Monday, July 30, 2012

Bruised Orange: The Anaheim Riots

It looks like the violent protests that arose in Anaheim after the police shot two known gang members (a phrase I try to keep off of my resume') have finally quieted down, but that doesn't mean the riot of grievance is going away any time soon

Rebecca Santillan lives just down the street from the grassy yard where police shot and killed a man over the weekend. She's had a front-porch view of the fiery protests and furious chants that followed. 
Her neighborhood is a place of families, immigrants and widespread poverty, where people know their neighbors and the gang members who hang out on the sidewalk. Many who live there have a deep suspicion of the police patrols that roll past every day, and are quick with stories about being stopped and questioned. 
It's that undercurrent of anger that helped fuel three nights of protests and confrontations with police after the shooting on Saturday afternoon, residents said.
"It was getting calmer," Santillan said. "But now, after this, it's a riot every day. Everybody's mad. Angry." 
Votive candles, flowers and bottles of beer mark the site where an officer shot 25-year-old Manuel Angel Diaz on Saturday afternoon. Police described Diaz, who was unarmed, as a known gang member and said he ran when officers approached. 
The next day, Sunday, a gang officer shot and killed Joel Mathew Acevedo, 21, who police said opened fire on them during a foot chase in a separate incident. It was the sixth officer-involved shooting in Anaheim this year. 
The two neighborhoods where the shootings happened share similar demographics, Census numbers show. They are both overwhelmingly young and Latino, heavily immigrant, poorly educated. Homes are crowded. But they are also stable neighborhoods, where people stay, built around families.
Police said they had noticed a recent upsurge in gang activity in the area. But people who live on Anna Drive said the gangs have long been a part of life. They said they heard occasional gunshots, the thump of feet hitting pavement when someone jumped a fence, but for the most part had learned to co-exist with the gang members they knew by face if not by name. 
"You kind of just get used to it," said Abraham Garcia, 20, an auto parts specialist who also goes to school part time and grew up on Anna Drive. "You learn to mind your business, do your thing, and people don't mess with you. If you see something going on, stay your course, don't try to do anything." 
Some residents of the street, young men in particular, said they didn't have the same live-and-let-live relationship with police. They said they felt harassed by officers who drove through the neighborhood at least a few times a day, sometimes in unmarked cars.

Pardon my brusqueness, but I don't see why any decent person should give a sh*t. The police shot two guys who were known criminals, and who did the one thing known to be an unwise career move: ran away from the cops after being told to stop. The protests were not peaceful civil rights marches. They featured the storming of a precinct station, the corralling of a group of cops in an intersection, and the inevitable vandalism of stores and homes. Everyone's dancing around this, but the pictures tell the tale. The "protesters" were gang-bangers, wanna-be's, and "community organizers." They were hardly representative of some wave of public anger, and Anaheim's city fathers were do well to ignore them, but likely they will only start acquiescing to an endless series of demands for pay-offs to neighborhoods groups and lefty non-profits. 

Look, not to get all gauzy-eyed and rosy-glassesed, but the Free Will Grandparents lived in Anaheim for decades, built a home, raised a family, etc. I don't remember their ever being worried that the Free Will Dad was going to join a gang and start strutting around like an a**hole. But, Anaheim has had a huge influx of Hispanics over the last two decades (the "minority" Hispanics are actually a majority population in Anaheim, although they don't vote like it, probably because it's illegal for them to vote in the first place). That influx has brought in more crime, more poverty, and more gang banging where none exited before. Yes yes, of course, there's more of that vibrant diversity but you don't need the sort of diversity that Anaheim has experienced in the last week. 

Anaheim was doing just fine, but a lot of the folks who've moved in seem determined to wreck it. 

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