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World Series Winners (Or Their Fans, At Least) Are Above the Law

Go Giants?

Last week, a friend told me he hoped the Giants didn’t win the World Series because of the rioting that would inevitably follow. Now I understand why.

When I left Oakland, I thought I was also leaving behind insanity like this. Apparently not.

Last night, after the Giants swept the Detroit Tigers to win the World Series, San Francisco literally went up in flames. In the Mission — my neighborhood — alone, I saw at least four large fires burning in the middle of major roads. In other parts of the city, cars were set ablaze.

Click through to see pictures and video of the mayhem, and let’s ask ourselves how the law should handle this kind of widespread destruction celebration….

First off, I don’t want to take away from my hometown baseball team’s awesome victory. I know the East Coast doesn’t care right now about baseball, but the whole Bay Area has gone nuts with Giants fever recently.

And maybe that’s the problem. Somehow the victory gave people an excuse to be “delirious with joy” as one deeply naive local news outlet put it. By which that apparently means vandalizing businesses and throwing trashcans, newspaper dispensers, and anything that can be burned into the middle of the street and lighting it on fire. It also means sideshows, throwing bottles at riot police, and lighting big fireworks off in really crowded places (one whizbang exploded in my ear.)

Here’s the kind stuff that went down last night. This was taken at Valencia and 22nd, which by day, is one of the more popular and hip spots in the city. A popular restaurant called Boogaloos is right behind me. (Warning, a few F-bombs are loudly dropped in this clip.)

So, should the courts aggressively prosecute those who are starting fires and inciting the destruction? Yes. Pretty quickly, the night became a waste of taxpayer money, as police and firemen were forced to run all over the place, literally putting out fires, which in some cases were immediately restarted. According to news reports this morning, only about 35 people were arrested. That seems abysmally low.

At a certain point, my concerns became no longer academic or political or administrative. Just after 3 a.m., as things were finally quieting down and I was falling asleep, several gunshots went off outside my front door. It was several minutes before police arrived, long enough for me to start wondering if I was dreaming. The police’s response should have been much faster, but presumably because of the city-wide mania, they couldn’t get there any sooner.

So the need to aggressively prosecute the instigators here is obvious. The trickier question is: what constitutes an “instigator”? The majority of people out on the street weren’t actively setting s**t on fire. Many of them were inebriated, rowdy, and curious, though, and it’s difficult to tell people apart in the dark amid smoke and thick crowds. I don’t know the best solution, honestly.

It seems — perhaps because of the legal disaster that was Occupy Oakland — San Francisco law enforcement wanted to let things run their course, but I believe they waited too long. I’m all for a great, crazy party. But when my neighborhood is in flames, that’s not a celebration, no matter how joyful everyone is feeling. I can’t help but take my journalist hat off and acknowledge this isn’t just news on a page — it’s my life and my home. World Series be damned.

In any case, I know it’s pics (and video) or it didn’t happen, so click through for fire, a sideshow, and other not-so merry mischief-making….

(hidden for your protection)

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