Us and Them: the Embattled Residents of Anaheim's Flatlands

Across La Palma Avenue, near the site where Anaheim police shot unarmed resident Manuel Diaz last Saturday, a group of young women holding signs yelled at passing drivers, directing them to a car wash to help raise money for the slain man's funeral. Behind a strip mall, a group of young men hosed and scrubbed cars under the blazing sun. Now 1 p.m., they had been at it since 9 in the morning. While the girls out front threatened to shred their vocal cords yelling at passing cars, once this gabacho reporter began asking questions, their voices dropped to sub-conversational volumes. 


Some politely estimated they had washed more than 100 cars and that they might be out there again tomorrow. But as one girl from the neighborhood (who didn't give her name), talked about a fix-it ticket police had given her the night before, two friends standing close by quickly walked away. 
Although many in the neighborhood have opened up to the flood of reporters who've descended on Anna Street, more than a few immediately shy from the sudden attention. Earlier this week, as I visited the neighborhood with bi-lingual Weekly intern Priscella Vega, a woman not realizing Vega was with the media, urged her not to talk with reporters. Later, one woman explained to Vega that everything in the neighborhood was fine, except for all the news vans. Again, two young women standing nearby told her not to say anything. 
At a candlelight vigil held for Diaz Tuesday night, a man identifying himself as Diaz's brother pleaded with the crowd not to give any cellphone footage of the shooting to police.
 “Those (videos) are for us,” he shouted.
Head Mexican-in-Charge Gustavo Arellano penned an editorial this week describing the long-simmering mistrust bewteen Anaheim's underprivileged people and local government structures. Not surprisingly much of it stems from an Anaheim city council that is beholden to and represented by the wealthy residents of Anaheim Hills (and perhaps Disney stockholders.) For years, the council has publicly subsidized the resort neighborhoods around Disneyland, while barrios in the “flatlands” deal with crumbling schools and high crime.
Last week's riots in the wake of several Anaheim police-involved shootings (three in the last week), saw this mistrust boil over. 
Now as local buisness fix broken windows and the city braces for more protests tomorrow, the question remains: will the police, in their zeal to maintain order so that overweight mid-western tourists can enjoy the house of mouse, restore lasting peace, or just make things worse?
Today's car washers may already have their answers. In a grand show of authority, helmet-clad cops made their presence known driving tactical SUV's through the small apartment-lined neighborhood where Diaz was shot. Several cops clung to the outside of the vehicles, ready to mobilize. 
“That's just callous,” said 62-year-old Dan Reyna, a Santa Ana resident. “They should show a little more sympathy. (People here) just want to get the kid buried and help the family out.”
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