Weekend Open Thread: Anaheim’s “Ferguson” Makes the National News as Focus of Mass Protest

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From Facebook Invitation to Protest at Anaheim Police Department on Sunday at 5 p.m.  (Let’s keep it peaceful….)

Years ago, when some of us were a little more hopeful about Disney playing a productive role in resolving Anaheim’s problems, this blog took the position that our Great Mouse Overlords had a critical stake in Anaheim being a city of Peace with Justice because otherwise the City’s “brand” would be ruined and Disney would be tarnished.  Well, help from that corner was not forthcoming — Disney (despite a parsimonious measure of good charitable works) backed leaders who wanted to solve the city’s social conflicts by a stronger crackdown on naturally darker-skinned residents — and sure enough Anaheim’s reputation has continued to suffer despite its many strides in the right direction.

Let’s offer a hypothetical about how Anaheim (and Orange County generally) might be perceived by the broader world.

Anaheim has developed the image as the sort of place where a beefy, bald, shades-wearing and foul-mouthed white police officer from a nearby megatropolis can get pissed off at a group of brown-skinned middle-schoolers and early high-schoolers cutting across his lawn and:

  1. call one of the young teenage girls a “piece of cunt”;
  2. without identifying himself as a police officer, grab a 13-year-old boy who criticized him for doing so and physically start to drag him from a spot a few houses away back to his own property, either actually or pretending to be misconstruing the boy’s threat to “sue him” (presumably for, oh, maybe battery, false arrest, that sort of thing) as a threat to “shoot him”;
  3. continue to fend off other (older and larger) kids who are trying to get him to release their companion, because these impressionable youth — perhaps under the influence of having to endure their parents watching police procedurals — are under the (correct) impression dragging a kid towards (and perhaps into?) one’s house because one is pissed about your turf being stepped on is not something that even your average adult gets to do; and
  4. best of all, when he’s done dragging the kid over a hedge onto his property and one of the older kids tries to physically remove his hand from his young buddy, whipping out a pistol and brandishing it at the terrified kids (who still don’t know that this angry biped is a cop, although by now intuiting that he is probably bonkers, and don’t know whether the biped considers the supposed offense to be one punishable by molestation, amputation of a finger, or summary beheading), and then discharging the weapon either as a warning shot or accidentally (which is, to be fair, a completely unforeseeable consequence of whipping out a loaded gun) into the ground near where some of the kids are standing; after which
  5. the local police, upon arrival, arrest the brown kid who was being held captive and bring him and various of his companions to juvenile hall while leaving the white cop undisturbed; and
  6. oh, what the heck, because it would be implausible to have the gun-wielding officer in question be named something like “Columbine” or “Sandy Hook” or “Wounded Knee” or something like that, let’s just say that his name is “Ferguson.”  Yeah, Ferguson.

Non-Anaheim Cop and Protector of Turf Officer Ferguson shows off his smooth moves doing the Safety Dance.

Of course, this cartoonish stereotypical image of Anaheim is one that is completely ludicrous, as nothing of this sort could ever … wait a moment … Orange Juice Blog has learned that this is exactly what is asserted happened (much but not all of which is corroborated on video) on Palais Road, in the northwest corner of District 4, right across from Loara High School and just below Ball Junior High School and Palm Lane Elementary.

As usually happens, things actually manage to get worse from the end of our scenario.  Point 7 through whatever would include”civil unrest” placing both the relatively well-intentioned (e.g. Mayor Tom Tait) and the less so (e.g., District 4 Council Rep Lucille Kring) on the side of pleading (or demanding) that residents of (and visitors to) Anaheim should not go bonkers over the actions of non-Anaheim Officer Ferguson and of the Anaheim Police Department that responded to the mess.

And, of course, for good or for ungood, everyone wants to stake their ground and push their own positions.  (Everyone except your author, that is, whose position was that he doesn’t have enough free time to write about it, but who was shamed into producing at least one story by his friends in the OJB family.)

Google apparently thinks that W. Palais Road is just above of Hermosa Village.  One of our native Anaheim informants tells us that this is not so.  So who are you going to believe: the corporation that organizes all of the public information in the world — or people who actually live there?

