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Annual Cinco de Mayo Lowrider Cruise Shutdown by LAPD Before Sold-Out Dodger Game, Causing Confusion and Frustration

"Was really bummed to see a dead park with cops standing by today,” an Elysian Park resident told L.A. TACO. “Like, what’s the point of the park?? Also, why do the Dodgers call the shots? They made the calls [to] shut it down,” the resident speculated.

Thousands of lowriders, customized bikes, and vendors from across California and neighboring states gather in Elysian Park on Cinco de Mayo every year. 

Not this year, though.

In the days before the annual event, authorities posted “no parking” signs along the iconic “Palm Row” in Elysian Park after a handful of car clubs began putting up their own caution tape, paper signs, and cones to reserve the most coveted spots on Stadium Way a week before the Cinco de Mayo event.

Still, until Saturday, it appeared that the lowrider event would still take place in Elysian Park despite the “no parking” signage.

On Saturday, L.A. Times Car Club—the organizer of this annual picnic—posted a letter on Instagram, purported to be from the “LAPD Northeast Division Community Police Advisory Board,” suggesting that the organizers had come to an agreement with authorities.

“As a reminder and as agreed upon, from 6 A.M. to 8 P.M. tomorrow, ‘lowrider and car show’ event may occur with relaxed parking enforcement although posted signage may still be present,” the letter read.

“Please respect the park, keep the traffic moving, and let’s keep the park clean!” L.A. Times Car Club wrote on Instagram on Saturday evening. “Move in at 6 AM, no sooner. Let’s show the world we know how to lowrider in peace.”

The next morning, the L.A. Times Car Club abruptly moved the event from its original home of Elysian Park to Crystal Springs Drive in Griffith Park without explanation.

A source from another lowrider car club told L.A. TACO that the event moved because people continued to camp in Elysian Park overnight to reserve spots, even after authorities specifically told them not to.

Early Sunday morning, three LAPD patrol cars idled along Palm Row in Elysian Park while trucks pulling classic cars and bikes on trailers darted down the 5 Freeway towards Griffith Park.

By 8:20 AM, Los Angeles park rangers blocked off an entrance to Griffith Park that connects the 5 Freeway with Crystal Springs Drive. They also blocked the main entrance to the park at Riverside Drive and Los Feliz Boulevard. By 8:45 AM, a park ranger told L.A. TACO that the parking lots in Griffith Park were being “shutdown” and they were dispersing the crowd.

LAPD officers and park rangers were observed stopping cars one by one before they entered the park. An LAPD officer told L.A. TACO that they were “controlling the flow of traffic going in” so it didn’t get “too congested in the park.” A park ranger was also overheard asking a driver trying to access the park what business they had there.

At 9 AM, dozens of the lowriders that made it into Griffith Park before authorities effectively shut down the event were firing up their engines and heading for Pasadena’s Brookside Park, where the Cinco de Mayo festivities continued, seemingly without any further conflicts with law enforcement.

While the Cinco de Mayo picnic in Elysian Park has grown in size since the pandemic, the family-friendly event was not shut down by police until this weekend.

Car clubs and vendors from all over California, Nevada, Arizona, and Texas, and even some car enthusiasts from overseas make the annual pilgrimage to Elysian Park to show off their rides, sell food and products, and have a good time.

This year was different, though. 

Usually, car clubs will roll into Elysian Park the night before the event. But this year, clubs began reserving spots more than a week before Cinco de Mayo.

On top of that, there was a sold-out Dodger game on the same day as the picnic. But that hasn’t stopped lowriders from taking over Elysian Park in past years.

“Was really bummed to see a dead park with cops standing by today,” an Elysian Park resident told L.A. TACO. “Like what’s the point of the park?? Also, why do the Dodgers call the shots? They made the calls [to] shut it down,” the resident speculated.

In a “community affairs” email reviewed by L.A. TACO, the Dodgers told their neighbors “We anticipate significant traffic impacts on May 5th due to the Cinco de Mayo related gatherings in and around Elysian Park that will likely cause delays and additional neighborhood parking challenges.” The email informed community members that 41 traffic officers would be “stationed as early as 9 AM” and that “LAPD has requested and been approved by council offices for the addition of ‘tow away/no parking’ signs."

“Day of we will work closely with city officials to manage traffic and attempt to minimize inconvenience to neighbors.”

A spokesperson for the Los Angeles Police Department did not respond to questions asking why the event was shut down.

For past L.A. TACO coverage of Elysian Park's lowrider cruise, check Lexis-Olivier Ray's film photo essay from 2022 here.

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