“We Shall Overcome” Drowns Out Anti-Klan Protesters at Anaheim Peace Rally

In the aftermath of the Klan melee in Anaheim this weekend, politicians, faith-based groups, nonprofit organizations, union members…and punks gathered back at Pearson Park last night. Escorted by police, who were finally motivated to protect a group of protesters, hundreds marched through the streets to the front steps of City Hall in the name of peace. With media cameras focused, Anaheim mayor Tom Tait, congressional candidate Joe Dunn, labor leader Ada Briceno and Council on American Islamic Relations-Los Angeles (but really, based in Anaheim) director Hussam Ayloush stood behind a banner that read “Anaheim is a City of Kindness.” 

Just after an interfaith prayer began, shouting voices emerged off to the side of the assembled crowd. Cameras soon panned to protesters who had been on the front lines when the Klan actually came to town on Saturday. “You fools have hella money, bail the homies out,” screamed a woman wearing a Ren and Stimpy shirt and a bandanna covering her face. “Fuck the non-profit industrial complex!” She was referring to Klan ass kickers who ended up in jail unable to post expensive bonds while the Anaheim police released all Klukkers on the grounds of having acted in self defense.

“We’re not the enemy, the KKK is the enemy!” Joese Hernandez of Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development argued. “We will not be silenced,” Anaheim resident Carlos Becerra shouted back. What followed after was a surreal moment of a movement at the crossroads.

The peace marchers sang “We Shall Overcome,” the great African-American civil rights hymn, to drown out Anaheim’s barrio youth who embraced the new politics of disruption popularized by #BlackLivesMatter that sometimes goes inward, challenging traditional community leadership models. The candle light vigil ended shortly afterward, and the crowds began to disperse back to Pearson Park. Before leaving, Mayor Tait listened to another punker who had spoken out, but few followed his lead

The fault lines between the young anti-Klan protesters and peace marchers run deeper than last night or even last weekend. The dozen or so activists come from neighborhoods invoked to rally the virtues for council representation in Anaheim that district elections have been promising since the 2012 riots. The youth once worked on those campaigns and various other causes before becoming disillusioned with the city’s liberal establishment. Ironically, they shouted down the peace vigil like the Briceno-led shout down of Anaheim city council last December in the fight for the People’s Map for district elections.

“Free Marquis! Free Marquis!” they chanted, referring to Marquis Turner, an African-American Anaheim youth arrested in the Klan melee.

The youth, the punkers and anarchists were angry that they didn’t see community leaders at Pearson Park to help roll out the unwelcome mat. OC’s shepherds were out of town and out of sight for a number of reasons when the Klan arrived. Many had been in San Jose for the California Democratic Convention. OCCORD held another one of its citizenship fairs in the city. When politicians and activists came back to Pearson Park last night to reject the Klan’s message of hate and violence, the top brass of Anaheim police counted themselves among the crowd this time around…and marched!

The peace preachers invoked the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quoting the slain civil rights leader when he said, “Let no man pull you so low as to hate him,” a message aimed at the Klan. But when they got challenged by barrio youth, it might have been more helpful to recall Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech in 1967 a year before his assassination instead. He talked about conversing with angry and rejected ghetto youth about non-violence when they returned with questions about the Vietnam War, giving him pause for reflection. “I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today—my own government,” King said in the speech.

But that’s the Dr. King that never gets quoted, won’t get grant money, and can’t be used to rally OC politicos around in common cause.

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