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Less than two weeks after Anaheim police shot and killed unarmed 24-year-old Manuel Diaz, it's starting to look (from the outside at least) as if the resulting wave of civic anger unleashed on the neighborhoods north of Disneyland has subsided. While mistrust and resentment of law enforcement will likely continue to fester in Anaheim's underprivileged neighborhoods, things were quiet yesterday.
On Tuesday afternoon a woman who operates a produce truck could be seen chatting with a customer while a small group of males gathered near the makeshift memorial marking the spot on Anna Drive where Diaz fell.
Despite the calm, or perhaps because of it, it was impossible not to wonder where things will go from here.
Though the last week has seen the cause of Anaheim's police shooting victims taken up by various outside activist groups (notably Occupy and Anonymous), the effect of this support on those who continue to live under the specter of a militaristic police presence as well as the threat of gang violence is unclear. And after Sunday's awkward encounter between Anna Drive residents and Occupiers attempting to enter a prayer vigil for Diaz, it remains to be seen if outside groups can contribute to the dialogue effectively.
The quiet yesterday on Anna Drive contrasted starkly with the night after the shooting when rows of television cameras rolled as angry residents demanded “Justicia for Manuel.” Though the anger was palpable, the demonstration was largely peaceful; until several young men and women, some wearing bandanas across their faces, shoved flaming dumpsters into traffic. The organized chanting stopped as some in the crowd threw bottles at responding police and firefighters.
Prudence reigned and the cops kept their distance, but things kicked up a notch two nights later when more than a thousand people took to the streets and rioted after a some in the crowd used fists and bottles to pummel passing police cruisers.
A protest held Sunday in front of the police station saw a smaller group of protesters, fortified by various activist organizations including members of the Occupy movement, some from as far away as Oakland.
Though chants aimed at police in riot gear expressed universal rage over the recent spate of Anaheim officer involved shootings, there were moments– such as when a protester asked a cop whose horse took a dump in the street if he was going to clean it up– when it seemed as if some were just looking for a fight.
If the Orange County Register
has reported the facts accurately, nine people were arrested Sunday; most of them from outside Anaheim. Noble as these folks may be, it's hard to imagine their sacrifice will have a lasting impact on the city's flatlands. Their efforts were further diminished by the fact that their attempt to march on the gates of Disneyland ended much as Occupy's failed attempt to shut down the Port of Long Beach
did last December: with rows of cops grotesquely masquerading as soldiers blocking the path and simply diverting the crowd.
Adding insult to injury, Occupy, who struggles with communication within its own ranks didn't earn stars with some residents on Anna Drive.
As the police station protest drew to a close, friends and family held a vigil for Manuel Diaz two miles away on Anna Drive. Calling for peace, the officiating priest challenged the street's children to become attorneys and social workers and find their way into the halls of city government to change Anaheim from within.
Before nightfall, a group of Occupiers arrived to show support. Along their two-mile march, four protesters were arrested.
Several Anna Street residents in reflective vests providing traffic control took a look at the angry signs and stopped the protesters at the top of the street. Wanting to keep the event peaceful, they asked Occupiers to put their signs down before joining the vigil. Most were eager to oblige. But a young girl in a Hello Kitty backpack was none-to-pleased.
“Thank you for coming from different parts of the world and almost getting shot,” she fumed sarcastically.
When a TV reporter approached her for comment, she looked at the logo on his microphone and stormed off muttering something about the mainstream media. Underscoring the lack of focus in the anger of the previous week, she looked back and shouted at the reporter, or perhaps to no one in particular, “Fuck you too.”