Magic in Los Angeles June 7.
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Anyone visiting the website of The Holy Grail sports shoe store, located at 604 West Pico here in Los Angeles, will be told: "Due to rioting, we are temporarily unable to process your orders. Thank you for understanding."

Sunday night, when the Los Angeles Lakers won their 10th NBA title, beating the Orlando Magic 99-86, the store was one of many that was looted during celebrations, with thieves taking some $100,000 worth of shoes, apparel, and computers.

Now, the victory parade is scheduled to take place Wednesday and The Holy Grail's decision to close reflects citywide concern about a potential repeat of Sunday night. For two days, heated debate has ensued over who should pay for the extra police and security – at an estimated cost of $2 million – needed for the parade.

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"The city is not in a position to absorb the cost," says Jan Perry, councilwoman for the Ninth District, where the parade will take place.

California's $24 billion budget deficit has meant cities are being deprived of state funds. Many, including Los Angeles, are laying off city workers or mandating furloughs. In all, the city's budget deficit totals $529 million.

Councilwoman Perry pushed for the use of private funds for the parade. She announced yesterday that private donations will account for at least $900,000 of the final tab.

After the Lakers won championships in 2000, 2001, and 2002, crowds lining the parade route ranged from 150,000 to 550,000 people. Police arrested 12 people in 2000 and four in 2001 on vandalism charges.

"I don't understand on a joyous occasion how people can vandalize their own community," says Perry.

Police Chief William Bratton has called the troublemakers who torched cars, dumpsters, and buses Sunday "knuckleheads." The problems came despite a concerted effort by the Lakers to prevent it. After the game, ABC carried three TV spots asking for calm, including one from star Kobe Bryant "We've been working hard all year to bring another championship to Los Angeles," he said. "So when we win, please celebrate with dignity."

The LAPD arrested 18 Sunday and are offering rewards for people to come forward and help in the prosecution. They have announced a "zero tolerance" policy for lawlessness at Wednesday's parade.

One columnist for the L.A. Daily News called for the parade to be cancelled, saying that the city has been filled with "images of those who take civil disobedience and adolescent behavior to a new low."

The parade route has already been shortened to one, straight corridor, known as Figueroa – about two miles long – as opposed to the longer, serpentine routes of previous years.

Says Perry: "We need to be sensitive to the financial difficulties that we are in right now."

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