A series of protests sparked after two fatal police shootings in Anaheim have caught on nationally, as several cities including New York, San Francisco and Seattle have planned demonstrations in solidarity.
The protests planned for Thursday night in San Francisco and Friday at various locations were prompted in response to the July 21 shooting of Manuel Angel Diaz, who was unarmed when police shot him after a foot chase through an Anaheim alley.
In response, hundreds of people have demonstrated in the streets, at the police station and City Hall. The tensions were heightened when Anaheim police fatally shot a second man, Joel Acevedo, in a separate incident on Sunday.
A protest was planned on Thursday night at the San Francisco Ferry Building. Some 200 people responded to a Facebook event organizing a march through Harlem on Friday.
Demonstrations were planned for Friday in Oakland, Los Angeles and Seattle.
“We will not take excuses for violence on our communities, especially those of color, anywhere,” wrote the organizers of the event in Seattle. “Not in Anaheim, not in Dallas, not in Oakland, not here in Seattle and surrounding area.”
Los Angeles police had only recently heard that protests were planned downtown on Friday and had no immediate comment.
The police shootings, meanwhile, have prompted some Anaheim houses of worship to hold prayer vigils and events to call for peace.
Some 300 congregants are expected to attend services at the Agape House of Prayer.
“This is really to let people know, we’ve got to come together,” said Dean Garcia, the church’s executive pastor. “We want to be a bridge to let people know that we’re praying for peace and hoping that the situation be alleviated properly.”
Police have stepped up patrols in Anaheim in the wake of the incidents.
Police have said that both men were gang members. They said they thought Diaz had a gun when he reached for his waistband. Police said they saw several objects thrown onto a roof during the foot chase with Diaz. Police did not find a weapon.
In the second shooting, police said they found a weapon near Acevedo.
The police department -- which has recorded eight police shootings so far this year amid rising crime -- faced additional criticism because after Diaz’s death, a police dog got out of an unsecured squad car and bit protesters.
Diaz’s mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit, alleging police shot Diaz at least twice -- once in the back and once in the back of the head.
Police were not talking about the details of the case, pending the outcome of parallel investigations by its own department and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. The FBI is considering conducting its own probe of the case.
Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait has called on the state Attorney General and U.S. Attorney General’s Office to investigate. He apologized publicly for the dog biting incident, saying the department would pay for medical bills of those injured.
Tait blamed the protests on a group of agitators from outside Anaheim. The largest of the protests occurred Tuesday when some 500 people gathered outside City Hall and police arrested 24 people.
"Vandalism, arson and other forms of violent protest will simply not be tolerated in our city,” he said in a statement. “We don’t expect last night’s situation to be repeated, but if it should, the police response will be the same: swift and appropriate.”
The shootings come as Anaheim has been seeing a spike in crime and tensions rising. Anaheim is also dealing with a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union surrounding the city's lack of Latino representation in city government.
Dana Douglas, the Diaz family attorney, said tensions between police and the Latino community are “highly strained.”
“Young men in the neighborhood are actually the targets,” she said. “We don’t allege some racial motivation. But it’s part of the environment in which these things can occur.”