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Merchants hit hard by mob

By William Inman Daily Planet Staff
Tuesday October 17, 2000

Devon Whalen and the employees of Mr. Rags clothing store were still sweeping up glass and putting things back on the shelves of their trashed store Monday morning. It was around 10 a.m., more than a day after a mob Berkeley police estimates as 1,200 people ran rampant down Telegraph Avenue, breaking out windows and looting at least seven stores. 

“This was just ignorant and stupid,” said Whalen, manager of the store. “But it will catch up with them someday.” 

Mr. Rags was one of seven stores in the area that was vandalized and looted about 12:30 a.m. Sunday when a mob of partygoers poured onto Telegraph Avenue between Bancroft Way and Durant Avenue, after UC Berkeley Police shut down a fraternity party at the university’s Pauley Ballroom. 

The store’s front window was smashed and some of its merchandise was stolen. Revelers took scooters from their showcases and rode down the thoroughfare continuing the mayhem, Whalen said. Roland Peterson, executive director of the Telegraph Avenue Business Improvement District, said that he spoke with the owners and managers of the damaged stores. Mr. Rags estimated damages upwards of $20,000, he said. 

“The Gap was hit the worst,” Peterson said, noting that representatives estimated that there was a bill of $25,000 to replace the windows, and another $25,000 in merchandise loss. 

Peterson said that the other five stores had not fully assessed their damages at this point. 

“They just hit the stores that interested them,” said Jim Sugarman, manager of Tower Records on Durant Street. “Of course a record store would be hit, with the moronic mob mentality.” 

Xavier Sanchez, the manager of Athlete’s Foot on Telegraph Avenue was inside with another employee preparing for a 6 a.m. inventory when the mob arrived. 

“As they were beginning to bang on the glass, I got behind the counter and immediately called 911,” he said. “And as I was relaying the message to the dispatcher, they busted the glass and ran inside.” 

Sanchez said that he and the other employee stood behind the fixtures while around 100 people rushed inside and looted the store over a 15 minute time span. 

“We couldn’t do anything, we just let them have at it,” he said. 

Sanchez said that they went ahead with the inventory, and that they are still tabulating their losses. 

“We’re appalled at what happened,” said Kathy Berger, President of the Telegraph Area Association. “We don’t know at this time who the responsible entities are.” 

Berger said that the TAA is having a meeting with the merchant representatives and officers from the Berkeley Police and the UC Police this afternoon to try to look for ways to prevent something like this from ever happening again. 

Sugarman said that Tower Records was lucky. 

“It certainly could have been worse,” he said. 

After looters broke out the eastern window of the store, they ransacked the rap and DVD section. 

“If you looked at the other aisles, they weren’t even touched,” he said. “They took what they wanted.” 

He said that the alarm company notified him of the melee, and while he was on his way to the store, they called him back and notified him that police were recommending that no one should come down to the area, he said. 

“(The police) had mostly everyone off the street by 1:40 a.m.,” he said. “It didn’t look like they got past Durant.” 

Sugarman said that Police did a good job of quelling the mayhem, but some say that it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. 

“There weren’t enough police here,” said Twan, an employee of Rasputin Records on Telegraph. “I see more police here during a regular day than what were down here that evening.” 

Twan said that the store was closed when the riot began and wasn’t vandalized, but said that he noticed that there weren’t many police in the area when the store closed at 11 p.m. 

“The police shouldn’t have gone home until everyone was out of here and safe,” he said. “They knew that there were people coming from all over (for the fraternity party), it wasn’t like it was just a Berkeley thing.” 

Peterson said the stores that were damaged were The Gap, Mr. Rags, The Athlete’s Foot, Tower Records, C’est Cafe, the Campus Textbook Exchange and Ned’s Books.