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In wake of Anaheim unrest, some tourists worry about safety

July 26, 2012 |  5:48 am

More photos: Protests in Anaheim

Steve Goulding and his family come from Utah to Anaheim multiple times a year to enjoy Southern California's treasures.

The family has season passes to Disneyland, but when they got back to their hotel Tuesday night and turned on the news, they were surprised to see that it was about Anaheim.

Goulding, of Mapleton, Utah, said his first thought sitting in the room was, "Do I really want to take my family back over to the center of Anaheim right now?"

Photos: Protests in Anaheim over police shootings

His worries echoed among many tourists who have arrived in Anaheim in the last few days, landing themselves in the middle of protests over recent cases in which police officers shot and killed two men in separate incidents.

The trouble began Saturday afternoon, when police fatally shot an unarmed man, Manuel Angel Diaz, 25, who they said was evading arrest. A day later, police killed another man, Joel Acevedo, 21, who they say fired on officers during a foot chase.

A wave of anger swept through the streets, erupting Tuesday night in violent confrontations between protesters and police. A total of 24 people -- 20 adults and four juveniles -- were arrested, and six people -- three protesters, two journalists and one police officer -- were injured.

Diana Sanchez, of Rodeo, 30 minutes outside of Oakland, said she didn't expect to see rioting in Anaheim. Her boss called her at about 10 a.m. Wednesday morning to ask if she was OK.

"We're going to stay as far away from there as possible," said Sanchez, 47, who was traveling with her family.

At a news conference Wednesday morning, Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait was less concerned about the effect of the clashes on the city's tourism industry.

"I'm worried first and foremost for our community and getting to the truth and starting the healing process," Tait said. "It's a local process."

Some tourists, however, didn't take notice of the situation, noted Ana Saldana, a front-desk clerk at the Super 8 motel near Disneyland. She said she’s had one inquiry about the rioting.

"Most of the guests are not even aware of it," she said. "Because when they come here, I don't think they watch the news. They just want to go to Disneyland."

Richard Isby and his wife, of Toledo, Ohio, said they came to the city to go golfing and, of course, make a trip to Disneyland.

But as they've watched and read the news, they said Wednesday afternoon, they've realized their trip was poorly timed.

"It's a concern because the first thing you think is how close are we to it," said Richard Isby, 54.

They said they've heard police sirens and fire trucks since arriving Monday, but to Isby, shootings and violence seem commonplace.

"It's the way of the world, unfortunately," he said.

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-- Christopher Goffard, Nicole Santa Cruz and Melissa Leu
twitter.com/MelissaLeu

Photo: More than 20 businesses, including Anaheim Cash Co., were damaged in protesters' overnight clashes with police in Anaheim. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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