What started as a peaceful rally last night in Anaheim against an off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer who fired a gun after an argument with teenagers who walked on his lawn, turned into a free-for-all, with "Fuck Pigs" and "Kill the Cops" tagged on residential homes, media and police getting chased away by protestors, objects thrown at cops, an almost two-hour standoff that blocked Euclid Street, and Anaheim PD rounding up 24 people at the end of the night, putting them into a bus and booking them into jail for unlawful assembly.
The evening started quietly enough. 30-year-old Imran Bashir was the first person to show up at around 6:15p.m., standing in front of the LAPD officer's suspected home. "If he did refer to that young girl with the 'c' word," said Bashir, referring to the insistence of teens that what triggered the melee between the LAPD officer and them was when the man called a girl a "cunt," "he should definitely be removed from duty, and face some kind of charges at least. I'm just a resident here in Anaheim, and to be honest I'm just sick of material objects just like buildings and lawns that people claim are worth more than lives. I definitely think the police officer was on a power trip."
A widely shared Facebook post called for people to show up at 7:30 at the house, complete with a photo of the home. But by 7, dozens of people had already gathered. Television crews stormed the front of the house to try and interview the officer; no one answered. Cars pulled up offering words of encouragement to the protestors. "Eh, you fools be careful tonight," shouted one homie. Another woman didn't stop as she yelled, referring to the officer, "FUCK THAT FOOL! HE'S A PIECE OF SHIT!"
Meanwhile, a white man who rode a bike by seemed sympathetic. But he made the mistake of saying he didn't believe the melee "was race related."
"See, you can say that, though, because you're white and you don't know what we go through!" yelled a old Chicano. The gabacho rode off.
The protestors then directed their ire at two middle-aged white women whom they suspected were relatives of the offending officer. "Do you know your son's a monster?" one protestor asked the older of the two women. "You don't even know what you're talking about," the younger of the two shot back, as the older woman asked out loud, "This is a very nice neighborhood. Why are you here?" before they quickly walked off.
With those two women gone, the crowd's anger turned to reporters as they yelled, "Fuck the corporate media!" and "You're on the side of the oppressor!" Fearing the protest would get out of hand, organizers began a "People's Mic" in front of the house where the melee happened.
Damian Ramirez started. "When the gun came out," he asked, "where the fuck were the neighbors?"
"SHAME" the crowd yelled back.
He invited the 100 or so people gathered to offer their words. That's when someone rushed up to the house's garage to tag "Fuck Pigs." Ramirez tried to calm down the crowd by bringing up Vincent Valenzuela Jr., whose father was fatally tazed by Anaheim police. Instead, Valenzuela yelled "I WANT THE POLICE TO GET OUT OF HERE!"
Finally, word reached those present that they were in front of the wrong house, so they began marching to where they thought was the officer's actual house. When they got there, they found several teenagers banging on the garage, standing on a car, and pretending to smash windows with their skateboards (eventually, someone did smash a window).
Around this time, a female protester confronted Orange County Register photographer Joshua Suddock. She said out loud that Suddock was taking pictures in order to get people in trouble. A masked male protester got in Suddock's face and and promised if he didn't leave, he was "going to have a real bad time." Meanwhile, someone else stole Suddock's notebook.
The crowd grew to 200 to 300 people in the cul de sac, and an organizer vowed more protests would happen in the future. Someone spotted four Anaheim police officers across the street. Dozens of protestors quickly surrounded them, with some throwing water bottles at the quartet. The cops rapidly fled back to their car and took off, with protesters kicking and striking the black-and-blue as it sped off.
The encounter energized the crowd. "Want to take it out to the lights?" Ramirez proclaimed on the mic. "Fuck it, lets go!"
They began marching toward Euclid, chanting "COPS SAY 'GET BACK?' WE SAY 'FIGHT BACK'!!!" Hundreds moved up Euclid and occupied the intersection at Ball Road, now chanting "Don't shoot our kids!" Police finally arrived on Palm Lane and Euclid, prompting a standoff. At this point, a split began in the crowd, with some yelling "Fuck you!" to the police, while others chanting "Keep the peace!" The mother of Christian Dorscht, the boy grabbed by the off-duty LAPDer, encouraged protestors to remain peaceful.
"Every person to me is like my child," Alma Saldana said as she tried to calm protesters who were taunting police officers. "I know what you guys are going through."
The protestors decided to return to the the cul de sac where everything started, but officers had blocked off the entrance. As they struggled to maintain a police line against protesters, an APD officer shot off a nonlethal round that nearly hit a protester in the crotch (KCBS-TV Channel 2 aired this brief encounter). Protestors—families, seniors, teens, woman with babies—surrounded the line, urging they not shoot them.
The standoff happened for over an hour, with some protestors whipping out bongs just for the hell of it. More officers came in, and an Anaheim helicopters flew over the crowd around 10:15 at night. "If you hear this," the ghetto bird's pilot announced, "chances are you will be arrested."
The crowd slowly started to disperse, but there was still about 150 protestors remaining. They raised their hands up as even more police, now formed in riot lines, advanced on them. At one point, officers boxed everyone in, not even allowing the media to leave. When the Weekly identified itself, one officer—who refused to give out his name or badge numbers—snarled, "Leave. This is your last chance."
24 people were ultimately arrested: 10 men, eight women, three boys and three girls. The protest did little to solve any participant's frustrations, with many yelling repeatedly to meet again for a second, future protest.
"I felt like he was trying to feel like he was on duty because he just kept holding him and holding him." said Andy, a 17-year-old Loara High senior, referring to the LAPD cop who started everything. "Since when is a junior high student a threat? My goal tonight is to take action and not let it slip."
"I don't get why he wasn't charged with anything." 16-year-old Sophie Rodriguez added. "That's the part that pisses me off, which is why I'm here. He wasn't arrested, he probably left with a little slap on the wrist like 'Oh, don't do it again' and that's not right; it just doesn't make any sense to me."
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"I actually know the person who was actually shot [at], so it just got me really angry and upset," 14-year-old Tony Torres said. She then offered her thoughts on the rally. "It was really strong at first but then it started dying down because the cops and basically they're threatening us with their guns and stuff. We haven't even laid a hand on them, we haven't done anything, so why're they going to shoot?"
Damian Ramirez, the organizer behind the People's Mic, was proud of the night. "This is the power of the people," he said. "I'm not happy with the crime that was committed yesterday, and I think the energy of the people reflects that. I'm always proud of people power."