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First, a local angle for an event that we really hope goes well, the aforementioned Sunday rally hosted by the Young Survivors – Legacy Support Network:

Sunday at 5 PM, 2 days from now · 48–61° Mostly Cloudy

Anaheim Police Department

425 S Harbor Blvd, Anaheim, California 92805

 THIS IS AN EMERGENCY CALL TO ACTION

monday, feb 21, a 13-year old boy was manhandled and detained by an off duty lapd officer over an argument with one of the boys female companions. when other children in the neighborhood attempted to intervene on behalf of the teenagers safety, the off duty cop produced a handgun from his waistband and fired his weapon whith children all around him. this officer made a conscious decision to use his position of authority to BULLY A MINOR, then used potentially lethal force to extricate himself from the protective actions of the CHILDREN.

sunday, at 5pm we will be meeting at the anaheim police department, where the officers who chose to side with this pedo-bully cop work, and let it be known WE WILL NOT TOLERATE STATE-SANCTIONED PREDATORS TARGETING OUR YOUTH.

please join us, for all of our children.

Young Survivors – Legacy Support Network

Community · Santa Ana, California
We are here for the children, survivors of police killings, to ensure that the legacy of their murdered fathers and mothers be preserved by people who empathize. we too know how alone it feels to know a good person was murdered and no one cares. WE CARE.

But it’s not just local activists who are jumping into action.  Here’s a very professional effort by “Color of Change” (we’re including their pitches for contributions — it seems only fair since we’re featuring everything else — without endorsing on opposing your contributing.)

Orange County is proving to the world once again that police are above the law. Yesterday, a video surfaced online showing an off-duty LAPD officer forcefully grabbing and dragging 13-year-old Christian Dorscht, after he stood up for a girl the officer called a “cunt” and yelled to get off of his lawn.1 When other teens watching and filming try to help Christian, the officer pulled out his gun and fired a shot into the crowd–almost shooting the 13-year-old. If that isn’t upsetting enough, what happens next is even worse: when police show up, they let the officer–who still hasn’t been identified–walk free, but arrest Christian and another 15-year-old boy with charges of “battery and terrorist threats.” It’s a combination of white vigilante and police violence terror–and it’s horrifying.

Hundreds of people poured into the street last night in protest to demand the officer be charged.2 The Anaheim Police Department posted a statement that they are working on an investigation–but the power rests with the District Attorney’s office. And technically, after an investigation, the DA’s office could still charge the children that were terrorized on that day. That’s why we’re demanding that Orange County DA, Tony Rackauckas, immediately indict the officer–and refuse to prosecute any of the children involved. Will you sign the petition?

Tell the Orange County DA: Indict the LAPD officer. Not the children he terrorized.

In the video, Christian can be  heard pleading “stop grabbing me” and “I didn’t do anything to hurt you, all I said was respect a girl.” Then the cop responds, “you said you were going to shoot me.”3 Christian protests, “I didn’t say that, I said I’m going to sue you. Why are you lying?” as the off-duty officer grabs him roughly, dragging him across the lawn. That is how Christian Dorscht got nabbed with charges of “terrorist threats.” While the charges have been dropped, the District Attorney could file more at any given time–but we can’t let that happen.

OJB is not so sure that Rackauckas can be influenced by anything, but we wish them well with trying!

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The Wednesday night rally/unrest is the focus of an OC Weekly article that may not leave the best taste in the reader’s mouth.  (OJB is just not even going to bother trying to rework that metaphor.)  The story is by cub reporter Frank John Tristan, and it well-captures, seemingly unselfconsciously, the nobility of spirit that brings people out to this sort of rally, the way that people who may or may not be particularly adept try (and often fail) to steer it, where and how it goes south, and how the police — happy to be in the unambiguous role of protecting the public from potential unrest, without giving much apparent thought to how we got into such a situation in the first place — respond in ways that (however intentioned) may tend to fan the flames.

What started as a peaceful rally last night in Anaheim against an off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer who fired a gun after an argument with teenagers who walked on his lawn, turned into a free-for-all, with “Fuck Pigs” and “Kill the Cops” tagged on residential homes, media and police getting chased away by protestors, objects thrown at cops, an almost two-hour standoff that blocked Euclid Street, and Anaheim PD rounding up 24 people at the end of the night, putting them into a bus and booking them into jail for unlawful assembly.

