The people of Ferguson, Missouri have endured a long battle over the last few days. Tensions that have been building for many years have erupted following the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police just over a week ago.
Michael, who was unarmed and had no criminal background, was shot “at least six times” including “twice in the head,” by officer Darren Wilson, as presented in a recent independent autopsy report.
While most mainstream media outlets initially focused on daily “rioting” and “looting” following the shooting, residents immediately shared their own accounts of militarized police assaulting their community. Some videos even depicted police officers shooting teargas grenades at residents while they stood outside their homes shouting the newly adopted chant, “hands up, don’t shoot!” and “you go home!”
Since then, people throughout the country in major cities such as Oakland, New York, Portland, Nashville, Los Angeles and Chicago have taken to the streets, demonstrating solidarity with the people of Ferguson.
Last Friday, Santa Ana community members and supporters gathered for a “Vigil Against Police Brutality” that served as a “call to grieve” the recent events and a “call to action.” The event took place near the E Fourth St and French St intersection where dozens of community members armed themselves with posters, banners, and words to spread amongst the community.
After sharing words and lighting candles, the vigil then turned into a march onto Fourth Street through the downtown district. Participants chanted “presente!,” or “present,” after speakers recited the names of the numerous fatal police shooting victims of Santa Ana and neighboring cities. Most consumers of the “East End” block of Downtown Santa Ana met demonstrators with an attitude of confusion and discomfort, yet, passers-by chanted along with the group and several youth alternatively joined the march’s cause.
The march continued to build energy as it routed back to the French Street plaza where the vigil began. Santa Ana police vehicles arrived at the N Broadway and E 3rd St intersection attempting to disband the demonstration, but the group held its position as it continued and crossed through the Yost theater entrance area.
Just as the march was arriving at its destination, George Mendoza, owner of American Barbershop, who was standing at the opposite side of Fourth St, crossed towards the group and confronted the march’s anti-gentrification chants.
”How many taxes do you guys pay?” challenged Mendoza, grinning at the demonstrator’s arguments, “Why don’t you pay some taxes, I pay plenty of taxes here! Open a business and pay taxes like I do.”
Mendoza then expressed his support for the Santa Ana police.
“They take care of my business,” he added.
With the barbershop’s employees gathered outside, Santa Ana patrol vehicles focused their attention at march participants trailing behind.
Just as demonstrators were crossing onto the north side of Fourth St, however, someone on the south end was heard shouting “wetback” at the group, causing both sides to converge once again near the American Barbershop entrance. Police quickly exited their vehicles, shielding the business, while warning the group of a traffic infraction.
A few minutes later, while police enclosed the protest onto the “Plaza Santa Ana” corner, a group of American Barbershop employees ran west, cutting through the N Spurgeon St parking structure in an attempt to encounter some of the march participants leaving the area. Several patrol vehicles circled the area, however, and both parties continued to their respective destinations.
The demonstration slowly dispersed into the night with Santa Ana community members safeguarding their posters and banners for future duels and with police remaining vigilant throughout the region, “protecting” the businesses of downtown Santa Ana.