150 Cars Show Up for Oakland “Sideshow,” as Ferguson Protesters Vandalize Stores Nearby

As protesters marched and looted in Oakland Wednesday night to demonstrate their frustration with a grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri, an estimated 200 people created havoc nearby, spinning their cars in circles at the Port of Oakland in yet another illegal "sideshow."

California Highway Patrol Officer Sean Wilkenfeld did not immediately know how many people were arrested, but he said it appeared as though 150 cars were at the dangerous Oakland event between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m., and guessed that at least 200 people would be processed through the system. He said gunshots were fired at the scene and "multiple firearms" were recovered from the scene. More arrests will likely be made and the CHP is holding a news conference on Friday to give additional details.

Wilkenfeld said many will be arrested or cited on charges of aiding and abetting and participating in a speed contest. Others might be found driving with a suspended license or driving without a license. Video at the scene showed officers detaining many people, who were forced on their knees and placed in handcuffs.  Several people were cited and released already.

Meanwhile, not too far away, Oakland police said 35 people were arrested for crimes in downtown, stemming from the third night of Ferguson protests. A pocketful of so-called protesters have been vandalizing stores since Monday to show they are upset that a grand jury did not charge police officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9.

The sideshow was not directly related to the protests, but an unknown person called NBC Bay Area and apparently other media outlets to say that a sideshow would be taking place near 7th and Maritime streets. The person was aware that news helicopters were flying overhead because of the third night of Ferguson protests taking place in Oakland. Wilkenfeld said the CHP was made aware of the sideshow beforehand as well.

"So obviously the first thing we need to think about is the safety of our officers and the safety of the public, so when we go in here, we have to go in there safely and methodically," Wilkenfeld said. "We were able to use our training in this instance to block everyone in, block all the escape routes, although we actually did lose a few people who were able to get out, but we blocked in the majority of them."

A sideshow is an informal and unsanctioned demonstration of car stunts, often held in vacant lots and sometimes on freeways.

Sideshows were first noted at Oakland's Eastmont Mall parking lot, and were made more popular in the 1990s when songs by rappers such as Richie Rich began singing a "sideshow" anthem to glorify the reckless driving.

On June 8, 2005, the Oakland City Council narrowly defeated a measure which would have subjected spectators at sideshows to criminal sanctions, such as fines and even jail terms. Drivers face various penalties, including having their cars impounded.

Though Oakland arrested fewer people on Wednesday night compared to the beginning of the week, there were still a small minority of people who decided to smash windows of stores, cars and the Oakland Tribune building, which was caught on video by a reporter.

The number of Ferguson protesters were smaller on Wednesday - an estimated 200 to 300 people -  compared to about 1,000 on Tuesday night, when 92 people were arrested. About 40 people were arrested on Monday night. Statistics released on Wednesday show that of the people still in custody, 60 percent were from Oakland, and the rest from other cites.

Police took a much more forceful approach on Wednesday - they dressed in full riot gear and many were seen more aggressively staying with the protesters in an effort to stop the crimes before they happened.

NBC Bay Area stringer Allen Weddington contributed to this report.

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