US: Police Brutality and Community Rage in Anaheim – The Real World outside Disneyland

End police brutality, racial profiling, and other racist practices

“… it’s a place of myth. I was born and raised in Anaheim, so I always find it fascinating how the rest of the country, all they care about is Disneyland, the Anaheim Ducks, the hockey team, the Angels team. And that’s what Anaheim, the city council, that’s what they want. They want the rest of the country to know the facade of what is Anaheim. They don’t want the rest of the country to know the millions of dollars of subsidies that they throw to hotel developers and anybody who has money, while they let the rest of the city crumble.”

-Gustavo Arellano, OC Weekly editor (Democracy Now!, 07/24/12)

It has been over twenty years since the police beating of the now deceased Rodney King and the explosion of the Los Angeles Riots which followed the acquittal verdict for the police officers.

Last weekend, the police killed two more men within a span of 24 hours in Anaheim, California, home to Disneyland: Manuel Diaz, 25, and Joel Mathew Acevedo, 21. On July 21, Manuel Diaz reportedly ran away when a group of police confronted him in the street. He was shot first in the back of the legs, and later he was shot in the back of his head, as though he were undergoing an execution.

After many people in the courtyard of a building complex observed this abuse of power by the police, the community demanded answers by taking to the streets. Yet the police proceeded to attack the residents, in a scene reminiscent of Bull Connor’s police force in Birmingham, Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement. The Anaheim police attacked protesting women, men, children and babies with rubber bullets, tear gas and dogs.

Another Latino resident, Joel Acevedo, was shot and killed by Anaheim police the following day. Police claim Acevedo was suspected in a car robbery, but the circumstances surrounding his killing remain unconfirmed.

This was the sixth police shooting by the Anaheim police this year. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, 52 people were shot fatally by Los Angeles county police in 2011.

Although Anaheim historically had a white majority, the city’s population today is predominantly Latino and Latina (52.8%). There has also been an explosive increase of police officers discharging their weapons at “suspects” over the past few years in the Los Angeles area.

In a recent statement on the killings of Diaz and Acevedo, Mayor Tom Tait said, “The first step is to get to the truth…That takes some time and patience, and that’s what I’m asking for.” Despite the pleas for calm and requests for state and federal investigations into the shootings, the question must be asked of Mayor Tait: Where was his call for calm when police were attacking the innocent adults and children who witnessed Manuel Diaz being gunned down in cold blood?

The Anaheim police have gone on the offensive, making claims to the media that Diaz and Acevedo were involved with criminal gangs, while trying to buy people’s cell phones to prevent footage of their brutality from being posted on the internet. ANSWER, one of the groups whose signs were visible in the protests and media interviews, had their office raided and ransacked. Computer equipment and protest bullhorns were stolen after right-wing websites began an internet campaign against them, labeling them “outside agitators.”

These repressive tactics are also being used against the Occupy movement and left-wing activists around the country. Historically, this type of repression has been linked to “COINTELPRO,” the FBI Counter Intelligence Program, that sought to destroy protest movements and revolutionary leaders that emerged in the 1960s and ‘70s.

These events have demonstrated once again that the police do not “serve and protect” working people, the poor and communities of color, but rather act more like the U.S. military occupying Iraq or Afghanistan. They designate our youth as “criminals” and “thugs” that must be monitored and controlled by any means necessary.

An independent report by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement indicates in horrifying detail that “every thirty-six hours another black woman, man or child is killed by police or security guards and self-appointed law enforcers” (www.mxgm.org). The report also found that, from January 1 to June 30 of 2012, 120 black people were killed by extrajudicial killings!

On Tuesday, July 24, over a thousand people from Anaheim at the City Council meeting expressed their anger about years of police abuse and violence. Once again, the protest was met with violence and heavy-handed, provocative police tactics: 300 officers in full riot gear with batons, pepper balls and bean bag projectile bullets. The demonstration spilled over to the downtown area where fires were lit, businesses were damaged, and 24 people were arrested.

Commenting on the protests against the racist killing of the young African-American man, Trayvon Martin, Justice, the newspaper of Socialist Alternative, warned about the likelihood of riots unless a movement was organized against police brutality. “The question that stands before our communities is – If justice is not served, will we see a replay of the events in L.A. or Cincinnati, or can we direct this anger into a powerful movement for liberation? If we stop our grassroots organizing, a Los Angeles or Cincinnati explosion will surely take place. We must keep in mind that the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, with its platform of economic justice, was born in October 1966 after the Watts Riots of 1965. The time is now to construct independent community organizations that will fight back against racial and class oppression, organizing block by block and school by school” (“A Cry for Freedom – The Struggle against Racism and Capitalism,” 4/27/12).

Two grassroots organizations founded in 2009, Anaheim’s Crusaders and Kelly’s Army, have campaigned against the endemic violence and loss of family and friends at the hands of Anaheim police. This is very positive, but the question posed before us now as we move forward in our struggle for justice is: How we can effectively put an end to police violence, racism and poverty?

The daily protests at police stations and the YouTube videos of police brutality are absolutely crucial in exposing the prevalence of police brutality. At the same time, we have to challenge the system of inequality and the social order that the police are protecting. Under capitalism, poverty is increasing on a daily basis for the working class, the unemployed, the poor, and particularly people of color. Meanwhile, a new report revealed that the global super-rich elite stashed away at least $21 trillion in secret tax havens in 2010.

We Demand Justice Now

Malcolm X once said “no kind of action in this country is ever going to bear fruit unless that action is tied in with the overall international struggle.” Today, we are living through a period of deep economic crisis, and working people and youth around the globe are straightening up their backs, lifting up their heads, and protesting economic austerity, mass unemployment, poverty and police violence brought on by a decaying capitalist system.

This weekend, July 28-29, there will be protest and solidarity marches around the country to stand up against the police violence in Anaheim. We should try to make this the beginning of a broad movement of social struggle against the policies of big business and the ever-increasing violence of the police, who have declared open season on working people and the poor, specifically communities of color.

We must appeal to the entire working class, of all races and ethnicities, as well as Occupy, labor and community activists to organize daily protests. We must build further actions, including mass civil disobedience, pickets and boycotts to keep the pressure on the Anaheim political and business elite. This is the only way to begin to counter the dictatorship of Wall Street and their security guards.

If it’s not Anaheim, then it will be another racist police murder that will spark a powerful movement that stands against racism, poverty and police violence. We need to draw a clear line in the sand today and say, “Enough is enough!”

A Program to End Police Violence and Racism

  • For an independent investigation and inquiry into the killings of Diaz and Acevedo by community members.
  • End police brutality, racial profiling, and other racist practices such as “Stop and Frisk.”
  • Create democratically elected community review boards with full power to oversee law enforcement and public safety, with the right to recall officials.
  • Invest in rehabilitation, job training, and living-wage jobs, not prisons or detention centers!
  • End mass unemployment, poverty, and inequality, which are the basis of most crime, by creating decent, living-wage jobs for all through a massive public works program and fully funding education, health care, and social services.

We also need to run independent community candidates that truly represent working people against the Republicans and Democrats, both of which parties are controlled – lock, stock and barrel – by the richest 1%. The rich and their political parties have no interest in dealing with the real problems of working people, people of color, and youth. Both political parties represent a social system that has failed to provide decent living standards or the prospect of a safe future.

Ultimately, what we really need is to build a mass movement and an independent workers’ party that fights for a democratic socialist society where the top 500 corporations would be publicly owned and democratically controlled. A society based on collective ownership and democratic control of the economy would ensure that everyone’s basic needs are met and that ordinary people have democratic control over our communities – including law enforcement and public safety officials.

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