Anaheim Riots and Jeffrey-Lynne: Where It All Began

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The violence in Anaheim has now entered its fifth day, finally reaching television screens and airwaves around the country last night. But contrary to the emerging storyline, the unrest did not begin with last weekend's fatal shooting of two suspected gang members in separate incidents. As the Weekly's Amber Stephens reported last month, a string of officer-involved shootings earlier this year had already set the stage for the current conflagration.

To truly understand the tension now boiling over between the city's cops and Latino residents, however, you have to go even further back than that, and to a neighborhood, Jeffrey-Lynne, that doesn't exist anymore.

Until it was redeveloped into a less dense neighborhood called Hermosa Village a decade ago, Jeffrey-Lynne was the gang-infested front line of the conflict between the city's cops and low-income Latino residents. Named for two intersecting streets at the heart of the working-class community in question, it was there, in the early 1990s, that a gang unit officer named Steve Nolan grew weary of the routine brutality he witnessed against Latino youths at the hands of fellow cops–punching handcuffed suspects in police cars, bashing them on the head with flashlights after foot-chases. He filed a 1995 whistleblower lawsuit against the city and two years later, won a generous jury award.

Jeffrey-Lynne is also where another police officer, Harald Martin, cut his teeth as a patrolman, and grew frustrated in a different way than Nolan: he decided that all of Anaheim's woes involved illegal immigrants. For years, Martin did his best to worsen the tensions between the city's cops and citizens by agitating for the right of officers to stop and question anyone who looked “illegal,” eventually taking credit for getting the INS to begin operating in Anaheim's city jail. In 2002, Martin ended up being fired for insubordination for remarks he made about his superiors, but continued to do damage as a school board member, until losing that job, too.

During the several years I spent covering the Jeffrey Lynne neighborhood, I often interviewed community activists like Josie Montoya, who passed away in March 2002, of the activist group Barrios Unidos, and members of Los Amigos of Orange County, which was made up mostly middle-class, cop-friendly Democrats. One of the weirdest stories I ever wrote was about the fact that the police, who claimed to be working with activists to heal the ongoing tensions, were actually spying on the two groups, often using my own articles as starting points for criminal background checks of citizens.

This only became public because a few well-intentioned cops at the department found the snooping operation stupid and distasteful. It's been ten years since that shameful episode, and since city officials (who as I reported in a July 22, 1999 article ironically titled “Inside Revolutionary Anaheim, first ignored and then worked with affected residents) bulldozed Jeffrey-Lynne. But as this week's events reveal, you can erase a community's name, and pave over the past, yet bad blood lingers on. 

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