The Internationalist  
  August 2012  

Explosion of Outrage in Orange County, California

Anaheim Cops on Murderous
Rampage Against Latino Youth

Paramilitary police have turned Anaheim into a war zone. Above: at July 29 protest against killer cops.
(Photo: Matt Oliver/OC Weekly)

Mobilize Workers’ Power Against Racist Cop Terror

A wave of outrage has swept through southern California in response to a rampage of racist shootings of Latino youth by the Anaheim police.  When cops gunned down two young men, Manuel Angel Diaz and Joel Acevedo, on July 21 and 22, residents in the Anna Drive neighborhood immediately took to the streets. Their protests were met with even more vicious cop terror. These were the seventh and eight police killings in Anaheim in the last year. And as graphic videos of the events are played over and over on the Internet, the wealthy white rulers who lord it over the poor and Latino population worry at the prospect of “Rodney King riots,” the 1992 upheaval over the acquittal of the racist cops caught beating him on videotape.

On Saturday the 21st, police piled out of an unmarked car to go after three men in an alley. Manuel Diaz, 25, was shot in the leg and then again in the head as he fell to the ground. A bystander’s video shows him still alive for three minutes as the police leave him lying and push back the gathering crowd. The cops then brought in a riot squad, which fired rubber bullets, beanbags and pepper-sprayed a crowd of 100. A second video shows police firing into a group of women and children, then unleashing a vicious dog which went after the strollers, biting parents as they tried to protect their babies. Dozens were injured and five arrested. News reports labeled the protesters an “unruly crowd,” to justify shooting and setting police dogs on children.

The next night, following the killing of 21-year-old Joel Acevedo more than 200 protesters took over a parking lot in front of the Anaheim Police Department. The crowd chanted, “The whole system is guilty” and “Am I next?” On Tuesday, July 24, hundreds of protesters turned the downtown into a huge protest zone after being denied entrance to the City Council meeting. The media declared it a riot. Despite the angry protests, the cops’ shooting spree has continued while police attempt to intimidate neighborhood residents to fabricate eye-witness accounts of the shooting. On Friday, July 27 cops opened fire on a man they labeled a “burglary suspect,” who luckily was unhurt. The city had become a war zone, “Anaheimistan,” as OC Weekly (2 August) put it.

Above: poster by Lalo Alcaraz. Below: Anaheim cops fire rubber bullets at women and children protesting police murder of Latino youth.

Throughout, the police and media trumpet their disdain for the victims and the Latino population in general. Manuel is routinely referred to as “the suspect.” (Suspected of what?) He was also labeled a “known gang member” and Joel a “suspected gang member.” Meaning that they have no rights and can be blown away by the cops – the deadliest gang around – with impunity. Clearly they were suspect simply for being young Latino men. Anaheim is the largest city in once lily white Orange County, notorious for its racial profiling. And located next door to Los Angeles, the Anaheim police with their “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality act like the LAPD, a paramilitary force notorious for its racist assaults on black and Latino youth.

Back in 1993, a whistle-blower Anaheim cop, Steve Nolan, was fired for breaking the cops’ code of silence and reporting on constant police brutality against “suspected gang members.” In response, the APD prepared a notorious “dossier” (known as  “link analysis,” typically used to investigate organized crime) seeking to tie leaders of the community activist group Los Amigos to “suspected criminals.” The Latino community reacted with outrage and a lawsuit.  “The existence of the dossier became symbolic of the Anaheim Latino community’s plight. It was clear evidence, said [former president of Los Amigos Amin] David and other activists, of an orchestrated plan by the city government to stifle dissent” (Voice of OC, 1 August).

The economic super-exploitation of the Latino and racist treatment of immigrant youth community underlies the current explosive situation.  Thousands of immigrant workers and their families live in poor neighborhoods of Anaheim’s flatlands, while the city rulers live in wealthy white Anaheim Hills. They run the city in the interests of the corporations and the profitable entertainment, hotel and resort industry – Anaheim is home of Disneyland and the Los Angeles Angels baseball team.  While many Latinos are labeled “undocumented,” even those with voting rights are unrepresented in a system which elects council people “at large.” Although the city is over half Latino, none of the five council members are, and four are from Anaheim Hills.

Racist police brutality is rampant throughout Orange County. While more than a third of the population is now Latino (two-thirds in the country seat, Santa Ana), in upscale enclaves like the Balboa and Corona del Mar neighborhoods of 90% white Newport Beach residents tend to call the cops whenever they see a black or Latino youth who isn’t their gardener. Meanwhile, Orange is crawling with racist vigilantes. Nearby Costa Mesa a few years ago elected a prominent supporter of the fascist Minuteman Project, Allan Mansoor, as mayor. His successor also has political ties to white supremacists and neo-Nazis. The city beat Arizona to the punch with an ordinance to question anyone suspected of being undocumented about their immigration status.

