Revolution #278, August 19, 2012
People’s Anger Continues in Anaheim
Killer Cops Strike Back
For more than a week, Anaheim, California, was shaken by defiant protest against the Anaheim Police Department (APD) execution of Manuel Diaz on July 21 and the murder of “Joey” Acevedo the day after. As news of the rebellion spread, other forces—revolutionaries, local Unitarian church members, people from the Occupy movement nationally, and many others—rallied to the side of the people. (See “Cops Kill Two Latinos in Two Days: Anger and Defiance Rock Anaheim, CA” in Revolution #277, August 12, 2012 and at revcom.us.)
Influential forces within the ruling class have openly worried about the impact of this rebellion on people around the country. Mainstream media like the New York Times and Los Angeles Times warned in front-page articles about the risk of further eruptions in a city where Disneyland, two professional sports teams, and the wealthy enclave of Anaheim Hills run the city, while the basic people live in conditions of poverty, unemployment, widespread oppression, and neglect in the part of the city called the “Flatlands.”
Police murder and violence is a daily fact of life for many throughout the U.S. But it is not that often when people rise up in righteous rebellion against this. And powerful forces at the top of society don’t want the example of Anaheim to spread.
Efforts to Confuse and Divide the People
The initial protests against these police murders were met with extreme police violence—rubber bullets, a police dog unleashed on a crowd that included young women and their babies, mounted horse platoons, and police snipers on rooftops.
This has been combined with conscious efforts to organize pro-police reactionaries and straight-up racists who call for “gang members” to be put away and put down hard, in effect celebrating the recent murders and justifying the police shootings.
The authorities also struck back with lies and distortions aimed at turning people against each other. The mayor, police chief and others have rushed to blame the upsurge on “outside agitators” trying to “exploit” the police killings and “drive a wedge” between the police and the communities. They hope to turn people in Anaheim against the revolutionaries and other political activists who have come to stand with the rebellion.
Some have bought into this—like the handful of residents in the neighborhood where Manuel Diaz was killed who took up the “outside agitator” charge and were pictured in newspapers guarding the mayor after he came into the area to try to chill out the struggle. One young man turned this on its head, answering the charge of “outsiders” by rattling off a list of police agencies from neighboring cities that had been called in to put down the protests.
Ask yourself, isn’t it a good thing when people from other cities, other states, and even other countries support the people who face brutality and repression every day when they stand up against that repression? Would things be better if people didn’t support them??
Massive Police Raid
The counter-revolutionary assaults took a leap at 4:30 am on Friday, August 10, when more than 250 officers from the APD, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), Orange County Sheriff’s Department, and a dozen other police agencies began sweeping through the area where Manuel Diaz was killed.
Pigs in military fatigues pounded on doors and smashed their way into homes at 54 sites, mostly in Anaheim but as far north as Los Angeles County. Hilda Vera told the Los Angeles Times how cops broke in her front door at 6 am while searching for her boyfriend, terrorizing Vera, her two-year-old son, and her boyfriend’s mother. “You would think they’re here to protect you,” Vera said, “and they come in here and wreck your home.”
By mid-afternoon, the raids—supposedly aimed at what cops call the “Eastside Anaheim” street gang—left 33 young men arrested, many lined up in handcuffs on the curb for news photos. APD Chief John Welter crowed, “This is a good day for Anaheim.”
An APD spokesman claimed that Manuel Diaz was on their list of “documented gang members” and would have been arrested if he was still alive. Even if Diaz was on the arrest list—and all we have is the cops’ word that he was in a gang and therefore on the list—what about the system’s claim that everyone is “innocent until proven guilty” and is supposed to get a “fair trial”? But the cops had already acted as judge, jury and executioner and murdered Diaz with a shot to the back of the head.
Demonizing the Youth
Automatic labeling of Blacks and Latinos as “gang members” has become a code word to criminalize and demonize millions of youth, to justify locking them up and outright murdering them in the streets. The people in gangs were not the ones who moved the jobs away and then flooded the ghettos and barrios with poverty, degradation, and hopelessness. The gangs were not the ones who created racial discrimination and segregation in the schools, jobs, housing and every aspect of life, and they did not then unleash the cops to beat and brutalize people to accept these conditions. In fact, the widespread emergence of gangs has come in the wake of attacks on the revolutionary movement in the ’60s, the further devastation of impoverished communities—and the increasingly desperate struggle of people to survive in this dog-eat-dog society. Now, the existence of gangs becomes the justification for the state to brutally go after the youth. The dynamics of the capitalist system and the conscious policies of both parties created the whole of this situation.
