Sunday will mark the one-year anniversary of when Anaheim's simmering tensions between police and the barrios finally boiled over. It was on July 21 that officer Nick Bennallack shot and killed Manuel Angel Diaz, a 25-year old unarmed man, on Anna Drive. As neighbors began gathering and demanding answers, police fired less-than-lethal projectiles into the crowd that included women and children. The images of chaos were caught on amateur video, aired on local television station CBS-KCAL9, and quickly made world headlines.
The next night, Joel Acevedo was shot and killed by officer Kelly Phillips on West Guinida Lane. Days out outrage followed culminating in spontaneous street clashes between residents and police on July 24 outside of City Hall. The back-to-back weekend shootings of both Diaz and Acevedo last summer were ruled justified by the Orange County District Attorney's office this year. So what has changed? The protests, vigils, forums and pickets planned for the next few days suggest not much.
Starting tonight through Tuesday, the following events are scheduled to take place:
- This evening, Interim Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada and Captain Julian Harvey will be on hand addressing community concerns in an East Street Community Renewal Initiative (ESCRI) hosted forum from 6 p.m.-8 p.m. inside the Eli Home Thrift Store located at 1175 N. East Street, Anaheim.
- On Sunday, a statewide march against police brutality, largely organized by ANSWER LA, will start at Anaheim City Hall at 1 p.m. Protestors from the Bay Area to San Diego will be joining the fray. Where will the march end? Hell if I know! ANSWER usually has a reputation for orderly demonstrations. I just hope they aren't up to their vanguardist ways…The police, I'm told, have promised not to don their GI Joe fatigues.
- Later on that day, there will be two candlelight vigils. The first will take place at 6 p.m. on North Anna Drive off of La Palma Avenue at the memorial site of Manuel Angel Diaz. The second will take place at 7:30 p.m at Anaheim City Hall.
- On Monday, an early morning protest starting at 9 a.m. is scheduled to take place outside the Orange County District Attorney's office located at 401 Civic Center Drive, Santa Ana. Later on that day, a candlelight vigil will take place on West Guinida Lane for Joel Acevedo at his memorial site starting at 6:30 p.m. Hopefully this time around, no police helicopter noise will drown it out.
- On Tuesday, people will be picketing outside Anaheim City Hall during the council meeting at 5 p.m. This action is not tied to demands regarding police, but is focused on the call for eight single-member districts while protesting the manner in which councilwoman Kris Murray and her cohorts brushed aside the recommendation of the Citizens Advisory Committee to put the issue before the vote of the people.
Whew! It would be wrong to say nothing has changed since last year. Deputy Chief Craig Hunter and Chief John Welter both retired. Thankfully for all sides, no fatal officer-involved shootings have taken place so far this year. But that's about as far as it goes. A new gang injunction has been placed in a so-called safety zone that includes Anna Drive. No police oversight committee has been formed to date. Should it ever come, chances are it will largely be toothless and ineffective.
The Kris Murray-led council majority has been playing political games with single-member district elections all year long as an ACLU lawsuit drags on knowing that the big business interests they represent would have to actually work hard to maintain the status quo should the reform redraw Anaheim's electoral system.
What a piece of work this city is, eh? Certainly not the happiest place on Earth.
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @dpalabraz