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PORTSIDE  July 2012, Week 5

PORTSIDE July 2012, Week 5

Subject:

Latino Protests in Anaheim Continue: A Tale of Two Cities

From:

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Date:

Tue, 31 Jul 2012 21:48:10 -0400

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text/plain (206 lines)

Latino Protests in Anaheim Continue: A Tale of Two Cities

by Jimmy Franco Sr.

Latino Point of View.com
July 31, 2012

[submitted to Portside by the author]

http://www.latinopov.com/blog/?p=5891

Anaheim is the largest city in Southern California's
conservative Orange County and home to Disneyland which is
called "The Happiest Place on Earth". During the past week,
the city has experienced two police killings that have
resulted in a series of protests being organized against city
and police officials by enraged Latino residents. The
immediate issue that ignited these angry protests was the
killing of 25 year-old Manuel Diaz on July 21,2012.

Diaz, who was unarmed and talking to friends, ran as the
police approached and was shot in the leg and then in the back
of the head as he lay face down on the ground. An angry group
of residents exited their homes and gathered to demand answers
from the police at the scene. The police attempted to prevent
any filming of the incident by witnesses instead of calling
for an ambulance to aid the dying Diaz. An unnecessary
confrontation was then created by the police as they resorted
to violence rather than dialogue by firing rubber bullets and
pepper balls at the growing crowd of concerned neighbors which
included women and children. The residents became even more
infuriated as a police dog was unleashed which proceeded to
attack them and a passing family with a young baby. A day
later, another man named Joel Acevedo was shot and killed by
police who alleged that he had fired at them. This was the
seventh officer-involved shooting by Anaheim police this year
with five being fatal. 

On Tuesday, July 24, a protest drew over a thousand angry
people to City Hall which the police declared to be an
unlawful assembly. This then led to a violent clash as the
police attempted to aggressively disperse the enraged
protesters whose simmering frustration has been fueled by
years of growing unemployment, inferior education, police
harassment and neglect by city officials, finally boiled over.
City Hall and the Police Department building were damaged and
twenty-four people were subsequently arrested as tempers
continued to flare over the heavy-handed police tactics and
their history of harassment and use of force within the Latino
community. Other recent protests were held this past weekend
at Disneyland and other Anaheim locations as the city's
mounted police along with police from other departments
confronted over 300 protesters and pushed them off of the
streets. Protest marches also took place in support of the
Anaheim protesters in San Francisco and Denver.

A Latino majority governed by a minority of the well-to-do

The Chicano/Mexicano population of Anaheim has now exceeded
53% and primarily resides in the barrios of the flatlands.
Meanwhile, the minority of higher-income whites live in the
pricier Anaheim Hills and maintain a tight control over city
government, the school board and the police department. The
attention of Anaheim's city officials is primarily focused
upon Disneyland, the Anaheim Convention Center and hotel
district, and the Angels baseball and Ducks hockey teams. All
of these corporations have received millions of dollars in
subsidies and tax breaks in the past from the city's
politicians at the expense of barrio residents and their
social service needs. Only three Latinos have ever been
elected to the city council, however they were a conservative
Democrat and two Republicans who did not do much to effect
change. Latino voters who represent about one-third of the
electorate have been hampered from electing any progressive
representatives who are willing to make fundamental changes
and improve conditions by the present system of at-large
voting. Alleging that this system in Anaheim violates the
Voting Rights Act, the American Civil Liberties Union has a
lawsuit pending against the city whose objective is to
eliminate this at-large system and implement a more democratic
one whereby each council member is elected only by the voters
of his or her district.

