It started with a 17-year-old from the Inland Empire planning a birthday bash in Huntington Beach.
He sent the announcement on TikTok.
And just like that, “Adrian’s kickback” ended up becoming a viral sensation, one that also became a serious problem for Huntington Beach police.
Over the weekend, more than 2,000 partygoers converged along the pier and downtown, setting off fireworks, jumping on police cars and sometimes clashing with officers.
In the end, more than 175 people were arrested.
“It’s classic: They get on TikTok, and things can just come out of thin air,” said 37-year-old Huntington Beach resident Molly Brock. “The sentiment is cute — I mean, everyone likes a fun party — but it obviously got out of hand.”
Here is what we know:
What was ‘Adrian’s kickback’?
It all started with a TikTok post last week by a teenager named Adrian who announced he was going to celebrate his birthday Saturday “at the fire pits” in Huntington Beach. The post got millions of views, and it became clear the Orange County beach city would be mobbed by partygoers.
Police began to prepare.
On Friday, Huntington Beach police posted this message on Twitter: “We are actively monitoring multiple social media posts advertising a large gathering on the beach this weekend. The safety & well-being of our residents, visitors, businesses & motorists is paramount, which is why the HBPD is taking significant steps to prepare for the potential influx of visitors, including working closely with our regional public safety partners. Toward that end, the HBPD will also be strictly enforcing all applicable laws & ordinances throughout the weekend.”
What happened Saturday night?
Business owners, store clerks and residents of Huntington Beach described a raucous scene with thousands of revelers — most of them in their teens or early 20s — crossing from the beach onto Pacific Coast Highway and clashing with police in the city’s downtown business district. Some tagged storefronts, while others lighted fireworks and threw bottles and other debris.
More than 150 officers from nearly all Orange County law enforcement agencies showed up to try to disperse the crowd. They had been standing by after police became aware of the social media posting earlier in the week. With their help, Huntington Beach worked to keep vandals away from businesses in and around Main Street, at some point using tear gas, said Mark Matters, the owner of HQ Gastropub on Pacific Coast Highway and 6th Street.
“You had children running in all different directions, and they just started tagging everything,” Matters said. “They tagged the whole front of my place.”
No significant injuries were reported, but multiple businesses and police vehicles were vandalized, along with a lifeguard tower, police said.
The bulk of the arrests — about 150 — came after the police issued a dispersal order late Saturday.
What was the aftermath?
Community members turned out Sunday morning with brooms to sweep the streets and sidewalks clean and put graffiti-removing chemicals on Matters’ windows and other storefronts that were tagged.
Much of the mess had been cleaned by midday Sunday, though some evidence of unrest remained. A glass door at the entrance to a CVS pharmacy was shattered. Employees there said they had to lock the doors and flee out the back as the crowd approached Saturday night.
On Sunday night, a smaller crowd of about 150 turned out, and Huntington Beach police again issued an unlawful assembly order late at night. Twenty-nine more people were arrested, including 13 juveniles, according to police.
Police arrest logs showed that a majority of those arrested Sunday were not from Huntington Beach. Some were from as far away as the Central Valley, including two Bakersfield men who were arrested on fireworks charges.
A GoFundMe account was started by Jodi McKay of the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum to support 40 local artists who had their exhibits destroyed in Saturday night’s melee.
The Huntington Beach Police Department never found party host Adrian, spokesperson Jennifer Carey said.
That’s because he didn’t go to Huntington Beach. Concerned about the growing size of what he said was supposed to be a small party for friends, he moved it to Los Angeles, Adrian told the New York Times. He said he deleted his mentions of the Huntington Beach event, but it was too late to dissuade the crowd from attending.
By Saturday night, the New York paper reported, he was concerned about what that post had spawned. “I’m nervous. My parents don’t know and they’re going to find out, So, Mom and Dad, I’m sorry but I don’t know what to do.”
Tony Barboza contributed to this report.