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Anaheim officials blame outsiders for protest violence

July 25, 2012 |  9:55 am

Anaheim Police Chief John Welter
Anaheim city officials said their response to Tuesday night's protest was "swift and appropriate" and pledged to continue making arrests for unlawful behavior.

"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 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."

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"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.


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

Photo: Anaheim Police Chief John Welter addresses the media with Mayor Tom Tait. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times