San Jose Cinco de Mayo celebrations turn violent

May 7, 2011 12:37:29 AM PDT
Shop owners in San Jose are hoping there won't be a second night of vandalism. Once again, a few people used Cinco de Mayo as an excuse to behave badly. A number of stores were vandalized Thursday night, one person was stabbed, and seven people arrested.

San Jose police stepped-up security Friday night after a large crowd caused thousands of dollars in damage to store fronts on Thursday night. Police anticipated large crowds might hit the streets again on Friday so a large number of officers hit the streets right when the sun went down. They focused on Downtown and East San Jose.

Hundreds of officers were on the street trying to stop a repeat of Thursday night's incident.

"Along with disturbances, there's always potential for dangerous weapons whether there are knives or fire arms and so we're definitely concerned with that," said San Jose Officer Jose Garcia.

Police told ABC7 they didn't have any major issues on Friday as of 11 p.m., but that doesn't mean they would let their guard down. They were out Thursday night patrolling the streets until 3 a.m. and they plan to have the same number of officers out on Saturday night as well.

So far, police call the activity level for this Cinco de Mayo moderate, but that's not what business owners on Alum Rock call it.

Nearly a dozen glass windows that were smashed have since been boarded up, and more boards are going up for fear that the rampage could continue over the weekend. Business owners along Alum Rock Avenue will be shelling out $2,000 to $3,000 to replace each of the smashed windows. In most cases, they don't carry insurance because of the cost.

"It's disgraceful. It's a disgrace to the holiday," said Mini-mall property owner Alex Weaver. "Next year, let's put up some fake glass out here on some boards and let everybody7 take their anger out on that."

The merchants don't know why the annual Cinco de Mayo celebration has to turn ugly.

"If they want to celebrate something, do it peacefully, not damage other peoples' property," said women's boutique owner Alberto Avila.

The trouble began around 10 p.m. Thursday where Alum Rock crosses Highway 101.

"The crowds reached a level where we believed it was going to start getting out of hand, so we instituted our pedestrian and vehicle diversions to clear out the streets and also the sidewalks," said SJPD Sgt. Jason Dwyer.

A bigger crowd of 300 to 400 people gathered about a mile away at King and Story roads. They turned on police, knocking one officer off his motorcycle. A teenage boy was stabbed and a car was hijacked. Police arrested seven people.

"I think our police department did a fine job last night, and I expect them to continue to protect property and our citizens of San Jose," said San Jose District 5 Council Member Xavier Campos.

A San Jose police spokesman said a special operations team was mobilized to keep crowds under control. He won't give out the exact number of additional officers.

El Gallo Jr. Restaurant will be closed Friday night in case there's more trouble. That's a loss of $400 to $500 on top of the broken window.

The victims are taking it in stride.

"Who am I going to be angry at? I mean, it's a mob... 50 people in cars throwing beer bottles and rocks," said Weaver. "Who are you going to be mad at?"

Vicente Virales, the El Gallo Jr. restaurant owner was afraid the same or even worse would happen on Friday. His restaurant's front window was broken Thursday. That's why several worried business owners planned to stay late, to keep an eye on their property, just in case.

Despite what happened Thursday, the mayor's spokesperson says all are welcome to come to San Jose to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

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