What the Hell is Happening in Anaheim? (Chaos Outside the Walls of Disneyland)

“What we have here is concentrated power in the hands of a wealthy minority, a working-class and working-poor Latino majority that feels it has no voice coupled with completely uneven distribution of the city’s resources. And then, the deaths of two young Latino men in the span of one weekend. We want this to be the happiest place on earth, but it’s not for those of us who live here…” - Jose Moreno, California State University-Long Beach professor, serves on the Anaheim City School Board and president of Los Amigos Orange County, a community organization.

West County SWAT watches over protestors along Ball Road in the City of Anaheim.

Tensions between the hispanic community and the local police department in Anaheim – the city that houses Disneyland – have been escalating for some time. Now it seems the boiling point has finally been reached.

Multiple fatal shootings by the police, the “accidental” release of a police dog in full attack mode on protestors with children on hand and officers being caught wearing misleading badge numbers to keep from being identified while harassing hispanic youth have culminated in violent marches in the streets and calls for a federal investigation.

Just to show you how tense it all seems, below is a cellphone video showing a veritable phalanx of police, and even a police helicopter, detaining a hispanic youth for standing outside a sidewalk memorial to one of the police shooting victims. In the video, police, one wearing a badge number that does not correspond to his name, commit a reportedly illegal search of the youth’s person, handcuff him for having sharpies in his backpack and essentially occupy the entire neighborhood.

So what the hell is going on?

On July 21, at 4 pm, Manuel Diaz, a 25-year-old man, was shot dead by police. Police said Diaz, who had a criminal record, failed to heed orders and threw something as he fled. He was unarmed and running away from them. A witness of the shooting has claimed that Diaz had his back to the shooting officer. The witness claims that Diaz was shot in the buttocks first, went down on his knees then was struck by a second bullet in the head. The witness then said officers handcuffed Diaz, who was on the ground and not moving. Here’s video taken directly after the shooting, notice Diaz’s body in the grass…

Then, the very next night, police shot to death Joel Acevedo, a suspected gang member they say fired at them after being pursued.

The two shootings in two nights triggered a wave of violent protests from the population of Anaheim that lasted, on and off, for four days.

KCAL-TV captured video of the police responding to protesters on Sunday through extreme crowd control techniques. It shows images of people screaming and running from tear gas and adults shielding children from beanbag rounds fired by officers. It also shows a police dog running towards several people, including a child in a stroller. The dog attacked at least one man. The police say the dog was “deployed accidentally”.

Here’s the KCAL report, including the video…

Throughout the duration of the protests police reported smashed windows, trash cans set on fire, rocks and bottles thrown at police and damage done to City Hall and police headquarters as demonstrators stormed the Anaheim police department, filling the lobby.

A fiery dumpster pushed into traffic during the protests.

Then, early Friday morning police opened fire on a burglary suspect, a getaway driver who allegedly tried to run over a cop with his car. The suspect was unhurt. But that made three shootings in Anaheim in a single week. More police gun discharges than in all of Los Angeles last week. What’s more, this was the city’s seventh gun discharge this year, five of which have been fatal. In all of 2011 there were only four cases of “gun discharge” in Anaheim.

Police presence in Anaheim looks like a military occupation.

The hacker group Anonymous responded Friday afternoon by posting Anaheim Police Chief John Welter’s address, phone number and other personal information across the internet.

On Monday the protests continued, as hundreds dressed in white walked five-people across, shoulder to shoulder, towards Disneyland chanting “Whose streets? Our streets!”  A police line closing several traffic intersections forced the demonstrators to head away from the resort. Nine were arrested for failure to disperse, blocking traffic and other obstructionist violations. City Councilwoman Kris Murray and state Sen. Lou Correa, a Democratic representative of Anaheim, were among the marchers.

Now community organizers are calling on state Attorney General Kamala Harris to investigate the Anaheim Police Department. They have hand delivered 17,000 signatures to Harris’ office showing support for such an action. In the meantime, the FBI has agreed to investigate any possible civil rights abuses in the shootings.

Earlier today Mayor Tait called an emergency public Council meeting for next Wednesday.

So are the multiple shootings in the space of days simply a sign that the Anaheim police are doing everything they can to keep law-and-order in a tough part of Orange County? Or are the police, as the protestors claim, draconian, racist and run-amok?

The police are leading us to believe that only one of the shooting victims was unarmed. You know, the one that was shot in the back… twice… including one headshot. To be fair to their portrayal as an embattled organization, Anaheim does have a higher crime rate than the California average, but speaking just statistically, not taking each shooting on a case-by-case basis, at the very least I’d say this is the most trigger-happy police force in the state right now.

And a final word about the crime in Anaheim. Community-wide crime  is always a product of generationally institutionalized factors such as low-income , socio-political marginalization, and general inequality. Over the last few decades the face of Anaheim has changed. What was once a safe-haven for conservative white culture has grown more and more Latino. Meanwhile the faces that run Anaheim, the politicians and the police, have stayed predominantly white. Historically, this is a very common set-up for violent social unrest as a community with shifting cultural values finds itself unrepresented by the powers that be.

One look at the police response in the first video in this post and it’s obvious that the Anaheim police department feel like they’re losing control. A confident police force with the public on its side doesn’t show up with ten police cars, an unmarked vehicle (with a shotgun pointing out the window) and a k-9 unit just to search a teen’s backpack who hasn’t been witnessed breaking any laws.

And the fear is, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Here’s links for further information and fact clarification…

Demonstrators storm police department in Calif. to protest deadly officer-involved shooting

Anaheim Police Shooting Survivor Says Cops Shot ‘Again and Again’

How Anaheim is Policing the Crisis: The Mass Deployment of Special Weapons and Tactics Teams

Anaheim Riots Sparked By Power Imbalance, Police Shootings In Time-Tested Formula

– Joshua Dysart

Posted on by Joshua Dysart Posted in Journal, News & Politics

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