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Anaheim police brace for more unrest after 24 arrested

July 25, 2012 | 10:48 am

Anaheim officials were bracing for more unrest after a night of violence that resulted in 24 arrests and damage to a number of businesses.

During the confrontation, 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.

Officials said they will continue to crack down on unlawful protests and vandalism, which has occurred several times since a controversial fatal officer-involved shooting Saturday night.

PHOTOS: Protests against Anaheim police shootings

"Anaheim is a strong community and a community that works together to solve its problems," Mayor Tom Tait said at a news conference Wednesday morning. "I think it's important for city officials to hear from people we serve … but violence and vandalism have no part in the conversation."

Tait said he was disturbed by the Tuesday night protesters -- about two-thirds of whom city officials believe are not from Anaheim -- who took "advantage of this evening of dialogue to try to create chaos in our downtown neighborhoods."

"They chose violence and vandalism over respectful communications," Tait said.

Anaheim Police Chief John Welter said that 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.

Welter said more than 20 businesses were damaged, mostly with broken windows. A total of 24 people were arrested, including four juveniles. In addition to businesses, the Police Department and City Hall also sustained damaged, 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.

Photos: Protest against Anaheim police shootings

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 of people 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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-- Nicole Santa Cruz in Anaheim and Richard Winton in Los Angeles