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Viewpoint: A darker side of the Super Bowl

When I looked out the living room window a few days before Super Bowl LVI, two large police cars were blocking the entry to our cul-de-sac.

It was 9 a.m., but civilian cars lined both sides of the street behind them and new ones kept arriving. A group of Claremont police were standing around, an Los Angeles County Sheriff seemed to be in charge.

Then the drama began. A van pulled up fast and out jumped a SWAT squad dressed in camo, hands on their guns, moving in on a neighbor’s house. One pair beat the bushes in front, another pair went around the back, two approached the front door.

Suddenly I was afraid—the presence of the SWAT team meant that they were dealing with a serious and dangerous crime. Why hadn’t the Claremont Police warned us to lock our doors and stay away from the windows as they had in the past with robberies and hot pursuit?

“They’re serving a search warrant” was all the officers would tell us. Drugs? Trafficking?

Two hours later a new team had arrived: six or eight Homeland Security investigators accompanied by four Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in uniform—all to defend my quiet street in this town of five colleges and a large retirement community.

Homeland Security was supervising the assembly and photographing of 30 cardboard boxes, which they were confiscating. What could be in them?

Super Bowl jerseys, I later learned, for both the L.A. Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals. But they were unauthorized—the Nike label on them had not been paid for.

Why, I wondered was a SWAT team needed for T-shirts? Who was footing the bill for such a large force, the city, the county, the feds?

Another puzzle: twenty or more armed officers but no arrests were made.

My neighbors said the team had been courteous and half apologetic, explaining that this raid was only a warning; there would be no charges. One officer said the Super Bowl Committee and Nike had requested and paid for the raids.

Many other communities across the L.A. Basin were targeted by similar raids.

“Nearly $100 million in counterfeit sports merchandise seized ahead of Super Bowl from flea markets and retail outlets” read the L.A. Times headline on Saturday, February 12.

There was no mention anywhere of raids on families or the use of SWAT teams for intimidating “warnings.”

I contacted the Claremont Police Department for information, but the deputy wouldn’t say much. Yes, there had been an operation at that location. No, there was no report on what its objectives were. Yes, Claremont police knew and had participated.

“Probably initiated by the L.A. Sheriff,” he surmised. “But there’s nothing further in the records”
All the drivers of the dozens of cars parked on the street knew; that’s why they were there. Police in unmarked cars. Evidently, there was a decision to keep this kind of raid and confiscation out of the press. I saw nothing on the Claremont COURIER website or on patch.com for Claremont-La Verne.

Are armed raids on a family’s home in a quiet neighborhood for football jerseys okay with the citizens of Claremont?

Who really paid for this guns-drawn drama on a Tuesday morning? Probably the funding came not from Nike and the Super Bowl Host Committee but from the budgets of ICE and its arm, Homeland Security Investigations, as well as the Claremont Police Department.

If we taxpayers paid the salaries of these actors, do we agree that this is how we want our money spent? Were these “raids” kept secret because the public would react?”

Karen Torjesen
Claremont