Violent melee in Anaheim sparks anger over property damage
Merchants whose businesses were damaged during violent protests Tuesday in Anaheim expressed outrage at what happened.
Police arrested 20 people in connection with the melee, which came amid demonstrations over a fatal officer-involved shooting over the weekend. Crowds roamed throughout downtown Anaheim for hours, throwing rocks and bottles during clashes with police.
Christine Sim, 51, and her husband own a T-shirt shop in a strip mall near City Hall. Her family was outside the shop Wednesday morning, sweeping up glass as a repairman carefully removed shards from a broken window.
Looters smashed a front window Tuesday night and grabbed pants and sunglasses from shelves within arms' reach.
"I just came here and all my property and my business is damaged," Sim said, speaking in Korean as her daughter translated. "I didn't do anything wrong. Why did my things have to be vandalized?"
At one point during the night, patrons at a Starbucks on Anaheim Boulevard near City Hall hid behind chairs under a counter as crowds swarmed outside. Customers there Wednesday morning said furniture had been thrown through the windows, which is why they were covered with plywood.
Gaylein Ford, 41, said she goes to the Starbucks every morning and refers to many of the young workers as her "kids."
"These are just kids working here to pay for college and to live," she said. "And next thing they know, this group of thugs throws furniture through the window."
She described the scene as "surreal."
"This is my community," she said. "And to have this happen here is shocking."
Yolanda Delgado, 68, a longtime Anaheim resident, saw a group of young looters smashing the windows of a T-shirt store Tuesday night and began yelling at them.
At one point she scuffled with a young woman who she said was trying to steal shoelaces. The young woman punched her and bloodied her lip.
Delgado said she was incensed that rioters were destroying the property of innocent people. “I was ashamed of them –- the stupidity, the ignorance,” she said. “This is what the Latino community is trying to [allievate]. They’re tired of being known just as thieves or gardeners or housekeepers.”
Rusty Kennedy, executive director of the Orange County Human Relations Commission, said anger over the weekend shooting reflects wider woes in Anaheim’s poorest communities, which suffer from unemployment, overcrowding and gang activity.
“It’s a hot summer, school's out, and frustrations from the economy are certainly being felt,” Kennedy said. “There are really good families in these neighborhoods that are just struggling to survive. They have fears their child will get in between the gang members and police.”
The FBI has agreed to review the shooting.
Anaheim officials said they have also asked state officials to launch a review of the Saturday incident, which is already being probed by the Orange County district attorney. The district attorney has asked the public to share any photos or video of the shooting and its aftermath.
During the unrest Tuesday night, people grabbed rocks from a construction site at Santa Ana Street and Anaheim Boulevard and hurled them at officers. Others in the area ignited a fire in the weeds and in trash bins as they were chased by police.
Anaheim Police Chief John Welter said the crowd grew to more than 1,000 at times. Protests were allowed to continue, he said, until the violence escalated and became threatening to police and others in the area.
After an unlawful assembly was declared, Welter said a smaller group of 50 to 100 protesters continued roaming the streets of downtown Anaheim, damaging public property and throwing rocks and bottles. Police employed nonlethal tactics, including batons, pepper balls and bean bags. Two Orange County Register reporters were injured -- one hit in the head with a rock, another with a projectile to the foot -- while covering the melee. Police said four others were also injured.
"We will not allow riotous, dangerous violations of the law by anyone," Welter said.
The arrests included offenses such as assault with a deadly weapon, possession of a handgun, failure to disperse and resisting arrest.
Police said they will be reviewing video footage from Tuesday night's protests to arrest those who engaged in illegal activity.
Anaheim police were still assessing the fallout from the unrest, which took place amid growing outrage over a pair of fatal officer-involved shootings over the weekend.
"I think that given the totality of the circumstances, actually things turned out very good," said Sgt. Robert Dunn, a spokesman for the Anaheim Police Department.
At the northeast corner of Water Street and Anaheim Boulevard, the lights of Don Leonardo's Taqueria were on. The owners, Francisco Hernandez and his wife, Alma, were returning from church when they discovered a mob had damaged their building. Expletives about the police were written on the side of their business, much like in other parts of the neighborhood.
"We're very upset about this," Hernandez said. "We had nothing to do with what has happened in the city."
Hernandez also discovered that trash cans from their corner house had been moved to the intersection and had been set on fire. At least one of them had been melted down to its wheels.
After a few minutes of sweeping glass, a friend of the couple discovered that a second window had been broken. Hernandez said replacing the windows would cost about $700.
"At least they weren't throwing rocks at some of the windows of the nearby homes," he said.
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-- Christine Mai-Duc and Nicole Santa Cruz in Anaheim and Richard Winton in Los Angeles