Violence plagued the city of Anaheim, home to Disneyland, last night, as protests against a series of officer-involved deaths turned ugly.
Last Sunday, Joel Mathew Acevedo was shot and killed by Anaheim police, the sixth such shooting this year, coming a day after Manuel Diaz was shot and killed. Many residents consider the shootings the result of police brutality, though the police claim they acted in self-defense. In particular, Diaz, who was unarmed, was running from police when he got shot. Police, who called Diaz “a known gang member,” attempted to purchase the cell phone video of witnesses so that they wouldn’t make their way into the public eye.
This led to a protest of 600 outside City Hall last night, the fourth straight day of protests. Police attempted to disperse this one with rubber bullets:
Protesters hurled rocks, traffic cones and other objects at police clad in riot gear as officers chased people along sidewalks and streets throughout the evening and fired less-than-lethal projectiles into crowds after giving a dispersal order. Sirens wailed as officers formed skirmish lines and police from neighboring law enforcement agencies provided assistance.
Police said that at least five people were arrested on suspicion of assault and resisting arrest, and that a reporter from the Orange County Register was struck by a rock as angry crowds stood face to face with officers in tense standoffs. Fires were started in dumpsters, and at least one storefront had its windows broken as the skirmishes continued into the night.
The chaotic scene marked the fourth day of protests since officers shot two men to death over the weekend, outraging residents concerned about police conduct in Anaheim’s heavily Latino core.
The Anaheim City Council last night asked the US Attorney for the region to initiate an investigation into the shootings. The US Attorney agreed today to review the killings. The state Attorney General’s office, the Anaheim PD Department of Internal Affairs and the Orange County District Attorney plan to be involved in the investigation. The mother of Manuel Diaz has already filed a wrongful-death lawsuit for $50 million in damages.
The city has vowed a crackdown and more arrests if additional protests take place. One thing I know about Anaheim is that the demographics of the political and law enforcement leadership differ from the population, which has become heavily Hispanic and Asian over the years. Police have tried to say that the protesters were not city residents, but that doesn’t ring true.
This year has been marked by multiple incidents of police brutality, as protesters recognize they are not as free to register dissent in America as they thought.