The Social and Global Justice Project
Loud bangs echoed through the downtown neighborhoods of Anaheim last summer. These bangs, muffled by the clocklike consistency of the nightly Disneyland fireworks show, went unnoticed by the flock of tourists visiting the “happiest place on Earth.” Deadened by the fireworks, rubber bullets and pepper balls shot into neighborhoods resulting in broken windows and injured neighbors. The city of Anaheim was in full-out riot mode. There were trash bins ablaze, cops ready for all-out war, and screaming neighbors trying to find safety from the indiscriminate rubber bullets that were being shot carelessly into residential areas. I myself witnessed a boy around the age of 10 fall to the ground from the spray of rubber bullets right outside his home. His frantic older brother who scrambled to pick him up and take him to safety was also shot several times for his bold attempt to rescue his sibling. The local newspaper called this event “The Greatest Moment in OC History” because of its grand theatrical irony. “The surreal site of Disneyland’s fireworks blowing up at the most inappropriate moment possible…ensures the Happiest Place on Earth’s continued participation in the history of OC anarchy,” wrote satirical columnist Gustavo Arellano. This event marked the crescendo of social tensions, which erupted in Anaheim like a symphony. The scene which many described resembling a warzone was the result of the largest and most dangerous gang in Anaheim flexing its power over the local community. The marking of territory as a means to assert its authority is a common tactic among gangs, and it was no different for the Anaheim Police Department.
The APD killed a record number of six “suspects” last year. All of these “suspects” accused of being gang member were simply just Latino. The police hid their racist agenda under the guise of “gang control.” There were numerous press releases by the Anaheim Police Department stating that the two latest men who were shot down by the APD were gang members, almost as a means to justify their killing. The killing of Manuel Diaz and Joel Acevedo caused a public outrage, especially when footage of Manuel Diaz bleeding out on the ground from a headshot wound was released. The public saw the APD standing around more concerned with trying to confiscate people’s phones than they were in administering medical aid to the young victim. When friends and neighbors expressed the hurt and anger they felt towards the APD for killing an unarmed member of their community in cold blood, the police reacted with rubber bullets and the releasing of a police dog on a mother protecting her child in her arms. It is apparent from this video and the deluge of protests that came afterwards that the Anaheim Police Department does not intend to serve and protect the Latino Community in Anaheim.
So who do the Anaheim Police Department protect and serve? Could it be the Anaheim City Council who have been sued by the ACLU for not representing the Latino communities within Anaheim? Could it be the omnipotent corporate entity that is Disneyland which seems to rule almost every aspect of Anaheim’s city affairs? Their practically infinite amount of resources that they throw at city council members, Anaheim police donations, and rumors of a private militia which was used to shut down last year’s protests would infer so. Follow the money. Disneyland and other business interests want the downtown Anaheim area for expansion of its hotels, upper-middle class commercial businesses, and upper-middle class residential areas in order to attract more tourists to its resorts and business ventures. The Latino community who predominately lives in the Downtown area needs to be pushed out whether by force or by gentrification in order to satisfy Disneyland’s deep pockets. Disneyland practically has a racquet on the city’s affairs and the Anaheim Police Department are its muscle.
People may be offended that I am referring to the Anaheim Police Department as the most dangerous gang in the city. People may feel that I am misusing the term “gang,” but if this is the case, the police have been misusing the word “gang” for decades. “Gang member” has become almost synonymous with Mexican or Latino by the Anaheim Police Department. Yet the police operate using the same territorial tactics that they accuse the gangs they are after of. Controversial gang injunctions have given police power, which is normally reserved for the courts, which allows for the APD to determine who is a gang member based on racial profiling rather than actual convictions of gang activity. What makes Anaheim Police Department the most dangerous gang in Anaheim is its enormous access to power. They control the rhetoric through the media, which they have used to divide public support for the protests of their brutality. They can stop anyone within gang injunction zones and arrest them for wearing the wrong clothes, looking suspicious (aka, looking “Mexican”), and for hanging around too many people. They have retaliated against the community on Anna Drive for leaking the infamous video of Manuel Diaz bleeding out on the ground. The community on Anna Drive has been outspoken about the police brutality they witnessed. The Anaheim police waited to launch a raid at 4:30 am about a month after Manuel Diaz was shot. They kicked in doors with guns drawn and succeeded in making 33 arrests. The raid called Operation Halo had been in the works since 2011 but was strategically conducted as retaliation against the community one month after the Manuel Diaz shooting The Anaheim Police Department is terrorizing this neighborhood to keep them silent. Moreover, the police officer who shot Manuel Diaz was found innocent by Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas in March 2013, and the APD was cleared of any wrongdoing.
With ties to Disneyland, the city council, and the state government, it is hard to deny the vast power that the Anaheim Police Department possesses. One of the more disturbing pieces of information I came across involved APD’s strategic tactics used to suppress the legal protest of the police department following the summer riot. This document titled “Anaheim Incident Action Plan” (you can find this on-line) was found and released to the public by an unnamed source. This document proves that there was mutual aid from “plain clothes personnel” during the peaceful protests. It also implies the use of mutual aid from “allied agencies” which, to people at the protest, appeared to be private militia that some have speculated were hired by Disneyland. This of course is illegal and cannot be proved but witnesses stated, and photos show, that police arrived in paramilitary uniforms. People who attended the protest stated that there was private militia patrolling the scene in complete military gear. The implications of this document are frightening. The fact that many protestors reported people in unmarked vans in plain clothes, snatching protestors, is absolutely terrifying. The fact that this is public information and the protests have been silenced with media-controlled rhetoric is evidence enough that the Anaheim Police Department is more powerful and dangerous than most would assume.
This trail of evidence shows that there is something larger at play here in the City of Anaheim. It appears the police are just one piece of the puzzle in the corruption that this city faces. The police play an integral role. They are the muscle used to execute this web of corruption. They are the most dangerous gang in Anaheim.