Family and community members continue to build support in Anaheim as they gathered at Joe Whitehouse’s memorial last Sunday.
30-year old Joe Whitehouse was shot and killed by an Anaheim police officer on July 16, 2007 outside his brother Christopher Whitehouse’s apartment in the 2500 block of East Park Lane. The action at his memorial is the latest in a series of demonstrations at the memorials of the victims of police involved shootings. Last week, the families marched at the intersection of N Euclid St and W Crescent Ave, next to the Walmart parking lot where Cesar Cruz was fatally shot by an Anaheim police officer in 2009. Other actions have included marches in honor of Martin Angel Hernandez, 21, Joel Acevedo, 21, Marcel Ceja, 22, and Manuel Diaz, 25.
Friends, family, supporters, and community members gathered to build a makeshift memorial outside the apartment complex where Joe was shot. Many brought balloons, ribbons, and even Christmas decorations, while others brought signs that they’ve been carrying at the various demonstrations every week.
Almost customarily, just as the people began sharing some words in honor of Joe, a police vehicle approached the memorial where an officer offered “any help” to the families and claimed he was there to make sure “everything is okay.” The group was quick to demand the officer to leave, as many people shouted, “Get out, we don’t want you here!”
With signs and banners in hand, the group then took their demonstration to the busy State College Blvd and La Palma Ave intersection, where at an almost exact midway point from Joe Whitehouse’s and Martin Hernandez’s memorial sites, passers-by recognize the group of families and continue to show their mounting support. Even in the rain, the endless clamor of cars honking and people shouting statements of encouragement kept everyone holding their signs high and strong.
The tight-knit alliance amongst the families has been growing stronger with every action. Supporters from Fullerton, Santa Ana, Downey, and as far as Pomona have traveled every week to march and protest in solidarity.
Jean and Jerry Thaxton, whose son Michael Nida was shot and killed by Downey police in October of 2011, have been demonstrating alongside the Anaheim families. Jean explains the need for people to wake up and understand that real strength will come through unity in numbers:
“We decided that we needed to join together with the other families in unity, we need to fight this together because police officers are just arbitrarily shooting people. The families have to unite – but it’s not only the families, it’s the people sitting on the couch that have young children or their young brothers…they need to realize that the police are out there and you don’t have to do anything to get murdered by a cop. Kelly Thomas didn’t run, they beat him to death. There’s another young man up in El Monte, he didn’t run, they beat him to death… What they [the police] are doing is they are becoming judge, jury, and executioner. They are not giving these people their right to due process; they’re just killing them on the spot. We want to make a change, we want this to stop, we want the general public to wake up and say enough is enough! We want accountability, we want transparency, we want better training, we want better monitoring and supervision of these officers… The only way that we’re going to make a difference is if the people come together in masses!”
Michael Nida’s friend, Damion, who has also been attending the actions in Anaheim, will be speaking at an event this Tuesday honoring Alan Blueford, who was shot and killed by Oakland police officer Miguel Masso on May 6th this year, just weeks before Alan’s High School graduation. The event will take place at the Laney College Theater in Oakland, and aims at bringing together family members of victims of police brutality from across the country to both honor the fallen youth and create a path to stopping racial profiling and police abuse especially targeting Black and Brown communities. The event will include speakers such as Jeralynn and Adam Blueford, Alan’s parents, Constance Graham, Clarence Thomas, Crystallee Crain, Jack Bryson, C.D. Witherspoon, Fred Hampton, Jr., Tim Killings, Dan Siegel and keynote speaker Angela Davis.
As the coalition of residents, community, and family members forms bridges with communities outside of Anaheim, family members find ways to keep each other strong and collected back home. With the holidays coming up, Corie Cline, Joe Whitehouse’s sister, has set up a toy drive called Gifts From Heaven to collect toys for the roughly 40 children ranging in the ages of 1 to 16 years old that have been left fatherless, or have been missing an important figure in their lives since the shootings. Corie is willing to trade some of her homemade fudge that she will be handing out at some of the upcoming actions in exchange for unwrapped gifts. She explains the difficult times that the families have had to endure, and how most of them don’t get to experience the “holidays”:
“I haven’t had a Christmas in 5 years since my brother was killed and a lot of these people can’t enjoy Christmas. They’re too busy with the courts and the cases and they don’t have the money. As you can see, we live in a poor community.”
A toy drive for Gifts From Heaven will be held at Kelly’s Corner in Fullerton this Thursday, where people may drop off unwrapped toys, or even donate gift-wrapping materials. More information can be found at the Gifts From Heaven page online.
The families continue to make their statement of, “No justice, no peace.” Their stories remind everyone that this uprising has been fueled by the countless years of police abuse, harassment, and brutality in their communities. To this day, all officers have been cleared from any wrongdoing as official reports have ruled these recent shootings as “justified.” As their struggle continues, and while mainstream media outlets continue to vilify these communities, the families have made it clear that they are not afraid and are stepping up to the challenge in putting and end to the violence and oppression and will continue to fight until justice is met.
The next action will involve a candlelight vigil for all the victims of police involved shootings this Sunday at the Anaheim Police Station at 5 PM.