San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Angry concert-goers riot in San Pedro

Crews on Monday continued to mop up and repair heavy damage caused by a mob of angry young concertgoers, who rioted Sunday after not being allowed into a concert in San Pedro, east of San José.

The angry youths threw rocks, breaking the most of the windows of private university Universidad Latina´s three buildings.

The private school, commonly known as U Latina, hosted the multi-act event, which included Los Pericos, an Argentinean ska band. The mob also attacked nearby homes, vandalized and looted several businesses and damaged vehicles, according to the Public Security Ministry.

“It is impossible to say how many people came into the store,” said César Madrigal, brother of the owner of the cafeteria Latin Break, one of the targets. “They destroyed practically the whole store. They took a lamp from U Latina and threw it through the window to get in. It is impossible to calculate the damage.”

A total of 35 people were detained. Police used gas to disperse more than 3,000 people standing outside the concert.

Early reports claimed that the bombs used were smoke bombs, but witnesses claimed that the police used tear gas.

“It was a violent scene,” said Carlos Bolaños of the Red Cross. No major injuries were reported, however.

The Public Security Ministry reported 10 minor injuries.

Concert-goes were upset at organizers for not admitting more people into the concert once approximately 5,000 had been let in to the university´s parking lot. The large attendance was the result of the concert being practically free – to gain admission people had to show three empty Snickers candy bar wrappers at the door.

According to University of Costa Rica tudents Gabriel Granados says she shot video that proves the canisters police threw held tear gas. Student Erick Faith said the crowd outside tried to push forward to gain admittance.

They estimated that the venue was at about 2,000 under capacity when the gates were shut.

Two different versions of the story emerge from here.

Fans outside the concert immediately grew angry and began rioting, at which point the gas came into play. Other witnesses say security guards or police deployed gas immediately after the push forward, sending the crowd into a frenzy.

“There were 2,000 people outside,” Granados said. “They tried to break in. The concert was canceled, and everybody went crazy once the gas came in. The gas entered into the concert grounds as well.”

“The people who were just relaxed, waiting in line, got gassed as well,” Faith said.

On the wall of Soda Latina, a message written in blood read, “Police Aggression.”

But the other version of the story has supporters as well.

“I have friends who were at the concert,” said Oscar Saborío, another local youth. “I hear the disturbances started first. Why else would the police use gas?”

Regardless of the actual order of events, local businesses felt the university did not prepare sufficiently for the crowd.

“We question the university´s decision to hold a concert of this magnitude in such a central location,” Madrigal said. “The crowd was drinking and doing drugs. Thank God no one was hurt. This is a demonstration of the danger we live in here in Costa Rica.”

As a result of the riots, the concert was canceled before Los Pericos played, further fueling the ire of the angry youths.

The rioters picked up rocks, bricks and bottles and threw them at the university, businesses and nearby residences. They broke into the university´s cafeteria, stealing food and beverages

They used cafeteria chairs to destroy more windows and damage cafeteria equipment. Rioters also stole some of the university´s computers and ripped the school´s scenic lamps out of the ground.

Among the damaged and looted businesses along the main street of San Pedro were a children´s clothing store, a mattress shop, one or more banks and Latin Break. A car with a shattered windshield remained on the side of the road at least until mid-Monday.

Massive cleanup crews surrounded the decimated university buildings and worked tirelessly to remove the shattered windows to start the move back to normalcy.

Universidad Latina has not issued a statement on the matter.

The police could not be reached for comment, and the security staff was in a series of meetings most of Monday.

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