Yesterday, hundreds of people gathered in solidarity outside the Anaheim police station to demand justice for the recent killings by the Anaheim police. People from Santa Ana, Los Angeles, San Diego, and as far as Oakland came to support with the message of “We are all Anaheim”.
Numerous speakers shared words of solidarity, support, and unity in the people’s fight for justice. Theresa Smith, who has been protesting outside the Anaheim police station ever since her son Cesar Cruz was killed by the Anaheim police in 2009, reminded everyone to keep all the protests peaceful:
“I’m not asking, I’m demanding – stay peaceful… We as a family don’t ever want anybody else to go through the grief and the hurt that we are feeling right now.”
Damion Ramirez, whose friend Michael Nida was shot and killed by Downy police on October of 2011, also spoke out:
“Sisters and Brothers…what we understand better than anybody is what it’s like when somebody stereotypes somebody you love as a violent criminal who deserves to die…These departments need to change…They need to change the way they see us. They want to stereotype us as violent; they want to stereotype us as marginal, as dangerous. Well, we are dangerous, but not in the way they want us to be, we are dangerous in the change we are going to affect…We are dangerous to the status quo that fears the working class that they prey on. They know how to pick their victims…but what they haven’t counted on is the solidarity that I see out here today!”
When asked what some of the demands of the families were, Damion responded:
“We want accountability on the part of the police officers who are murdering members of our community…We want community control of the police…They want to say the word ‘gang member’ - I see neighborhoods. The worst gang in the city of Anaheim is the Anaheim PD. The worst gang violence I’ve seen in the city of Anaheim I saw Tuesday afternoon perpetrated by the Anaheim PD. Pointing guns at innocent people and children knowing full well we were out here to protest!”
Leon Arellano, co-founder of Corazon del Pueblo, a community space in Boyle Heights, spoke about the solidarity with the Anaheim community:
“Anaheim, note that after this day, you are not alone! The world is with you, the world is seeing. This is Palestine, this is the barrios, this is Oakland, this is Arizona, you’ve awaken a new beast, and now you’ve made our armies stronger because now we know about each other. So we say, we stand together in unity!...and we say Anaheim, you are not alone!”
Once the speakers concluded their statements, the majority of the people began marching south on Harbor Blvd towards Santa Ana St. They began the march on the sidewalks, and then took to the streets as they had done in previous days. This time, horse-mounted officers began advancing on the group, almost trampling the peaceful marchers with their horses, seemingly trying to stop the march.
As the march neared Ball Rd, it was obvious what the police was safeguarding; their magical kingdom. Just under a block away from the entrance to “The Happiest Place on Earth”, same place where a peaceful protest was held the day before, police blocked the intersection of Harbor Blvd and Ball Rd with horses, police vehicles, and officers dressed in military uniforms – many of them armed with rubber bullet guns.
Denied movement south on Harbor Blvd, the group continued eastward on Ball Rd towards Anaheim Blvd. Yet, by the time they reached South Lemon St, they faced horse-mounted officers denying them further passage. The police ordered the people off the streets and onto the sidewalk, but as the people moved over to the sidewalk, officers used their horses to block off part of the group, cornering them in.
Meanwhile, more police officers arrived on scene, most in military outfits. For almost half an hour the police continued to harass and intimidate the people while denying them passage. The people asked the officers to make way so that they could head back in the direction they came from. “We have nowhere to go, where are we going to go, they’ve cornered us in!” one person shouted. In the background, people with instruments and drums in their hands began singing a nahuatl prayer song, “Huey Tonantzin, Tonantzin, huey Tonantizin!”
Jesus Cortez, a long time resident of Anaheim describes some of those moments:
“They cornered us, followed us, taunted us with horses, with sticks, with their guns drawn—they feared us more than we feared them! It was there that true solidarity arose with our Sisters and Brothers from Anaheim, from Santa Ana, from Los Angeles and other parts.”
There were tense moments as the police kept the group cornered on Lemon St. Residents that had come out of their homes explained how there was no real way out other than to move back through Ball Rd. For a moment, it seemed like the police were ready to make mass arrests as they unloaded officers carrying zip-ties on their waists. Still, the people did not back off and demanded to be let through the public sidewalk. With horses in their faces, they continued walking through until the police eventually moved over, allowing the peaceful march to continue. The people regrouped and continued north, back to the police station where others had remained earlier.
Once back at the police station, people began to disperse. Moments later, there were helicopters circling the area and reports of people being arrested, all of them on a public sidewalk when they were detained, most of them with the charges of “suspicion of resisting arrest” and “pedestrian in the roadway.”
This morning, reports of more people arrested while they were leaving the police station have circulated. People whose only “wrongdoing” has been protesting an unjust system that seems determined to keep its people controlled by fear. It is unclear what next steps the Anaheim police has planned, but the people have made a presence, strengthened the community, and have made it clear that they are ready to fight back.
Jesus Cortez shared some final thoughts on his experiences yesterday:
“The city will never be the same. History has been made, and it was not made by the shining lying lights of Disney or their fireworks, or by headlines of the sports teams who seem irrelevant as people take the streets. I was there, I can tell my children that we were criticized, mocked and demonized for standing up for the real Anaheim, the Anaheim that suffers, dies, bleeds, hurts and goes unheard, until we made ourselves heard. I can only hope that leadership arises in those communities that were affected directly and in every community, which is in danger of police violence. My hope is that from now on, the police will think twice before committing crimes against the community, because they know that we will not stay silent, and because they know there are others who are in solidarity with us.”