On the first anniversary of a fatal police shooting that helped spark a downtown riot and days of unrest in Anaheim, protesters from across the state marched Sunday from City Hall to the Police Department to rally against what they said is a police force accountable to no one.
Yet despite calls for “militant action” from some protest speakers, the approximately 300 activists were mainly peaceful. There were a few brief confrontations between protesters and police, but the scene was nowhere near what what happened a year ago on Anna Drive. Protesters then hurled bottles at police cars and set dumpsters on fire in a display of anger about the police shooting deaths of Anaheim residents Manuel Diaz and Joel Acevedo.
The weekend of unrest let to a riot in the city's downtown streets on July 24 after protesters were denied access to an Anaheim City Council meeting. Protesters, bystanders and reporters were injured as police, outfitted in riot gear, fired bean bags into the crowd. By the time it was over, police arrested dozens of protesters and 20 businesses were damaged.
Sunday's protest was organized by Answer LA, a Los Angeles-based activist group that demonstrates against war and police brutality throughout the state. Many of the protesters were not from Anaheim, and some even had to depart early to catch a bus back to Oakland.
For two hours, friends and relatives of police shooting victims from cities up and down the state gathered outside the Police Department headquarters on South Harbor Boulevard and told stories of young men who had been gunned down by police.
The rally brought together a range of progressive interests and included members of leftist groups some of which have been around for decades.
Members of the Brown Berets, founded in the 1960s, formed a line equipped with riot shields. Occupy Santa Ana protesters milled through the crowd. Many protesters covered their faces with bandanas. One man passed around socialist literature. Speakers talked about a police state that was set up to protect the interests of an elite class bent on dominating the poor.
Manila Ryce, speaking through loudspeakers from atop a truck bed outside City Hall, called for the “strengthening of militant movements, which are desperately needed to protect ourselves from the aggression of this empire.”
“We will show the ruling elite …[that] working class people have only gotten justice through militant action,” Ryce said.
The Answer LA march ended well before nightfall. But on Anna Drive, where the 25-year-old Diaz was shot, residents gathered to remember their fallen neighbor.
Genevive Huizar, Diaz's mother, told residents that she feels the pain of losing her son every morning and night.
"All I do is hear a song, and it just tears me up," Huizar said.
Former Councilwoman Lorri Galloway also addressed the crowd, saying that Latinos have been silent and ignored for too long.
"For so long we've been a silent community, but no more," Galloway said. "We are the heartbeat of the city. Without us, the city has no life."
Another protest is planned for Monday outside the District Attorney's office, which cleared the officers involved in both the Diaz and Acevedo shootings.
Due to an editing, error, a previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Anaheim police fired rubber bullets into crowds of protesters during last year's riot. The officers fired bean bags and pepper spray pellets into the crowd.