In Anaheim, even before the recent shootings there were weekly demonstrations against the endemic police brutality and killings. Prominent among the protesters has been Theresa Smith of the Anaheim Cruzaders, whose son Caesar Cruz was murdered by the APD in 2009. Also present have been family members of Justin Hertl (killed by cops in 2003), David Rya and Marcela Ceja (killed in 2011), and Bernie Villegas and Roscoe Cambridge (shot to death this past January). The protests against the police killings of Miguel Diaz and Joel Acevedo have brought welcome support from throughout the Los Angeles Area, including Struggles United/Luchas Unidas, Occupy San Luis Obispo, the L.A. ANSWER Coalition and groups such as Kelly’s Army (named for Kelly Thomas, killed by Fullerton police in 2011) and Nida’s Rydas (named after Michael Lee Nida, gunned down by Downey police last October).

Residents march in Anaheim's Anna Drive neighborhood to protest police killings of two Latino young men. (Photo: Adam Elmahrek/Voice of OC)

In addition, there have been solidarity demonstrations in the San Francisco Bay Area and as far away as Portland, Oregon. Anaheim’s mayor and police chief, who have a soft cop/hard cop routine, complained of “outsiders” in the protests, as if the local population wasn’t up in arms. But this didn’t stop them from mobilizing police from other southern California cities who showed up for a July 29 demonstration ready for war in battle fatigues and helmets with horses and military armored vehicles. And “outsider”-bashing isn’t limited to words: after ANSWER was singled out in the media on July 23 for its participation, its L.A. office was deluged with hate calls and that night its office was broken into, its files ransacked and ten computers stolen.

In face of the building outrage in the Latino community, many liberals and reformists are calling for a variety of measures.  Some want a return to “community policing” – i.e., the cops spy on you, carry out “stop and frisks” and talk with “community leaders” before they shoot you down. Others are calling for federal civil rights investigations (the Justice Department and FBI say they are on the case) while the American Civil Liberties Union has a suit to change the voting process to allow district representation of the Latino communities. A whole lot of good such penny-ante cosmetic changes would do: demonstrators are right that racist police brutality is built into the system. That system has a name: capitalism.

Just look around California: in South San Francisco, 15-year-old Derrick Gaines, shot down by police in June for “behaving suspiciously” at a gas station; in San Francisco, Kenneth Harding Jr., shot and left to die on the pavement in July 2011 for not having a MUNI ticket; in Stockton, James Rivera, a black teenager executed by at least 30 police bullets in 2010 (a recent report by the San Joaquin County district attorney ruled it justified homicide); in the East Bay, Raheim Brown, shot to death by Oakland school police while sitting in a car in January 2011 (police now claim he killed himself); and Oscar Grant, shot in the back by BART cops on New Year’s Day 2009. The police murder of Grant, a 22-year-old supermarket worker, touched off huge protests of angry black youth and opponents of police brutality. The cops responded with massive arrests, turning downtown Oakland into an armed camp.

So what can be done about the racist killer cops? Various left groups routinely chant “no justice, no peace,” as if there could be justice for the oppressed under the rule of capital. Another standby is the demand to “jail killer cops,” which is a favorite of the Party for Socialism and Liberation and its ANSWER Coalition but is raised by virtually the entire reformist left. Revolutionary Marxists warn instead that the state, as the instrument of the capitalist ruling class to enforce its interests against those it exploits and oppresses, stands by its killer cops. In the rare case where a killer cop is convicted, as was Johannes Mehserle, the murderer of Oscar Grant, on the insulting count of “involuntary manslaughter,” he was out in a few months instead of spending the rest of his life behind bars.

When they are not pushing liberal/reformist pipe dreams about controlling the bourgeoisie’s murderous thugs in blue, opportunist leftists hail the community “rebellion.” As justified as frustrated youth and residents are in defying the deadly forces dispatched to “keep them in their place,” a few rocks and bottles won’t stop killer cops armed with heavy weapons. To fight police brutality it is necessary to mobilize an even more powerful force, that of the working class without whose labor capitalism would grind to a halt. An important step in this direction was the October 2010 union mobilization and one-day port shutdown by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10 in Oakland demanding justice for Oscar Grant. Workers in southern California should mobilize their power now against the rampaging killer cops in Anaheim, starting with ILWU Local 13. But that will pose a fight within labor for class-struggle policies and against the pro-capitalist bureaucracy.

American capitalism is racist to the core. Capitalist politicians need their killer cops to defend their class rule. Democrats might speak out about the murder of Trayvon Martin, because it was done by a racist vigilante. But they are mum about the police murders of Manuel Diaz, Joel Acevado and so many more. There can be no “solution” to the pervasive racial profiling, to black oppression and the super-exploitation of immigrant labor short of overthrowing the ruling class that profits from it. A strong mobilization of labor’s power in conjunction with the Latino, African American and Asian poor and working people to stop racist police brutality should also demand full citizenship rights for immigrants. And it must be built independently of Democrats and Republicans, the partner parties of capital. We need to build a workers party fighting for socialist revolution to put an end racist to cop terror once and for all. ■

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