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Aurora Gets the Attention, But Guns Are Going Off Everywhere

The weekend of July 20th became all-Aurora-all-the-time, but what about the shootings, happening around the country, of young men of color by police?
 
 
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Welcome to the abattoir -- a nation where a man can walk into a store and buy an assault rifle, a shotgun, a couple of Glocks; where in the comfort of his darkened living room, windows blocked from the sunlight, he can rig a series of bombs unperturbed and buy thousands of rounds of ammo on the Internet; where a movie theater can turn into a killing floor at the midnight hour.

We know about all of this. We know because the weekend of July 20th became all-Aurora-all-the-time, a round-the-clock engorgement of TV news reports, replete with massacre theme music, an endless loop of victims, their loved ones, eyewitness accounts, cell-phone video, police briefings, informal memorials, and “healing,” all washed down with a presidential visit and hour upon hour of anchor and “expert” speculation. We know this because within a few days a Google search for “Aurora movie shootings” produced over 200 million hits referencing the massacre that left 70-plus casualties, including 12 fatalities.

We know a lot less about Anaheim and the killing of Manuel Angel Diaz, shot in the back and in the head by that city’s police just a few short hours after the awful Aurora murders.

But to the people living near La Palma Avenue and North Anna Drive, the shooting of Manuel Diaz was all too familiar: it was the sixth, seventh, or eighth police shooting in Anaheim, California, since the beginning of 2012. (No one seems quite sure of the exact count, though the Orange County District Attorney’s office claims six shootings, five fatalities.)

Diaz, 25, and as far as police are concerned, a “ documented gang member,” was unarmed. He was apparently running when he was shot in the back and left to lie on the ground bleeding to death as police moved witnesses away from the scene. “He’s alive, man, call a cop!” a man shouted at the police. “Why would you guys shoot him in the head?” a woman demanded.

“Get back,” officers repeatedly said, pushing mothers and youngsters away from the scene, which they surrounded with yellow crime-scene tape.

Neighborhood residents gathered on lawns along the street, upset at what had happened near their homes, upset at what has been occurring repeatedly in Anaheim.  Then, police, seeking to disperse the crowd, began firing what appeared to be rubber bullets and bean bag rounds directly at those women and children, among others. Screaming chaos ensued. A police dog was unleashed and lunged for a toddler in a stroller. A mother and father, seeking to protect their child, were themselves attacked by the dog.

We know this because a local CBS affiliate, KCAL, broadcast footage of the attack. We know it because cell phone video, which police at the scene sought to buy, according to KCAL, showed it in all its stark and sudden brutality. We know it also because neighbors immediately began to organize. On Sunday they demonstrated at police headquarters, demanding answers. “No justice, no peace,” they chanted.

Who Is Being Killed and in What Numbers?

This is daily life in less suburban, less white America. On Sunday, when the first of growing daily protests took place, Anaheim police shot and killed another man running away, Joel Mathew Acevedo, 21. Acevedo was armed and opened fired, police maintained -- yet another suspected gang member.

It is not hyperbole to say this is virtually a daily routine in America. It’s considered so humdrum, so much background noise, that it is rarely reported beyond local newscasts and metro briefs. In the days bracketing the Aurora massacre, San Francisco police shot and killed mentally ill Pralith Pralourng; Tampa police shot and killed Javon Neal, 16; an off-duty cop shot Pierre Davis, 20, of Chicago; Miami-Dade police shot and killed an unidentified “stalking suspect”; an off-duty FBI agent shot an unnamed man in Queens; Kansas City police shot and killed 58-year-old Danny L. Walsh; Lynn police and a Massachusetts state trooper shot and killed Brandon Payne, 23, a father of three; Henderson police shot and killed Andy Puente Soto, 42, out in the desert wastes near Las Vegas.