The economic haves and have-nots and its effect on community
services

Anaheim has a long history of race and class discrimination
and was once known as klanaheim during the 1920's for it large
Klan membership. Over 70 percent of the city's population are
minorities (Latino 53%, Asians 15%, blacks 2%), who do not
receive their fair share of resources as taxpayers. Tax
revenues have been diverted to assist the corporate sector
within the city while few resources are allocated to benefit
the lower-income residents of the flatlands in terms of
education, vocational training and youth programs. In effect,
the have-nots who do not have true political representation
within the city, are receiving the short end of the resource
stick. Meanwhile, the politicians who represent the haves,
benefit from the present system as do their corporate
benefactors who repay these city politicians by supporting
their electoral campaigns. The current recession has created
high unemployment within the lower-income barrios as 15% of
the city now lives below the poverty level. Particularly hard-
hit by the recession are Anaheim's young people as the city's
population has a median age of 31 years. This has created
related problems such as an increase in high school dropouts,
gang membership, drug use and a festering anger toward the
city's ruling elite. Mayor Tom Tait and the city council have
consistently responded to these growing social problems with
denial and a heavy police presence that relies on a
traditional policy of harassment and excessive force to keep
these communities in line. Adding to these problems is the
Anaheim school board which blames undocumented students for
the problems within the educational system and rejects the
need for any reforms. This recent eruption of anger and
protests by Latinos has demonstrated the failure of these
inequitable policies of neglect by the city's misleaders.

A series of fundamental changes needs to be made by the city

There is a history of misconduct and abuse by the Anaheim
police as these recent killings are not simply rare and
isolated incidents.

There is no excuse for shooting Manuel Diaz in the back of the
head as he was unarmed and had committed no crime. Such an
action by the Anaheim police is objectively an execution.
Legally, lawsuits need to be filed against the city for this
latest killing and for the past practice of racial profiling
and pattern of harassment aimed at barrio residents. In
addition, political pressure has to be applied on the Orange
County District Attorney and the U.S. Justice Department to
investigate and file criminal charges in regard to any blatant
wrongdoing by the police and their chief John Welter. The ACLU
lawsuit that is pending in regard to voting rights violations
needs to be supported in order to change the present system to
a more democratic one. However, if this suit is successful,
more community input will be required to support and elect
progressive candidates who honestly want to improve economic
and social conditions for the majority of people in Anaheim
rather than continue the practice of favoring Disneyland and
the hotel-corporate sector. A political struggle waged by
grassroots community organizations will be necessary in order
to institute a permanent police review board that is truly
independent and objective in dealing with alleged cases of
abuse within the city and which can hold police officials
accountable. Economically, the city's priorities and use of
tax resources must be drastically changed by eliminating the
present corporate welfare and instead focusing on improving
the educational system, providing needed vocational training
and creating youth programs that can assist in preventing gang
membership and drug use. In essence, the city's tax revenues
need to be utilized to develop the human resources of the
community's residents instead of continuing to promote the
large profits of the city's corporate-financial powers.

Anaheim: a microcosm of broader Latino issues

The race and class issues afflicting the working class barrios
of Anaheim mirror those that are affecting many Latino
communities throughout the country. While these local
struggles have to be organized and dealt with, a broader
perspective and action is also urgently required as these
festering conditions are creating a strong undercurrent of
anger and impatience among young people. These local eruptions
over unjust conditions and policies need to be responded to
and supported by civil rights organizations. However, these
organizations also need to forge a comprehensive national plan
that pinpoints the general problems and issues that pertain to
most Latinos and that proposes concrete solutions which can be
adapted to local conditions. What are these common issues that
affect Latino communities across the country? A need for
improved education, job training, health care, drug and
alcohol prevention programs, youth counseling and gang-
prevention programs, and the elimination of police harassment.
This will take an allocation of resources for social needs
that must be fought for through the participation in broad-
based coalitions. There are many Anaheims across the country
whose social and economic problems require both the organized
response of political unity as well as the will to resolve
them on a national and local scale. These social prairie fires
that are breaking out such as the one in Anaheim will continue
to erupt and grow until a broad preventive plan for change is
adopted, fought for and carried out in practice.

[Jimmy Franco Sr. is the moderator and writer of the blog
site: "A Latino Point of View in Today's World" latinopov.com]

___________________________________________

Portside aims to provide material of interest to people
on the left that will help them to interpret the world
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