Fantasy land got a taste of reality early Saturday when a contingent of about 60 people met at the entrance of Disneyland on Harbor Blvd to protest the ongoing murders of civilians by the Anaheim Police Department.
Among the participants of the demonstration were the Mexica Movement, an Indigenous rights group, families and friends of police brutality victims, and other supporters who came from as far as Los Angeles and Oakland to demand police accountability and punishment for the officers responsible for the deaths of people in recent years and whose cases remain in impunity.
The connection between police abuse and the so-called happiest place on earth may not be obvious until one learns how for the past years, city officials, mostly white and upper middle class, have made their priority maintaining the Disneyland tourist resort and sports complex façade impeccable and have given away millions of dollars in subsidies to developers in the Resort District while neglecting the rest of the city whose population is Mexican and Central American in its majority.
“We’re trying to hit them where it hurts. If the police force and the power-property relations that they represent realize that when you kill innocent civilians and unarmed people it’s gonna hurt their wallets, they might have to change their policy. Wallet is what they understand, money is what they understand, they don’t care about human lives, they don’t care about decency, and they sure as fuck don’t care about democracy”, said an unidentified protester.
“One of the big problems in Anaheim is the problem with at-large seats and what ends up happening is, all the rich people up in the hills hold all the positions; nobody in the rest of Anaheim is being represented and that’s how you have this major class and race divide in the city. Disneyland is a big part of it because they are funding, they basically own the city; Anaheim is essentially Anaheim Inc.” explained Charles Cha, a local activist.
Under the watchful eye of agents in military uniforms who drove by in repeated occasions in unmarked police vehicles and about a dozen horse-mounted police officers who patrolled the area during the demonstration, participants informed and talked to passersby and visitors who didn’t understand what was happening.
“The happiest place on the world, but you gotta have money to access it, and I can’t help to see all of these officers acting like they’re here to protect and serve the community when truly their presence is intimidating and they’re trying to put a fucking chill effect on the free speech of the people who are tired of their abuses!” asserted Bella Eiko, a citizen journalist from Oakland, “The reason why they feel like they can continue to get rid of people is because we stand by and do nothing. We continue to pay their salaries so that they can come into the community and murder our youth.” added Eiko.
Fearing a violent response from the APD, some protesters brought flexi-glass shields to the rally to protect themselves from rubber bullets and other “less-than-lethal” weapons. “When a protester carries a shield like this one to protect his body against violent fire arms, this is called a weapon of terrorism by mainstream media; they call me a provocateur, but when a police pulls his side arm on peaceful protesters that’s called keeping the peace. A person protecting himself and people around him from violence is called a terrorist.”, said a protester who refused to give his name.
The protest was also an opportunity for the people to confront mainstream media for their biased coverage of the different cases of police-involved shootings and recent uprising of the residents, because they say, “they rely mainly on police reports and accounts when writing their reports.”
Iris Thomas, whose nephew Martin Angel Hernandez was shot and killed last March by the APD, confronted OC Register reporters and accused the paper of twisting his nephew’s story. “The Register twisted the whole story around. Why?... Just because he was bald headed they wanna call him a gang member? No, he was trying to change his life” said Thomas.
Hal Eisner, a reporter for FOX 11, was also confronted by a group of protesters who accused the station of lying about the events of last Tuesday. “The media completely distorted what happened on Tuesday night. They blamed outside and anarchist groups. We had nothing to do with the violence that grew and erupted. It was the police who came out and agitated everybody. Everyone was peaceful until the riot gear came on. A lot of people didn’t notice when a cop pulled a gun on people on the line, he pulled his side arm and that’s what provoked people.“, stated one of the protesters.
“If the media gave an honest airing of our views, the people would start to understand what we’re about and would probably join us. We’d like community control of the police department, we’d like elected civilian boards to review police actions. We also believe in community self-policing, we don’t need an armed gendarmerie.”, said another participant.
The protest remained peaceful for the rest of afternoon.
Just across the 5 freeway, in two different locations a couple of blocks from the tourist complex that has received public funds to remain in business, the families and friends of Manuel Diaz and Joel Acevedo held car washes to help raise funds for the funerals of their loved ones.