Yesenia used in grotesque State of the City Whitewash Video.


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Yesenia (2nd from left) back in 2012 at the APD, after Diaz murder – you can see the rubber bullet mark on her gut.

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Yesterday’s jarring “Anna Drive” video threw me off my game in two ways:

1. I HAD been working on a huge piece about Yesenia Rojas and Anna Drive, which she’d asked me to write way back when she got off probation from being railroaded into an “interfering with police” charge simply for trying to find out why they were dragging away some neighborhood youth from her 2014 birthday party.  My piece has been taking a while because I’m getting carried away telling the story of Anna Drive since the 50s and 60s, combined with Yesenia’s own story from her birth in Zapote.  (Look for that story this week or next.)

And 2.  I’d showed up at the annual State of the City luncheon because it was Mayor Tait’s last one, and I wanted to do a retrospective of his 8 years of “City of Kindness.”  The Mayor’s speech was fine, maybe we’ll get into it later.  But to me everything was overshadowed by this propaganda video.

Check it out.  This is actually Yesenia’s film of the video.  It starts with the ferocious July 21, 2012, Anna Drive riot which made national news … and smoothly segues into all the nice things the city and police and various nonprofits have done for the neighborhood in the five years years since … without saying a WORD about the cause of the riot.  HELLO???

Posted by Yesenia Rojas on Tuesday, February 6, 2018

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WHITEWASH definition.

2 a : to gloss over or cover up (such as vices or crimes) – refused to whitewash the scandal
b : to exonerate by means of a perfunctory investigation or through biased presentation of data

Anyone who saw this video and knew no better (or had a short/uncaring memory) would think the residents of Anna Drive rose up in anger and despair in 2012 just because they didn’t like the gangs in their neighborhood or their lack of speed bumps and street lights… and then the kind city responded.  So that means the Orange Juice Blog has to remind you ONE MORE TIME:

HIS NAME WAS MANUEL DIAZ.  HE WAS UNARMED.  HE RAN FROM APD OFFICER NICK BENNALLACK, WHO DIDN’T KNOW WHO MANUEL WAS BUT DIDN’T LIKE HIS LOOKS OR BEING RUN AWAY FROM. 

NICK SHOT MANUEL TWICE, IN THE BUTT AND THE BACK OF THE HEAD.  MANUEL DIED FROM THE WOUNDS.  THE NEIGHBORHOOD RIOTED, AND THE POLICE RESPONDED WITH RUBBER BULLETS AND DOGS.  FIVE YEARS LATER A FEDERAL JURY FOUND NICK GUILTY OF EXCESSIVE FORCE, BUT HE’S STILL WORKING AS AN APD OFFICER.

Maybe a “State of the City” luncheon is not the place to look to for presentations of uncomfortable truths.  But then they shouldn’t have included the riot in their video at all.  Think how you would have felt watching that if you were Manuel’s family, or any other of the many people who knew him and cared about him – to see him disappeared into a black hole … just because it might have made the dozen cops in the audience uncomfortable?  Or reminded the audience how slow the progress has been to get real police oversight in Anaheim?

As for Yesenia who comes off as the star of this film, “I just agreed to answer five questions, I didn’t know how the film was going to turn out.  You saw me yesterday, Vern, when they showed the riot, and didn’t say what it was about.  I was crying.”  Actually I was at the next table, it was dark, and I didn’t notice she was crying.  She remains as proud as she should be about all the improvements she’s gotten here – the street lights, the bookmobile back, the speed bumps, all the Mexican cultural events she puts on.  And she reminds us that she was hit by an Anaheim cop’s rubber bullet during that “unrest,” her grandson was attacked by a police dog, and her daughters had become like little sisters to Manuel toward the end of his life.  “Every July 21 we don’t know how to feel or what to do, because it’s my daughter Bella’s birthday, but it’s also the anniversary of the killing.”

All true, but…

HIS NAME IS MANUEL DIAZ.


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.