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Racial Tensions and Questionable Killings by Police in Anaheim: 9 Things You Should Know

It’s best-known as "happiest place on Earth.” But just four miles away from Disneyland, a cloud of tear gas and public outrage has swept over Anaheim.

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4. 600 Demonstrators vs 250 Riot Police

Tensions escalated Tuesday at City Hall after demonstrators urging the City Council to investigate Diaz’s death were not allowed to enter. Police issued a dispersal order to hundreds of demonstrators at around 9pm. According to the Guardian,“within minutes,” demonstrators were fleeing after police shot pepper balls at their feet. The 250 riot police called to the scene also released bean bag balls and tear gas on the 600 demonstrators. Twenty-four were arrested in the chaos, which some say included some struggles between angry rioters and demonstrators committed to peace. 

The number of injuries stemming from Tuesday’s action is unclear, but if you don’t think bean bag bullets hurt, take a look at these photos.

5. Journalists Struck by Police Projectiles

Two Orange County Register reporters  were injured  on Tuesday-- one by a rock, another by a police projectile. The extent of their injuries is unclear, but at least five other journalists were shot while covering the action, including independent livestreamer Tim Pool,  the emmy-award winning investigator Amber Lyon, and three KFI News staffers.   Video of Pool and Lyon being shot at is disturbing: They don’t seem to be amid a violent crowd in which they were caught in the crossfire,  but are standing peacefully on the sidewalk. Pool says his press badge was clearly displayed the second time police fired projectiles at him.

6. The Race Problem

Locals say the Anaheim police’s killing of Diaz and violence against protesters represents Anaheim PD’s disrespect for the Latino community. The zipcode where Diaz was shot -- and where demonstrators communed Saturday -- is 90% Latino.  Still, the riots may be more than a response to the police department’s harsh racial profiling. Anaheim’s victims may have no outlet to air their grievances and work for change.  Even though Anaheim is more than 50% Latino, none of its city council members are. The representational disparity is so lopsided the ACLU and local activists recently filed a lawsuit claiming it violates the 2001 Voting Rights Act, and demanding a new system whereby residents vote for their district’s representative only.

7. Death Represents Sixth Person Shot by Police

This weekend’s killings make for six  shootings -- five of which have been fatal -- at the hands of Orange County police so far this year. In all of last year, the total was four.  

8. Escalating Tensions

Protests against killings by police have been ongoing over the past couple of years. Every week, the mother of 35-year-old Caesar Cruz, shot by Anaheim police in 2009, joins her supporters at the police headquarters to demand answers. Ongoing demonstrations led officials last month to look into hiring a private investigator to probe  “major police incidents.” Local activists are calling for a citizen review commission to oversee the police department,  a federal investigation, and new training for police.

Fatal police force may be a growing problem not just in Anaheim, but Southern California. The Los Angeles Times reports that killings by cops in LA County increased 70% last year compared to 2010, even though homicide dipped to a historic low. And let’s not forget nearby Fullerton, where police brutally beat and killed a mentally ill man.  

9.  Investigations and Punishment

The Orange County District Attorney's Office is investigating the shooting death of Manuel Diaz -- and whether to file criminal charges --  independently of the police. City officials voted unanimously Tuesday to ask the U.S. attorney's office to investigate recent police shootings. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has agreed to review the evidence. Two police officers  involved in the fatal shooting of Diaz have been placed on paid leave.