Last weekend in Anaheim, police shot and killed two young men. Every day since, protesters have taken to the streets. This weekend, a national day of protest following the killings helped spread the call for justice in Anaheim spread to the Bay Area.
Manuel Diaz, 25, was unarmed when he was killed by Anaheim police July 21. When a crowd gathered at the scene as Diaz lay bleeding, police fired rubber bullets and pepper balls into the crowd. One police dog got loose, charged at a baby, and bit the child’s father. Police say they used crowd control because the people had grown rowdy, and that some were throwing rocks. The next day, police shot a 21-year-old, Joel Acevedo, who they say shot at officers while fleeing.
Anaheim police shot another man the next day, a suspected burglar, marking the eighth officer-involved shooting in Anaheim so far this year. Five of the shootings resulted in death, and all but one of those killed were Latino.
“What’s going on here in Orange County is symbolic of a problem with the system,” Eduardo Perez, a 21-year-old student who attended Sunday’s protest told the Orange County Register. “This wouldn’t happen to white people. This is racism, simple as that.”
Saturday was a designated a national day of action, and protests in New York, Oakland, Seattle, and Chicago took place, while a smaller group marched Friday in San Francisco.
Tensions boiled over between protesters and Anaheim police Tuesday. Police say that protesters smashed windows and set fires. They shot at a crowd of hundreds with rubber bullets, beanbags and pepper balls, arresting 24 by the end of the night. That was what an Occupy Oakland medic, who preferred to be quoted as Elle, want to head down.
“I saw an insane amount of force being used to disperse protesters who I think are rightfully angry. I noticed there was nobody there as a medic, reaching out to do first aid,” Elle said.
On Sunday, protesters rallied at the APD headquarters and attempted a march to Disneyland. Law enforcement officers in camoflauge uniforms, toting tear gas launchers, blocked them the crowd from getting near Disneyland.
“They were stopped by the SWAT team that apparently wears desert camo,” said Elle, noting that Anaheim police and Orange County sheriff’s deputies, many on horseback, also confronted the march.
Although Elle says that she did observe mounted police “using their horses almost as batons to shove and hit protesters onto the street,” she only treated minor injuries as a medic.
”The unfortunate thing about being a medic is that these people who are being arrested need your help the most,” she said.
“The arrests they made were pretty violent, the ones that I saw. They hit one guy over the head with their baton as they were taking them to the van. They carried another woman out from a back alley, and she was crying and terrified. They were pretty brutal to the people they were arresting.”
Elle says she wanted to go help in Anaheim in part to help build a unified movement.
“We’re building a movement in Oakland around a really similar situation,” she said.
“If our state, community, country is going to make these murders stop all these communities need to rise up together and say this is unacceptable, we need to stop. It’s going to take a lot of people getting out there into the streets and building constant popular support to say this is an unacceptable use of our tax dollars.”
That “constant popular support” has been mounting in the Bay Area so far in 2012. Occupy Oakland started off the year with a march to the Oakland City Jail, and, the next day, joined with the Oscar Grant Committee for a march and rally commemorating his death. As officer-involved shootings have continued throughout the year, family and supporters have continued to take to the streets in response.
“I also wanted to help build a bridge between Oakland and Anaheim,” Elle says of her trip.
“If every community is issuing statements saying we want police to be held accountable for these deaths, we want to revoke the police officers’ bill of rights, we want active legislation preventing stop and frisk, active legislation to protect people’s fourth amendment rights, I think it could accomplish something,” Elle said.