[T]he crowd’s anger turned to reporters as they yelled, “Fuck the corporate media!” and “You’re on the side of the oppressor!” Fearing the protest would get out of hand, organizers began a “People’s Mic” in front of the house where the melee happened.

Damian Ramirez started. “When the gun came out,” he asked, “where the fuck were the neighbors?”

“SHAME” the crowd yelled back.

He invited the 100 or so people gathered to offer their words. That’s when someone rushed up to the house’s garage to tag “Fuck Pigs.” Ramirez tried to calm down the crowd by bringing up Vincent Valenzuela Jr., whose father was fatally tazed by Anaheim police. Instead, Valenzuela yelled “I WANT THE POLICE TO GET OUT OF HERE!”

Finally, word reached those present that they were in front of the wrong house, so they began marching to where they thought was the officer’s actual house. When they got there, they found several teenagers banging on the garage, standing on a car, and pretending to smash windows with their skateboards (eventually, someone did smash a window).

Ramirez, the organizer behind the People’s Mic, was proud of the night. “This is the power of the people,” he said. “I’m not happy with the crime that was committed yesterday, and I think the energy of the people reflects that. I’m always proud of people power.”

I don’t mean to pick on Ramirez, who seems to have been doing his best (although “where were the neighbors” is not the question I’d ask, as they were probably off at work or as afraid to intercede as most people would be.)  And to be fair, the article contains many instances of “people power” of which one might justly be proud — because how the hell is one supposed to respond to something like this?  Just sitting around like soap bubbles isn’t going to do any good.  But getting active may not do so either, as it changes the storyline from the original incident to the deportment of protesters.

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A local activist posted a separate response on Facebook to that rally [edited for punctuation in this more formal (or at least lasting) venue] that addresses some of these conflicting motives and concerns:

I went to Anaheim yesterday to express my outrage at the abuse of a minor at the hands of he who is supposed to be entrusted to serve and protect.

I, like many people, was there when the uprising happened 4 years ago, and it felt like deja vu. For many, this was their first time experiencing riot gear and the militarization of our local police departments. It was powerful to see youth taking lead of the chants and mothers with their kids marching, demanding respect and justice. I was proud of my community standing up to the mistreatment of our young people.

At some point we took the streets and I saw youth surrounding cars. I told them to let them go, because they were just trying to pass by. Then I saw others kicking and hitting an OCTA bus. I dared say, “they are not our enemy”… then I turned around and a masked guy told me to “stop policing protesters, you do it all the time”. I told him I wasn’t policing anyone, I was trying to have people not get run over or hurt. He just kept repeating himself…

I’m sorry, but there is NOTHING revolutionary or badass about messing with people stuck in traffic in their cars. Banging on the bus window … those are working class people trying to get home, our people … they are on our side!! People in their cars surrounded by people will panic and speed off — and that’s how people get hurt, run over, it just happened in Oakland — but they didn’t seem to care about that.

I respect the various tactics of folks in the movement, but I refuse to stand by when mothers and children are around and let escalations potentially get folks injured. And if doing that destroys my reputation in the activist community, then oh well….

It’s a tough problem.  It’s hard to know the right way to respond.  It’s easy, though, to know what some of the wrong ways to respond are — and we’ll cover some of those in a separate post.  Anyway, a new rally is a-coming on Sunday, and whatever else we hope we should all hope that it’s serious, significant, and healing.

This is your Weekend Open Thread.  Talk about all of that, or whatever else you’d like, within reasonable rounds of decorum and discretion.  Or else.  (Not really.)


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose worker's rights and government accountability attorney, residing in northwest Brea. General Counsel of CATER, the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility, a non-partisan group of people sick of local corruption. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Occasionally runs for office to challenge some nasty incumbent who would otherwise run unopposed. (Someday he might pick a fight with the intent to win rather than just dent someone. You'll know it when you see it.) He got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012 and in 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level, nor do they now. A family member co-owns a business offering campaign treasurer services to Democratic candidates and the odd independent. He is very proud of her. He doesn't directly profit from her work and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he truly hated.) He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)