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Anaheim protest: Crowd chants 'Am I next?' outside police station

July 29, 2012 |  1:29 pm

Anaheim protesters outside police station

This post has been updated. See note below.

Tempers continued to flare in Anaheim on Sunday afternoon as a group of about 250 protesters stood directly in front of the Police Department, the latest demonstration the city has seen after two fatal police shootings last weekend.

About 45 minutes after the protest began, demonstrators congregated in front of police headquarters as officers on foot and horseback told them to stay off the private sidewalk directly in front of the building. Some protesters moved to the edge of the adjacent public sidewalk and held out their arms in an effort to keep their fellow demonstrators back.

"These are our weapons," Renee Balenti, 39, shouted at police, pointing to her mouth and head before joining the chain of demonstrators.

PHOTOS: Protests against Anaheim police shootings

The crowd — whose chants included "The whole system is guilty" and "Am I next?" — included members of Occupy Orange County and Kelly's Army, a protest group formed after the fatal police beating of Kelly Thomas in Fullerton last year.

Anaheim, Orange County's largest city, has seen a series of protests after Manuel Diaz, 25, was shot and killed by police July 21. Authorities said the unarmed man was avoiding arrest.

The fatal officer-involved shooting was the first of two that occurred that weekend; a day after Diaz was killed, Anaheim police shot and killed Joel Acevedo, 21, who authorities say fired on officers during a foot chase. A third such shooting occurred Friday, when officers opened fire on a robbery suspect, but the suspect was not hurt.

Friday's incident marked the city's seventh officer-involved shooting this year, five of which have been fatal. The city had four officer-involved shootings in 2011.

Mayor Tom Tait, who has pledged a thorough investigation of the incidents, met Friday with the FBI and U.S. attorney's office staff and asked them to look into the shootings. The Orange County district attorney's office is already investigating.

Allan Eaton, 33, of Inland Empire said Anaheim police had been "a little trigger-happy" in the last week. He doesn't have a particular connection to Anaheim, he said, but came to Sunday's protest to help support the movement.

"There were rubber bullets shot at woman and children," he said. "I can't stand for that. I don't want to wait until this happens in my own backyard."

Rebecca Marcotte, 22, said she left her San Diego home at 9 a.m. to participate in Sunday's protest. She held a sign that read "Stop the racist police."

"It seems like situations like this happen over and over again where unarmed young people are shot," she said. "I see this as routine."

George Olivio, a member of Occupy Orange County, said it was unclear what protesters planned to do later — whether they would march to City Hall, for instance, or even Disneyland — but said the goal of Sunday's demonstration was to remain peaceful. After a violent clash between protesters and police Tuesday, he said there's a "bad situation" at hand.

That night, police used less-than-lethal rounds to disperse a crowd of about 1,000 who marched through the streets after gathering outside a packed City Council meeting. By the 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," Olivio said.

[Correction, 9 p.m. Sunday: A previous version of this post misstated the age of Renee Balenti. She is 39.]


Anaheim protesters gather in front of police station

Anaheim police shooting protesters picket Disneyland

Looters smash windows, steal items during Anaheim protests

— Matt Stevens in Anaheim and Kate Mather in Los Angeles

Photo: Protesters confront police near the Anaheim Police Department. Credit: Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times