Anaheim Police Arrest Activist Weeks After Cops Crashed Her Birthday Bash

Yesenia Rojas at Anaheim city council chambers
Yesenia Rojas at Anaheim city council chambers
Gabriel San Roman / OC Weekly

Yesenia Rojas gave Anaheim Deputy Police Chief Julian Harvey what she thought was a courtesy call yesterday morning. She's a noted community activist in the city's Anna Drive neighborhood, which gained international attention two years ago for a police killing there that led to days of riots in Anaheim.

"I called...to invite him to events we are going to have in our community," Rojas says. He was busy but returned her call later with some urgent news. "That's when I found out I had an arrest warrant for me."

Rojas walked into the Anaheim Police Department headquarters that afternoon to turn herself in at Harvey's suggestion. After meeting with him, she was booked and held on $10,000 bail for charges of interfering with police before being released late into the night.

The police are mum about the details, but back on September 6, neighbors and family in Anna Drive held a surprise party for Rojas' 37th birthday. Just before 10 p.m., Rojas had just invited her neighbor Donna Acevedo, a city council candidate who's the mother of someone killed by the Anaheim PD, to come to the fiesta when a mother came screaming for help.

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In a nearby alley, Anaheim police were arresting the mother's son. Residents quickly rushed to the scene, whipped out their smartphones and began filming. Footage seen by the Weekly shows gang unit officers standing stoically in the alley keeping people away from the scene.

Rojas walked with her hands up, Ferguson-style, berating police to respond; she claims a cop grabbed her arm and pulled it down. The activist tried clearing a path through the crowd as officers carried a handcuffed man to the street and into the backseat of a gang unit patrol car."Why are you taking him?" residents can be heard screaming. "Let him go!"

"We were trying to get names, badge numbers, and they didn't even answer," Rojas says.

Anaheim police told the Weekly that two arrests occurred that night. Eriberto Castro, 20, was taken in for violating the gang injunction in effect around Anna Drive. Police booked Esgardo Villa, also 20, for drug possession and resisting arrest.

Police units eventually left the alley to angry residents telling cops to get out of their neighborhood. "I don't see any changes," Rojas said, about whether relations have improved between the police and Anna Drive residents. "It's the same."

The circumstances surrounding Rojas' arrest remain unclear at this time, as police wouldn't elaborate. But getting arrested three weeks after her party for trying to keep the peace isn't going to stop Rojas from trying to see real improvements in Anna Drive.

"I think they are doing this to intimidate my community, but this injustice against me is only going to make me stronger," Rojas says. "I'm going to continue fighting for the rights of the community I live in."

Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @gsanroman2

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