Saturday night in Hollywood, Calif., I went to the Baker Skateboards "Bake and Destroy" video premiere at the Vine Theater, but I never got to see the film because of unruly skaters and the Los Angeles Police Department. This forced the cancellation of the second screening. Some news reports are calling it "The Hollywood Skateboard Riot of 2012." From the looks of the scene I honestly should have known something like this was going to happen.
Against good advice I showed up late, and when I saw how many people were in line, I regretted arriving when I did. After 7 p.m. the line was at least the length of a football field, 400 people deep and anxiously on edge. As I walked around taking photos I could tell that those people at the back of the line didn't really believe they had a shot at seeing the movie, so it was only a matter of time before they did something about it.
I hadn't been there more than a half an hour and I was already sick of waiting, so I felt for all those who had been there longer. You know what they say about bored skateboarders.
Some kids had a laser pointer and were aiming it into apartment building windows. One of the residents had one too and promptly pointed hers right back at the crowd. Another bunch of teens were trying to bring down the Redbury's parking lot fence, but between the attendant's complaints and security's warnings, they stopped. Next they were throwing beer cans at a double-decker tour bus and when a patrol car pulled up, they threw beer cans at it too.
The Baker team started to arrive for the first screening and re-energized the crowd. Andrew Reynolds, Tony Hawk, Terry Kennedy and Bryan Herman were all loudly cheered on, as were Atiba and Ako Jefferson. Things settled down, but 45 minutes later, toward the end of the first screening, I found myself trapped when the back of the line lunged forward. Everywhere I looked people were uncomfortable and unable to move. It didn't take me long to figure out I needed to get out of there. By aggressively pushing my way out of the crowd I was able to get to the street, where one lane of traffic was blocked off by people doing as I did.
As I walked to the other side of the street I noticed that the LAPD had set up to close off the block. On Vine Street, a squad car was positioned so cars couldn't turn onto Hollywood Boulevard and two officers were standing in the street directing traffic. On the Ivar Avenue side, riot police were getting ready to move in and take control of the situation. They started by telling area business owners to lock up, and that included the Vine Theater, so everyone inside couldn't leave. Once they moved toward the crowd, people started hurling beer cans, rocks and all kinds of trash at the police.
Deathwish Skateboards pro Erik Ellington was one of hundreds inside the theater when all hell broke loose outside.
"When I was watching the video I was midway through the theater and I heard from somebody that there was a riot going on out front and it's crazy when you find something like that out when you really can't do anything about it. If they shut the video off there would be a riot on the inside," Ellington said.
Outside, skateboarders smashed in the Vine Theater's windows, and that influenced the LAPD's decision to not empty the theater.
Ellington was one of the luckier ones. "I got out before they shut the place down," he said. "We were walking out and all the bouncers that we had hired knew what was going on out front, so they told everyone inside to leave through the back two exits into the alleyway. As we were walking out we saw the police helicopter directly above us and that's when everyone knew that it was going down out front. Me, my wife and a couple of friends were the last people to get out. Once they shut the gates, right in front of us were a lot of cops in full riot gear. They shut down Hollywood Boulevard. It was pretty intense. When I was walking out there were maybe 60 people in front of me, and the friends of mine who were left behind got out 45 minutes later. With all the chaos going on outside I'm sure the cops thought letting the entire theater out would only add to it."
As more officers showed up, the scene gradually calmed down, with tactical squads gaining control. That's when everyone began checking their social media feeds to comment on the night's events.
Ellington had an interesting take on it all. "Afterward, I saw the photos on people's Instagram accounts and they were sharing the news clips and it felt reassuring to know that everything skateboarding related, isn't strictly about the X Games. It made me proud to be a skateboarder. When I started skating, we were outcasts. It's not something you can package up. It's good to know it's the way it always has been."
The riot aside, I'm pretty ticked off I didn't get to see "Bake and Destroy."
Ellington said, "The video was amazing. They filmed it in only a year. I was glad to see that they could put together something like that, that was so anticipated with barely any promotion. Seeing so many Baker fans out there, it just warms your heart."