On July 20th, in Anaheim, California, near Los Angeles, the police shot and killed a 25-year old man, Manuel Angel Diaz. The killing might have gone unnoticed in the national media. Diaz might have been just another dead youth. But after his death demonstrations of outrage took place which could not be ignored.
The shooting occurred during the kind of stop and search police action which has become routine among police officers everywhere in the U.S. Like thousands and thousands of other youth in working class and poor communities, Manuel Diaz and two of his friends were stopped by police while out on a summer night.
What did the police find so threatening about Diaz? He had no weapons, no drugs, nothing to indicate that he was a danger to anyone. But Diaz like many young people had been arrested multiple times before, and did not want to suffer abuse at the hands of the cops, so he ran.
What happened next is impossible to argue. The crime is all caught on video. Bystanders recorded the scene. The cops shot Diaz as he was running, wounding him. And then while Diaz was lying face-down on the ground one of the cops shot him in cold blood. But he was still not dead yet.
As bystanders called out for help, saying that Diaz was not dead, the cops stood by and allowed him to bleed to death. The crime was done in the open in front of witnesses, and recorded on video for everyone to see.
The outrage was immediate. Hundreds of people gathered in front of City Hall every night to protest and show their outrage at the blatant killing of an unarmed young person. The largest protest took place on Tuesday night with over 1,000 people gathered in front of City Hall.
How did the government respond to this outrage? They sent in the police with pepper-spray, with bean-bag bullet guns, and with attack dogs. In other words the outrage of the people of Anaheim against police violence was met with more police violence.
The brutal actions of the police were again caught on video by protesters. While the police later claimed that the protesters attacked them, video clearly shows police open fire into crowds of protesters including families with children. Police dogs were set against these families, and one man was bitten while protecting a one-year-old baby.
The treatment of this police violence in the media was as dishonest as the police were brutal. The media headlines every night talked about so-called riots in Anaheim. Anyone watching the videos could see that the only rioters were the police.
What is the problem? Why doesn’t the government clean up the police department and bring Diaz’s murderers to justice? Why doesn’t the media tell the truth? What are they afraid of?
It’s not hard to imagine what they are afraid of. How different is Manuel Diaz from Jose Acevedo shot by police the following night only a few miles away. How about Oscar Grant in Oakland or Trayvon Martin in Florida? In the last six months, 120 young black men have been shot by police, security guards or self-appointed vigilantes. Police violence is everywhere and young people, especially young people of color, are often the target.
Every day police violence takes the lives of young people in poor and working class communities and we have every reason to protest in outrage against this brutality. What the government fears most is that protests like the one in Anaheim will spread, because they know that poor and working class people everywhere have a problem with the police.