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Anaheim police block protesters from Disneyland; 9 arrested

July 30, 2012 |  5:23 am

Nine people were arrested Sunday during protests over recent fatal officer-involved shootings in Anaheim.

The protest took a dramatic turn when the crowd began marching en masse on Harbor Boulevard, saying they were headed to Disneyland. But police in riot gear corralled them, and many returned to police headquarters.

The demonstration stretched long into the afternoon, with more than 200 protesters initially chanting in front of police headquarters and taking over a parking lot where they drew chalk outlines of bodies and wrote messages condemning the police.

DISCUSS: Anaheim unrest, protests

Organizers hoped the demonstration would remain peaceful in order to avoid a repeat of Tuesday's events. In that night's mass protest, police used non-lethal rounds to disperse a crowd of about 1,000 who marched through the streets after a packed City Council meeting. Some protesters threw rocks, bricks and other objects at officers and started fires in trash bins. By Tuesday night's end, authorities said, 24 protesters had been arrested, 20 buildings damaged and seven people injured.

"We don't want to see another Tuesday night," said George Olivio, an organizer with Occupy Orange County.

Family members of those killed in officer-involved shootings implored demonstrators Sunday not to escalate the tension.

"I'm not asking, I'm demanding," Theresa Smith, 65, told those assembled through a megaphone. She said her 35-year-old son Caesar Cruz was fatally shot by Anaheim police in 2009.

This month, police fatally shot two men in Anaheim: Manuel Diaz on July 21 and Joel Acevedo the next day. Authorities said that Diaz, 25, who was unarmed, was avoiding arrest and that Acevedo, 21, had fired at officers during a foot chase.

And the officer-involved shooting Friday — police opened fire on a burglary suspect, who was unhurt — was the city's seventh such shooting this year, five of which have been fatal. The city had four officer-involved shootings in 2011.

Hundreds of community members attended a vigil for Diaz on Sunday evening at a makeshift memorial near the scene of his shooting.

In front of police headquarters earlier, Smith, wearing a T-shirt reading "In loving memory of my son," acknowledged that the community remains outraged after the recent clashes with police, but she said that acting out on that anger would only hurt the demonstrators' cause. "But it's their anger," she added, "and I understand the years of frustration.... I don't condone it, but I understand it."

Soon after the protest began, demonstrators congregated on the sidewalk just yards from the front entrance of police headquarters. The crowd chanted: "The whole system is guilty" and "Am I next?," touching on a sense of stewing ethnic and class divisions in the city.

Although they were angry, they did not use violence to express it.

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--Matt Stevens and Rick Rojas

Photo: Protesters in Anaheim run as a police officer on horseback gallops toward them. (Arkasha Stevenson, Los Angeles Times / July 30, 2012)

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