Photo by Gustavo ArellanoTO: Mayor Tom Daly, Anaheim City Council; Anaheim Police Chief Roger Baker
FROM: Gustavo Arellano
RE: Judicial Watch lawsuit
It has come to my attention that your city was hit two weeks ago with a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch on behalf of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform (CCIR) and other anti-immigrant activists. The lawsuit stems from CCIR's Dec. 8, 2001, demonstration at Anaheim City Hall. CCIR had gathered to protest the Anaheim Police Department's new policy to accept Mexican-government-issued identification cards as proper ID for illegal immigrants (see Rebecca Schoenkopf's “Mammaganza!” Dec. 14, 2001).
At the protest, the plaintiffs ran into counterprotesters from two other groups: about 20 members of the Communist Party, who demonstrated next to CCIR, and a group of Latino college students, who remained across the street. According to the lawsuit, both of these groups viciously attacked the plaintiffs without provocation, and police did nothing to stop them.
I was at the protest as a reporter, and I am of the opinion that this assertion is of questionable merit. From my vantage point, it appeared that it was, in fact, the plaintiffs who started most of the fights.
The first real scuffle erupted when members of CCIR took the red flag of a Communist Party member. He returned the favor by hitting them with a stick. This set off a free-for-all that would continue throughout the day between the two groups; for the most part, the Latino college students stayed across the street.
I recall rally organizer Glenn Spencer, in a manner I can describe only as gleeful, joining one of the frays by taking yet another flag from yet another Communist Party member and then throwing the flag to the ground. Almost simultaneously, Mr. Spencer was on the ground himself, having been put there expeditiously by a member of the Communist Party. Mr. Spencer would later denounce both counterprotester groups as “terrorists.”
I saw one plaintiff, the Reverend Jesse L. Peterson, pulling bandannas from the faces of counterprotesters while asking women about their ethnic background and whether “they would ever date a Mexican.” When I suggested to the Reverend Peterson that such behavior was perhaps counterproductive to a peaceful protest, he seemed briefly to consider my point and then called me a “Jap.” When I informed him that I'm not Japanese—I don't even like wasabi—the Reverend Peterson excused himself and called me a “Flip,” apparently under the mistaken impression that I am Filipino.
My sister can corroborate my observations. She was protesting across the street when a CCIR member wearing fatigues crossed through traffic and told her to go back to Mexico, which seemed an odd request: our family has been in Anaheim since 1906. She told me that the CCIR member continued to try to provoke fights with Latino students until he realized that no one wanted to fight. He walked away dispiritedly.
A friend of mine had his drumstick—he was playing a drum at the time—taken away by Mr. David Kendricks of Buena Park. Mr. Kendricks not only broke my friend's sticks but then also blocked my friend from videotaping the event, whispering from time to time that he was going to grab the camera and smash it. My friend's camera came through unscathed, but the same cannot be said of my friend's midget buddy, who was picked up and thrown to the ground by a CCIR member because they thought the little person was protesting “too loud.”
I could go on, but you get the picture. I am willing to offer these and other anecdotes in the city's defense. Though my stories might be in direct conflict with those of the plaintiffs, I am willing to allow that perhaps they had a different perspective and did not see what I saw. They were, after all, busy tossing midgets.