Anaheim, Calif., On Edge After Violent Protests

Jul 25, 2012
Originally published on July 26, 2012 7:48 pm
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Audie Cornish.

Now to Southern California, where the city of Anaheim is on edge. That's after demonstrations against police last night turned violent. Protesters are angry about a pair of police shootings that left two young Hispanic men dead. As we hear from NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates, last night's city council meeting became the flash point.

KAREN GRISBY BATES, BYLINE: After the Anaheim City Council chambers were filled to capacity, protestors outside city hall eventually turned to a downtown intersection and blocked traffic.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: There's only justice in heaven, not in Anaheim.

BATES: Some threw rocks and broke windows in nearby businesses. A couple hours later, when the crowd refused to disperse, the police responded with pepper spray, bean bags and rubber bullets.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I was trying to walk towards the crowd and - if you could just...

BATES: The fury came after two Anaheim residents were shot and killed by police over the weekend. On Sunday, one man was killed after exchanging fire with officers. On Saturday, 25-year-old Manuel Angel Diaz was fleeing police but unarmed. Police say both had gang affiliations. The Diaz family has filed a $50 million lawsuit against the city and the police department. Diaz's mother, Genevieve Huizar, spoke at a press conference this morning.

GENEVIVE HUIZAR: We want peaceful justice. We want to honor Manuel by doing things within the law. We want the officers in question to be arrested for the execution of my son, Manuel.

BATES: Joanne Sosa organized last night's protest. She runs Take Back Anaheim and works in the East Anaheim neighborhood were Diaz was killed. Sosa says the anger over both deaths go well beyond the weekend. She believes residents are tired of being ignored. Their requests for funds that would help make their neighborhoods safer and more livable largely go unanswered.

JOANNE SOSA: I got to tell you, we have layers and layers and years of these areas not being paid attention to, not given the same attention or money that they've used at the resort area, Disney and the hotel developers.

BATES: And, in fact, many people here do believe there are two Anaheims: the spic and span, tourist-friendly areas that draw families from around the globe to enjoy Disneyland and other attractions, and the less affluent part that tourists don't often see.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Welcome - welcome, welcome. I'd like to call the Anaheim City Council meeting back to order.

BATES: The other source of the tension was visible in the council chambers. Anaheim is now almost 53 percent Hispanic. But so far, although there are council members sympathetic to Hispanic residents' concerns, there's no Hispanic council member. It's a graphic illustration of how the civic institutions of old Anaheim, traditionally white and middle class, have not yet adjusted to the new demographic reality.

Last night was the fourth in a string of protests over the weekend's killings. Mayor Tom Tait has announced he will be meeting with investigators from the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office on Friday. Two of the police officers involved have been put on administrative leave. Until then, Chief John Welter says his department is continuing to investigate leads on violent protesters and says they will make arrests as identities are confirmed. Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.