The Foothill Boulevard Riot, Part 2
Last week I covered the first of three confrontations in 1975 between police and teens attempting to establish a weekly Monday cruise night on Foothill Boulevard. The cruise night went peacefully for the first two events in May, but on the first of June trouble flashed between police and the cruising teens, resulting in a small riot. Tensions increased the following week as determined teens urged youths from surrounding high schools to show up on June 8. Even some L.A. radio rock stations called on kids to attend the next cruise night. The police, vowing “no more” to the Monday cruise night, showed up with an army on June 8. CHP, Glendale PD, LAPD and sheriffs established three command posts along Foothill Boulevard and fielded 80 patrol cars, 20 motorcycles and two helicopters.
The stretch of Foothill from Lowell Avenue east was kept under relative control. For three hours, a solid line of flashing red lights marked the edges of Foothill Boulevard as police pulled over every car that moved, and any knot of gathering teens was broken up. Forty-five were arrested, and 50 citations were given out.
But on the LAPD end west of Lowell, things got out of hand. A crowd of over 700 youths was allowed to build up in the Lucky’s parking lot (now Albertsons). For two hours, the crowd sporadically threw rocks and bottles at police and spilled out onto Foothill, stopping traffic. The crowd briefly tried to overturn an unfortunate RTD bus trapped there, but failed. The police repeatedly called for the crowd to disperse, but they continued to build, and at 10 o’clock the LAPD swept the sidewalk west to east, arresting everyone they could catch before the crowd took off.
The arrests were dramatic, often with an arresting officer surrounded by teens screaming obscenities at them, raising tensions further. Cars were impounded and towed away by the score. News photographers had a field day, and dozens of photos of handcuffed kids struggling with police were printed. There’s a great news photo of a line of 25 teens in ’70s attire, with their hands cuffed behind them and linked together elbow-to-elbow with zip ties. One of the arrests turned potentially deadly as the arrestee wrestled with an officer, trying to grab his weapon. Two were arrested for possession of “Asiatic chain-handled weapons” (nun-chucks?). The majority of arrests were for loitering and failure to disperse with some narcotic possession and concealed weapons charges thrown into the mix. Interestingly, the kids had made use of CB radios to try to avoid police, similar to the coordination with cellphones and social media in some of the recent “Arab Spring” resistance movements. By 10:30, this cruise night was over.
The next Monday cruise night on June 15 was met with a similar army of police, but the kids had gotten the message and there were fewer participants. Foothill cruisers driving cars were harassed off the street and, for the most part, kids stood around on the sidewalk as the diminishing crowds were whittled down by police with arrests and citations. Only 49 were arrested that night.
The local Ledger newspaper summed up the event humorously: “Youngsters of the general area have been treated to a special night class in law enforcement, citizenship, drama and law. For the most part they passed their final. Others were assigned field trips to the County Jail, and a series of lectures on government.”
The one and only official cruise night in the Crescenta Valley had started with a bang and ended with a whimper in only a month’s time. I’m sure some of those same Foothill cruisers, now grey, today cruise to the Saturday morning car show held weekly at the UA Theater in La Cañada by the Early Rodders car club. Perhaps a couple of them are still driving the same muscle cars they briefly cruised on Foothill in 1975.
If you have any stories from this weird moment in CV history, please pass them along to me so I can share them in future columns.