As more than a thousand protestors clashed in Anaheim with police in the streets below, several helicopters hovered above the night's sky while Disneyland's fireworks exploded in air, oblivious to it all. The juxtaposition between the virtual and real versions of the city has now been deemed by this notorious blog as the “greatest moment in OC history!”
Long before a pair of fatal police shootings in the city this past weekend set off social unrest, another historical event transpired just a stone's throw away from where the Battle of Anaheim took place. It was on a summer day in July seventy-six years ago when the Citrus War, Orange County's bloodiest labor struggle and most important event in its history, got started.
It all began on an orange grove located on Santa Ana Street between Helena and Clementine streets in Anaheim–not far from the current location of the police department's headquarters. A group of two hundred women urged Mexi orange pickers to let the fruit keep hanging in the name of striking for better working conditions when an altercation with Anaheim police set the fire to the fuse.
The clashes between laborers, scabs and authorities led to charges of rioting. Sheriff Logan Jackson blamed the unrest on radical so-called outsiders telling the Santa Ana Register, “This whole strike is now an assault upon the people of Orange County by communist agitators who are here for no good purpose.”
At this morning's news conference, Anaheim Chief of Police John Welter made the incredulous claim that two-thirds of last night's protestors were not from the city and those among them were of a different ideological stripe. Despite there being more than a thousand people out on the streets, arrests of Anaheimers in the supposed minority of the crowd, as we are led to believe, were carried out with an almost laser-like precision with all but four of those taken into custody not from the city.
“Our job is to protect property and life,” Welter is quoted in CNN as saying. “Our job isn't to stand back in
the back and let anarchists or rioters damage property and injure
Ah yes, the ever convenient anarchists. Communists are apparently out-of-style for law enforcement officials unlike in the days of the Citrus War, so searching for a new radical leftist scapegoat is a must. Surely, the mass protests of Mexis in Anaheim couldn't have been homegrown!
Flashing back to Jackson, a familiar mantra was trotted out in the same comments to the Register, albeit with an infamous “shoot to kill” order soon to come in the historical fold. “If deputies are required to use their guns for the protection of life and property, they will, of course, be expected to do so,” he stated.
The Citrus War between orange pickers and orchardists forever cemented Orange County's distrust of its working-poor Mexis, especially when they took to the avenues of social struggles demanding justice.
The historical event had a profound effect on the late, great Carey McWilliams who drew distinctions between the pilfering of the convenient orange crate imagery of the industry and its actual oppressive realities — the same dichotomy on display now for the world to see as the mirage of Disneyland has been stripped bare by outrage on the streets of Anaheim, the kind of which Chief Welter would rather have you think is the work of outside agitators.
The more things change…pues, ya tú sabes how the rest goes.