What is a ‘sideshow?’

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People gather to watch a sideshow at the Big Value parking in south Stockton, Calif., on Sunday, July 16, 2006. The spontaneous nature of the sideshows which are staged on interstates, in deserted parking lots, and on downtown streets keeps police guessing. Departments have spent millions in overtime policing the outlaw rallies. (AP Photo/Omar Vega)

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) — The cheers of noisy crowds, the sound of tires screeching on the pavement, and the smell of burnt rubber are becoming more common in Fresno County and the state of California.

These indicators are a sign of an illegal activity law enforcement calls “sideshows”.

According to the California Legislature, “sideshows” are defined as any motor vehicle speed contest on a highway, reckless driving on a highway, reckless driving in an off-street parking facility, or an exhibition of speed on a highway.

A California problem?

California is seeing a significant increase in illegal sideshows and street racing across the state. The commissioner of the California Highway Patrol and other state leaders on Tuesday urged drivers to stop the illegal activity. 

Among those who attended the press conference was a mother who lost her son at a sideshow.

“My son was hit and taken under the car,” Dubinetskiy said. “These sideshows are becoming every weekend plan for young people.”

Her son is one of the many who have been injured in illegal sideshows recently. CHP Commissioner Amanda Ray said street racing and sideshows have resulted in 264 crashes statewide in the past five years. Of those crashes, 30 have been fatal and 124 have resulted in serious injuries. 

Cracking down on sideshows

Assembly Bill 3 was signed into law in October by Governor Gavin Newsom and provides harsher punishments for people who participate in sideshows.

The bill, authored by Assemblyman Vince Fong, allows courts to issue driver’s license suspensions up to six months for those who participate in these sideshows, which include burnouts, stunts, engine revving and other moves that lead to street racing.

However, that law goes into effect in 2025 to give the Department of Motor Vehicles time to update its systems. The CHP Commissioner however says with new grants awarded to the Highway Patrol, the agency will respond to any of these incidents.

The California Highway Patrol responded to over 25,000 calls involving illegal street racing activity in the past year.

Clash between Law Enforcement and “unruly crowd” in Fresno

What CHP officers say was a Fresno sideshow devolved into shouting, screaming, and teens handcuffed on the ground – according to a series of videos posted to Facebook over the weekend.

According to both a witness and the CHP, the incident took place Saturday in Fresno at around 9:45 p.m., in the area of Blackstone and Bullard avenues.

In a statement, patrol officers say they were asked to assist a Fresno Police Department unit “surrounded by an unruly crowd of spectators involved in sideshow activity within an off-street parking lot.”

Upon arrival, two CHP units entered the parking lot and were surrounded by a group of unruly individuals.  Two individuals were later detained by CHP without further incident.  Additional Fresno PD resources arrived on scene to assist and were also faced with the unruly crowd.  

CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL, FRESNO

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