Riots, Protests and Police Shootings: The Current State of Anaheim
Anaheim continues to be in a state of unrest following a pair of shooting deaths at the hands of police this past weekend, reports the Los Angeles Times. When protesters took to the streets to demand accountability for the officers, Anaheim Police Department ended the assemblies by firing less lethal ammunition at the crowd, prompting residents to resort to vandalism to voice their frustrations instead.
On Saturday, Manuel Diaz, was shot twice from behind while fleeing from police unarmed. Upset by the questionable use of deadly force, a crowd of locals assembled to speak out against police violence in the community. To disperse the crowd, officers fired less lethal ammunition indiscriminately at the people, including many young children and released a police dog – perhaps accidentally – which attacked defenseless protesters. (See Care2’s more in depth coverage of Saturday’s events, as well as a must-see video of policing firing at protesters.)
The following day, police killed Joel Acevedo during a foot chase. Police say that the shooting was justified since Acevedo fired at an officer first, but the incident certainly did nothing to quell already rising tensions.
The conflict came to a head on Tuesday night when more than 1,000 protesters amassed in Anaheim to voice their opposition to the recent police violence. Police labeled the event an unlawful assembly, which prompted a few in the crowd to throw rocks at the officers standing nearby. In response, police fired pepper spray and less lethal ammunition at the crowd, leading them to scatter around the city.
Police chased – and fired at – a fraction of the crowd who continued to roam the city. Some of the protesters took to vandalizing by setting dumpsters on fire and breaking the windows of commercial buildings. The police arrested 24 people throughout the night.
Genevieve Huizar, the mother of shooting victim Diaz, filed a wrongful death suit against the police, but implored the residents to end the rioting. “Please, please, please, stop the violence,” she said, as quoted by the LAist. “It’s not going to bring my son back, and this is the worst thing any mother could go through.”
Huizar’s attorney, Dana Douglas, remained critical of the police department, however. “Police don’t roust white kids in affluent neighborhoods who are just having a conversation, and those kids have no reason to fear police,” said Douglas. “But young men with brown skin in poor neighborhoods do.”
Anaheim has had five fatal police shootings already this year, which has left the Latino community at odds with city officials. Additionally, many residents feel that the city’s financial resources are allocated toward the wealthier areas with Disneyland and sports arenas, at the expense of the poorer neighborhoods where many of the Latinos live. Though Latinos comprise 53% of Anaheim’s population, there have only been three Latino council members ever, which the American Civil Liberties Union alleges is due to Anaheim’s unfair electoral system.
To summarize, the state of Anaheim is pretty much a mess. Though city officials have taken a good first step by calling for a federal investigation of Diaz’s shooting (the officers involved are currently on paid leave), they are going to need to do a better job of addressing the community’s concerns overall to end the demonstrations and rioting. And while Anaheim residents should have the right to voice their opinions without being brutalized by the police, they are liable to lose the public relations war when they react with the destruction of private property.
Photo Credit: Highway Patrol Images