By Robert Stephens
Do we need to start a riot? Ordinarily we focus on the police after they kill someone, but I’m not going to do that. Fuck them. The central figures in this story are the friends, neighbors, and community members that came together and stood up against the latest act of murderous police aggression.
This story is about community, specifically a neighborhood filled with people of color (Shout out to the Latino homies). They watched the police kill a man, a member of the community, and their anger swelled as he lay motionless in a grass-covered yard.
Crystal Ventura, a 17-year-old who lives in the neighborhood, said she saw the shooting from about 20 feet away. She said the man had his back to the officer. She said the man was shot in the buttocks area. The man then went down on his knees, and she said he was struck by another bullet in the head. Another officer handcuffed the man who by then was on the ground and not moving, Ventura added. “They searched his pockets, and there was a hole in his head, and I saw blood on his face,” she said. “Fatal Police Shooting Incites Melee in Anaheim“, Cindy Carcamo
Soon anger turned to action. EVERYONE came outside, disturbing the illusion of peace for a little afternoon insurrection.
The Riot as an Act of Love
Everyone in the community lived that day, if only for a few moments, as if they themselves had the power to stop the police from terrorizing their neighborhood. The key for liberation isn’t protest, but it’s acting as if we already live in the world we want to see.
Kids were with their parents, neighbors joined neighbors, and the whole community found themselves in the street together. “If you want real insight into love, participate in a riot”, and love took the streets Saturday afternoon in Anaheim. Love pushed a dumpster and trash can into the street and set them on fire. Love threw rocks and bottles at the police to force them from the neighborhood they had just recklessly shot up. Love is a riot.
For those who believe this moment wasn’t for kids, the children were there when the police burst into the neighborhood while firing the shots that killed a man. I applaud their parents for bringing them out so that their voices could join their community in the struggle to stop the reckless and needless police violence.
Children know pain, they know anger, and they know injustice; the insurrection is theirs as well.
Daisy Gonzalez, 16, identified her uncle as the man shot by police .She and others said his name was Manuel Diaz. She said he likely ran away from officers when they approached him because of his past experience with law enforcement. “He (doesn’t) like cops. He never liked them because all they do is harass and arrest anyone,” Gonzalez said after lighting a candle for her uncle. She cursed at the police who were nearby and a police helicopter that hovered above, flashing a spotlight on the neighborhood. “Fatal Police Shooting Incites Melee in Anaheim“, Cindy Carcamo, OC County Register
I began with an homage to the community instead of explaining the police misconduct that followed the uprising because the police don’t deserve to be the central figures in this story. This is a love story, and love stories are often tragedies.
Upon taking the streets, the police would respond with attack dogs and “less than lethal” bullets. They maimed and wounded anyone in the vicinity, including using an attack dog against a mother holding her baby while standing next to her stroller.
The History of Police Aggression and Community Responses
Though their stand lasted less than an afternoon, and it ended with the sting of bites and bullets, their insurrection is not the end of the resistance. It is just the latest moment in a tidal wave of consciousness that threatens to expose the fraudulent underpinnings of this nation’s legal system.
The police killing a person of color almost everyday while waging an expensive and pointless “War on Drugs” didn’t save those people in that Colorado theater. Yet, they spend much of their time enforcing arcane, ineffective and racially biased drug laws. It should be abundantly clear that these reckless cowboys don’t keep us safe.
In fact, it turns out that not all police departments in the world “protect” citizens by filling them with bullets. Police in Germany, as in the nation with over 81 million people, only fired 85 bullets directed at people in all of 2011.
According to Germany’s Der Spiegel , German police shot only 85 bullets in all of 2011, a stark reminder that not every country is as gun-crazy as the U.S. of A. As Boing Boing translates , most of those shots weren’t even aimed anyone: “49 warning shots, 36 shots on suspects. 15 persons were injured, 6 were killed.” “German Police Used Only 85 Bullets Against Peole in 2011” Dino Grandoni, Atlantic Wire
However, this insurrection was not without warning; there have been weekly demonstrations at the police-station in honor of those killed by Anaheim police.
Theresa Smith has organized weekly protests outside the police department on Harbor Boulevard with friends and family members, all of whom are demanding answers about what really happened that day. She has encouraged other families affected by officer-involved shootings in Anaheim to join her protest, but, she says, they’ve mostly refused because they fear police retaliation. But after the brutal July 5, 2011, beating death of Kelly Thomas at the hands of Fullerton police officers gave energy to critics of police brutality in Orange County, word has spread about Smith’s crusade.
For the past several weeks, from a dozen to 20 people can be found every Monday evening on the corner of Harbor Boulevard and Broadway Avenue, waving signs and chanting, “Shame on APD!” Corie Cline has been going to the protests for about three months; her brother Joe Whitehouse was killed by Anaheim police in 2007. She brings along her 5-year-old son, who cheerfully joins in the chants, shouting, “Shame on the Anaheim police!” and, echoing the popular Occupy chant, “Whose streets? Our streets!” “Anaheim’s Cruzaders”, Amber Stephens, OC Weekly
The Anaheim police are responsible for six shootings already this year. Justin Hertl, killed by Anaheim police in 2003, is one of the many deaths to catalyze the burgeoning anti-police violence movement.
Justin Hertl was walking his grandmother Barbara Kordiak to her car when he was shot by undercover Anaheim detectives on Nov. 14, 2003, after the police received information about a stolen car, possibly from Hertl’s girlfriend, with whom he had just been fighting. Kordiak alleges that police came up behind her and that one of them yelled, “Gun!” The next thing she knew, three shots had rung out and her grandson was lying on the ground bleeding. A fourth shot, she claims, killed him. “Anaheim’s Cruzaders”, Amber Stephens, OC Weekly
Justin Hertl’s mother and many other community members spoke out at a recent City Council meeting.
Jaclyn Conroy, aunt of Justin Hertl shot by Anaheim Police in 2003, listed off over a half dozen individuals shot by Anaheim Police, including the recent fatal shootings of Marcel Cejas, Roscoe Cambridge, David Rayas and Martin Hernandez. There have been six officer-involved shootings by Anaheim Police this year so far. “I have come to you people before begging you, please look into the corruption of the Anaheim Police Department and nothing was done,” she said. “How many bodies have to pile up before someone speaks up? If it were your child, I guarantee you’d be looking into this.” “Anaheim’s Cruzaders”, Amber Stephens, OC Weekly
So, the neighborhood at the corner of East La Palma Avenue and Anna Drive did not spontaneously erupt into violence. The people were living on top of a police-fueled powder keg. They had been demonstrating, they went to council meetings, and yet the killing continued. This wanton murder is not necessary and it’s not protecting us.
They rose up in the name of not just the man shot on Saturday, but the numerous other victims of police brutality as well. When the young girl cursed at the police as she was retelling the story of her Uncle’s murder, it was love and not hate that fueled her indignation. Love is a force. Last week, Jasiri X released a song called “Do We Need to Start A Riot“, and the answer for this Anaheim community was yes.
UPDATE: This is the Facebook page for the next rally at the Anaheim police station, http://www.facebook.com/events/344828062262298/
UPDATE 2: There was a demonstration today at the police station, here is an eyewitness account
Update 3: Footage of Saturday’s riot, and Sunday’s demonstration at the police station: http://laist.com/2012/07/22/anaheim_police_fire_rubber_bullets.php#photo-1