Oxnard, Bellflower, Anaheim, Manteca, San Francisco, Santa Ana, Los Angeles, Cudahy, Downey, Pomona and Sacramento were some of the cities represented in the massive statewide march against police brutality that took place in Anaheim last Sunday. The action, mostly composed of friends and families of police killing victims, comes one year after the killing of unarmed, Manuel Angel Diaz, which was one of two back-to-back fatal police shootings by Anaheim police last summer that caused an uproar and an uprising throughout Anaheim neighborhoods.
The idea for a statewide action led by victims’ families originated from a group of Anaheim mothers who had been demanding justice for their son’s killings ever since the shootings took place. Along with other Southern California families, the proposal was shared with other victims’ families during a historic statewide conference against police brutality held in Oxnard last April.
Sunday’s demonstration began around noon as families and supporters started setting up information booths and preparing a rally in front of Anaheim City Hall located on the 200 Block of South Anaheim Blvd.
With a great show of support by various Brown Beret chapters to help with “security”, the march took form in front of City Hall and began its course towards the Anaheim police department.
Once on the street, there were hints that police were aware of a possible route or had previous conversations with some of the organizations present during the event as Anaheim police, along with Buena Park police and Yorba Linda Sheriffs, refrained from using any “excessive force” as they had done in the past. Contrasting to last year’s excessive use of “force” by Anaheim police, with the help of at least six other police agencies, where residents and community members were even denied entry into a public council meeting taking place during last year’s “uprising”.
Without any major “disturbances,” the march continued westward towards the Anaheim police station located in the 425 block of South Harbor Blvd. Here all victims’ families shared their loved one’s story with everyone.
“I’m overwhelmed, there are so many families, we shouldn’t have to be here,” shared Dona Castro, whose son “Joey” Acevedo was killed by Anaheim police last year, “I know its hard for most Americans who don’t live in neighborhoods like mine to believe that gang unit officers execute a young man in cold blood and then plant a gun on him. It sounds crazy and paranoid, like the wishful thinking of a mother, but remember how hard it was for you to believe what you heard about the killing of Kelly Thomas until you saw that actual videotape. Who could have believed that six officers would beat a helpless homeless man to death with blows to the face…film the police - our young people are still being targeted, profiled, and criminalized for where they live and the color of their skin, especially in the neighborhoods suffering under unconstitutional gang injunctions.”
“We’re gonna fight!” asserted Jeralynn Blueford, mother of Alan Blueford, during an emotional speech, “My baby is not here, he can’t use his voice! But guess what, I can – I got my feet and my fists! My name is Jeralynn Blueford, I’m from Oakland, California, I’m fighting for all the families!...Stand up and fight, unite! This is what they don’t want to see – they want to see us against each other and go down. They want to put us in jail! Yes, that’s their weapon – but guess what our weapon is? Love, Unity, Fighting – and that’s how you win, fuck the police!”
“My son was innocent, just like all these other young men,” explained Jean Thaxton, whose son, Michael Lee Nida II, was killed by Downey police, “I want to tell you – before this happened to my son I used to sit in my living room and watch TV and hear all the news about the police, how they had captured a gang member, they shot him, he’s involved in a robbery, he was on drugs, and he had a gun, and he reached for his gun – and I believed it. I believed it, how awful of me, how ignorant I was! How ignorant, how ignorant so many people are out there, they believe it. I don’t believe it anymore!”
After all families shared their stories, the march continued east, looping back towards City Hall.
Now with fewer participants, the march was faced with an increased number of officers closing off some of the intersections. Police vehicles labeled as “Bravo” began to follow the back of the march closely, and horse-mounted officers trailed nearby once the march returned onto Anaheim Blvd. Some demonstrators expressed their sentiments towards the police as officers began displaying their batons. Officers prepared in riot gear could be seen riding in most of the vehicles, some of which were riding with their doors open.
In addition to heavy “patrol” by the Anaheim police, Program Manager for Police Community Reconciliation for OC Human Relations, James Armendaris, was witnessed monitoring and photographing the demonstration throughout its course. The OC Human Relations is currently involved in a corruption scandal after official documents obtained by OC blogger, the “Anaheim Investigator”, revealed that the non-profit organization has been paid by the Anaheim PD for years to “pacify” Anaheim residents after incidents involving police shootings.
The demonstration came to an end at City Hall where families then continued to exchange contact information and shared support for each other. Some families learned about other cases for the first time during the demonstration and it offered an opportunity for them to meet and exchange words of encouragement in their fight for justice with each other’s cases, some of which have been ongoing for over a decade.
Later Sunday night, a vigil was held in the Anna Dr. community, place where Anaheim police killed Manuel Angel Diaz last year. There was a strong community presence during the vigil that included a traditional Aztec dance “healing ceremony.”
Last night, another vigil was held in the Guinida Ln community in memory of Joel“Joey” Acevedo, the other young man killed during the back-to-back fatal police shootings last year.
During the vigil, friends and family wrote messages for Joey and attached them to balloons that they would release for Joey to take with him. The vigil concluded with a similar Aztec dance ceremony held for Diaz the night before.
“We need to have love and respect for each other,“ explained one of the members of the dance circle, “we have respect for everyone - all the races, because we all step on this mother earth in the same way.”
The weekend’s events are seen as a cornerstone for an action planned at the state capitol in Sacramento, California. Families are scheduled to join forces again on October 22nd during the national day of action against police brutality. They plan to continue the momentum they’ve been building over the last couple of years. Some families explain that they plan to build their bases in California, ultimately letting their voices be heard throughout the country.