Tensions had slowly been escalating all afternoon, so by the time I arrived on the scene at about 8 p.m., anger was boiling over. A couple hundred protesters, the majority of them Latino, were facing off against a similar number of policemen wearing full riot gear. They were not just from Anaheim; there were policemen from many other cities around the county.
The police announced that the crowd had to disperse, or those gathered would face arrest. Just minutes later, without warning, the police started shooting with all kinds of what they call “less than lethal” weapons – they shot pepper balls [which release pepper spray to irritate the eyes], bean bags, and rubber bullets. I saw a teenage girl with three hits to her leg, probably from bean bags. Her skin had just been annihilated from the impact. She couldn’t walk, and had to be carried away. Some people ran away; some threw rocks and bottles. A few fires were lit.
What was shocking is that there were lots of young kids out there too – some were 10, 11, maybe 12. Not only this, but there were babies in strollers. I saw one woman with a baby stroller, and in the stroller’s side pockets, she had put rocks, apparently to throw at the police.
“The police didn’t fire any warning shots”
I have been to many protests before where the police fire various “less-than-lethal” weapons on the crowd. But usually, they announce that they’re going to do this. Here, there was no announcement. Nor did they fire any warning shots. I found the police in Anaheim unprofessional and uncoordinated, stoking anger rather than trying to calm people down. I saw them arrest a guy who was trying to explain that he was just grocery shopping, that he wasn’t part of the protest. They also arrested these kids with skateboards that were just watching, and others that seemed to just be crossing the street. It seemed like they grabbed whoever was there.
“Unless they change their tactics, there’s little doubt in my mind that there will be more protests”
At one point, a police car screeched up to me, and a police officer jumped out and aimed a rifle at me. He was only a few metres away. Thankfully I had a press pass with me, and quickly brandished it in the air. [Several reporters reported being shot at by police on Tuesday evening].
This protest was clearly spontaneous; I only saw a couple of signs. These were not activists; they were outraged Anaheim residents. So, we’ve got a group of people upset about police brutality, and what do the police do? They fire at them. There’s little doubt in my mind that if the police don’t change their tactics, there will be more protests ahead.