Police: 150 arrested after TikTok invite draws raucous crowd to beach town
Multiple law enforcement agencies responded, at times using tear gas to disperse a crowd of 2,500 people
By Alex Wigglesworth
Daily Pilot, Costa Mesa, Calif.
HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — Nearly 150 people were arrested in Huntington Beach on Saturday night after a man's TikTok video inviting people to his birthday party went viral and the city was overrun with unruly revelers, prompting authorities to issue an emergency overnight curfew, police said.
The event, dubbed Adrian's kickback, drew at least 2,500 people, the Huntington Beach Police Department said in a statement.
Business owners, store clerks and residents of Huntington Beach described a raucous scene with what seemed like thousands of revelers — most of them in their teens or early 20s — crossing from the beach onto Pacific Coast Highway and clashing with police in the city's downtown business district, some of them tagging storefronts, lighting fireworks and throwing bottles and other debris.
Officers from multiple law enforcement agencies showed up to try to disperse the crowd and keep vandals away from businesses in and around Main Street, at some point using tear gas, said Mark Matters, the owner of HQ Gastropub on Pacific Coast Highway and Sixth Street.
"You had children running in all different directions, and they just started tagging everything," Matters said. "They tagged the whole front of my place."
"The tear gas, you could smell it going into our place, just underneath the doors," he said. "We closed our windows, we locked our front doors, and we had everyone go out the back."
Matters, who is in his 50s, spoke Sunday morning as he finished cleaning graffiti from the windows and pressure-washing the sidewalk in front of his restaurant.
"It's horrible, because they do it on the busiest days of the week, they do it on the weekends. And they shut down the businesses. And it's just not right," he said. "We've gone through enough with the pandemic and now have to deal with something like this."
Some people allegedly threw bottles, rocks and fireworks at police officers, prompting a request for assistance from other agencies, according to Huntington Beach police. More than 150 officers from virtually all agencies in Orange County responded, police said. They had been standing by after police became aware of the social media posting earlier in the week.
The 121 adults and 28 juveniles arrested Saturday night will face charges of vandalism, failure to disperse, curfew violations and fireworks offenses, police said.
Matters applauded law enforcement officers for "doing a great job to protect our community."
Earlier Sunday, he said, community members turned out with brooms to sweep the streets and sidewalks clean and put graffiti- removing chemicals on his windows and others that were tagged.
Much of the mess had been cleaned by midday Sunday, though some evidence of unrest remained. A glass door at the entrance to a CVS pharmacy was shattered. Employees there said they had to lock the doors and flee out the back as the crowd approached.
No significant injuries were reported, but multiple businesses and police vehicles were vandalized, along with a lifeguard tower, police said.
Susie Smith, owner of Makin' Waves Salon on Main Street, was at her business until leaving shortly before 2 a.m. She reported that kids were on her roof, and the salon's windows were tagged. "Awful and scary," she said in a Facebook post.
Police declared an unlawful assembly in the downtown area at 7:13 p.m. and put the curfew in effect at 11:30 p.m. for everyone in the area of Beach Boulevard to Goldenwest Street and Pacific Coast Highway to Yorktown Avenue. The curfew expired at 5:30 a.m. Sunday. Many of the partygoers apparently did in fact break the curfew and stay downtown into the early morning hours, according to social media posts.
Molly Brock, who lives in a downtown apartment, was a few blocks away at a friend's house when they began hearing fireworks, helicopters and a voice over loudspeakers ordering people to disperse. She checked Twitter and quickly found out what the commotion was about.
"It's classic: They get on TikTok, and things can just come out of thin air," the 37- year- old said. "The sentiment is cute — I mean everyone likes a fun party — but it obviously got out of hand."
Huntington Beach's pier district has been the site of wild parties and large gatherings in the past, including so-called surf riots going back to the 1980s and '90s. Most recently during coronavirus stay-at-home orders, the area saw regular "curfew breaker" demonstrations in which people gathered to protest the restrictions.
Brock, who has lived in downtown Huntington Beach for 11 years, knows that Saturday's unrest will probably feed the city's reputation for raucous crowds, but she doesn't think it's reflective of living there.
"Most of the time it's really great, it's easy living. It's people who are surfing, taking their family for a walk," she said. "But it is a destination. There's good parking, wide-open beaches. And there can be a rough edge."
Gina Gonzales, 36, heard about "Adrian's kickback" earlier in the week from her teenage dance students who were joking about going together as a team bonding exercise.
"It scared the crap out of me, especially as a mom," she said. "I told them all not to go."
Gonzales, a lifelong Huntington Beach resident who works in a swimwear shop downtown, said she knows the area's history of unruly crowds, and attributes the latest episode at least in part to the city's famous wide and open beaches.
"That open area is what makes it a destination," she said. "But it can also make things escalate."
Thousands showed up in Huntington Beach for a party they heard about on TikTok. Police declared the festivities an unlawful assembly and arrested 149 people. https://t.co/hh461ypdmw pic.twitter.com/tRW0ywPoAa— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 24, 2021
Police are doing their best to block streets and keep party-goers in downtown Huntington Beach under control. The pop-up party started with a TikTok video invitation that went viral. https://t.co/bWYhx0t5ga pic.twitter.com/jrLsA1OhyP— CBS Los Angeles (@CBSLA) May 23, 2021
Times Community News staff writer Matt Szabo contributed to this report.
(c)2021 the Daily Pilot (Costa Mesa, Calif.)