Let’s look at this straight on. While the gangs may seem to live “outside the law,” and up against the whole way things are, gangs and “the life” are locked into this system. People end up basically reflecting the same twisted economic outlook and dog-eat-dog morality as that promoted and reinforced by the capitalist-imperialist system as a whole. You’re forced to be a predator or its prey, living on the backs of the people around you or becoming victimized by someone else. And even those who “make it” in the gang life still face the real prospect of being shot down in the street or locked away in some hellhole prison by the police, the courts, and the ruling structures that actually run this society. All this is not good for the people.
But all that can change when people stop fighting each other over what are really just crumbs, over who can temporarily “get some for me” in a society that rains down suffering and humiliation and oppression for the vast majority: when people begin to Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.
As Bob Avakian puts it in his new interview, “What Humanity Needs: Revolution and the New Synthesis of Communism,” when the people rise up to fight oppression, “the conditions become much more favorable for them to begin to see the world in a different way—to transform themselves, in terms of their understanding, and in terms of their feelings—in terms of their orientation toward society, toward the world, toward other people, and what kind of relations there should be among people.”
The Anaheim rebellion gives a glimpse of this potential as people stopped fighting each other and joined together to fight against their real oppressors.
Calls for “More Latino Representation”
Anaheim, a city of nearly 350,000 with the majority Latino, is run by a city council where four out of five members live in the mainly white, affluent Anaheim Hills area. It is the largest city in California that does not elect its city council by district representation. And the fact is that powerful city interests—including Disneyland, other big businesses, and political forces in Anaheim Hills—have sought to preserve the current voting system as part of maintaining their domination.
In June the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the city, saying that the at-large district voting system violates the California voting rights act by diluting Latino influence. It hopes such changes will empower the people on the bottom. But now powerful forces in Anaheim—led by calls in the national mainstream press—have seized on the “more Latino representation” demand to try to shut down people’s defiance and steer it into safe electoral channels. Last week the Anaheim City Council held a public meeting, mainly on the redistricting proposal. Even Disneyland Resort jumped on the bandwagon and urged a change.
In the end, the City Council voted it down and called for “further study.” Many people are justifiably angry that Latino people in Anaheim do not have the political representation they are supposed to be guaranteed by the rules of American democracy. But the reality of the situation is that representational reforms won’t put an end to rampant police murder in oppressed communities. This is because the role of the police is to protect the system that rules over the people. This is because the role of the police is to enforce all the conditions of exploitation and oppression the people are subjected to by the system. Nothing short of all-the-way revolution will put an end to national oppression, but beyond that truly emancipate all of humanity.
Anger of the People Continues
Last week people in the Guinida Lane neighborhood where Joey Acevedo was killed talked about police retaliation since the protests began. Acevedo’s mother told of how APD gang unit cops confiscate cars from other neighborhoods, then roll down Guinida Lane “flashing gang signs” to provoke and instigate young people on the street and create pretexts for beat downs and arrests.
Media reports on the recent raids in the Anna Drive neighborhood admitted that the pigs were met with widespread distrust and anger. Many saw the raids as retaliation against the resistance of people on the bottom of society in the weeks before. “It’s revenge,” Elvia Navarro, whose son was among those arrested, told the Orange County Register. “I didn’t fear police, but after all this happened, I thought they were just out to get someone. I thought: The police are out for payback.”
Middle class forces are also speaking out in support of the people who have stood up. At the August 8 City Council meeting, a middle-aged white man from a homeowners association blasted the city’s references to “outside agitators” as exactly the term and tactic used by southern racists to discredit people and say they could never revolt on their own. He closed his statement to applause, “I’m an outside agitator.” When Manuel Diaz’s mother said she “wants the protests and demonstrations to continue” and a man who’d given a reactionary racist rant earlier in the meeting yelled out, “You’re a horrible mother!” he was booed by the mainly middle-class audience.
Robert Lovato, a cofounder of presente.org, a group with roots in the immigrant rights movement, said, “This is the same Anaheim Police Department that dressed itself in military gear and had rocket launchers in front of Disneyland in order to scare the community against protesting their murders. The raid against gangs is trying to put the focus on ‘gangs in the streets’ instead of the murderous gangs in the Anaheim Police Department. Who is killing innocent people in Anaheim? It’s the police.”
And at a press conference held before the recent City Council meeting, the former president of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Orange County condemned the “extrajudicial executions” of Diaz and Acevedo, calling for the officers and those in command to be prosecuted and for those arrested protesting police misconduct to be “immediately released and immune from prosecution.”
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