Best Political Protest (2011)

Fullerton's protests against dirty cops

Over the years, mostly suburban Orange County hasn't exactly been a hotbed of political unrest. Sure, we have rabid right-wingers who are always foaming at the mouth because it's no longer 1952, blacks can vote, and the Cold War is over. But something remarkable happened this year: Local residents, who've made it their practice to steadfastly look away from police violence and corruption, finally had enough and hit the pavement to say so. If you had bet us $50 a year ago that we'd see a woman holding a "Fuck the Police" sign in public, we'd have driven you directly to Patton State mental hospital. Yet, the brutal slaying in July of Kelly Thomas, a 135-pound homeless man, by six Fullerton cops sparked the biggest, most passionate community protests we've seen since the fight over the building of an international airport at the defunct El Toro Marine Corps Air Station more than a decade ago. Week after week and city meeting after city meeting brought out hundreds of angry protesters, who eventually dubbed themselves "Kelly's Army." Police agencies love to bury dirty laundry in the hopes the public will forget, but that hasn't happened in this case. The protesters demanded an honest, thorough explanation and, if appropriate, for prosecutors to charge the cops with unnecessarily killing the unarmed Thomas. When DA Tony Rackauckas charged one cop with second-degree murder and another with involuntary manslaughter on Sept. 21, the protesters exulted—but also declared they would keep the pressure on the city until all of the officers, even the department itself, is held fully accountable for Thomas' death.


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