Protests Reflect Deep Divisions in Anaheim

Nicole Santa Cruz et al., Los Angeles Times, July 25, 2012

In a city best known for Disneyland, the Angels and the Ducks, the fatal police shootings of two Latino men over the weekend have uncorked days of furious, sometimes violent protests.

The unrest has exposed long-simmering divisions in Anaheim between the glitz of Disney and professional sports and the struggles in some of the less prosperous Latino neighborhoods in Orange County’s largest city.

Of the city’s estimated 340,000 residents, 53% are Latino, and the protests have occurred in the city’s flatlands, where many of those residents live. Most City Council members hail from the more affluent Anaheim Hills neighborhood to the east. The American Civil Liberties Union recently filed suit claiming the current at-large system of electing the council leaves Latinos poorly represented. The suit said that Anaheim has had only three Latino council members in its history.

The extent of the ethnic discord is hard to assess, as are accusations from some protesters that the Anaheim Police Department mistreats nonwhite residents. {snip}

Rusty Kennedy, executive director of Orange County Human Relations, said anger over the weekend shootings reflects wider woes in Anaheim’s poorest communities, which suffer from unemployment, overcrowding and gang activity.

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Protests erupted downtown Tuesday night, with crowds that police estimated in excess of 1,000 people. Police Chief John Welter said police declared it an unlawful assembly after it grew dangerous. He said 50 to 100 protesters continued roaming the streets, throwing rocks and bottles, and damaging more than 20 businesses, mostly breaking windows. There was also damage to City Hall and the Police Department building.

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Yolanda Delgado, 68, a longtime Anaheim resident, saw a group of young looters smashing the windows of a T-shirt store Tuesday night and began yelling at them. At one point, she scuffled with a young woman who she said was trying to steal shoelaces. The young woman punched her and bloodied her lip.

Delgado said she was incensed that rioters were destroying the property of innocent people. “I was ashamed of them—the stupidity, the ignorance,” she said. “This is what the Latino community is trying to [alleviate]. They’re tired of being known just as thieves or gardeners or housekeepers.”

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There is also a history of tension. In 1978, a riot at Little People’s Park involving Anaheim police and a group of Latinos led to accusations of police brutality and a series of reforms.

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