Manuel Diaz was killed by the police in Anaheim, California, last Saturday. The official story is that he was in an alley running away from the police.
But when they shot him in the leg he was on the lawn of his apartment building. When they shot him again—in the head—he was already on the floor.
It was a Saturday afternoon and lots of people were hanging about outside. They saw everything. I met a high school student described precisely where the bullet entered and left Manuel’s body.
Anaheim is a close-knit community and Manuel was well-known and well-liked. People started to protest straight away. Crowds gathered and shouted “Why did you shoot him?” while his body lay on the ground.
Four hours after the police murdered Manuel they started to terrorise the community who had come out to protest for him. They attacked people with dogs and rubber bullets.
News footage shows an officer releasing a police dog on Susan Lopez and her one month old baby. Another man was bitten trying to protect his child from the dog.
Jose Aguilar, Susan’s father, was hospitalised after being shot by a rubber bullet. The police arrested him straight out of hospital.
This was far from the first police killing in Anaheim and the surrounding districts. Over the past two years a number of victims’ families have begun campaigns for justice.
They have held vigils outside Anaheim police station every Sunday. Hundreds of people came out for Manuel Diaz on 22 July. Protesters have also set up a memorial on the bloodstained lawn where he died.
Anaheim is in Orange County, right outside Disneyland. It has a reputation as a very rich Republican area. But in Anaheim, only a minority are rich—and they hide away up in the hills.
Anaheim’s population is majority Latino and overwhelmingly working class. You have this twisted Disney utopia in the middle of a very poor Latino area where many residents may not even be able to afford tickets.
The city is dominated by the Disney corporation, economically and politically. Many people who live there work in Disneyland. The police and city authorities exist to preserve order for Disney.
Another protest was called in Anaheim on Tuesday of last week. We stopped drivetime traffic—usually a cardinal sin in southern California—but people got out of cars to cheer and wave.
The protest was angry. People were kicking police cars, removing traffic barriers from the road, throwing water bottles. Usually it just takes one bottle for the police to clamp down. But they took three hours of this before they started arresting people.
There were several hundred of us on the protest, but it was enough to put the police onto the defensive. They were afraid of what we represented. And they know they are now hated by the entire community.
Kelly Thomas was killed by police in Orange County two years ago. His family have been campaigning to get the council recalled because of its failure to control the police.
Now more people are discussing further demands—including disarming the cops—and asking what community control of the police would look like.
Murders like this by the police take place all the time in the US. But people standing up and fighting for justice is much rarer. That’s why the death of Manuel Diaz is now national news.
Ask anyone who’s black or Latino here and they’ll tell you about someone who was killed like this. Manuel Diaz, like Trayvon Martin, could have been anyone.
Sarah Knopp is a teacher and member of the United Teachers Los Angeles union, and an activist in the International Socialist Organisation. She spoke to Dave Sewell