More than 50 residents gathered at a church near one of Anaheim’s Latino neighborhoods to voice ongoing frustrations with police officers and city leaders nearly a year after anger boiled over into a riot outside City Hall.
The East Street Community Renewal Initiative, a project of former Councilwoman Lorri Galloway’s charity the Eli Home, organized the event at St. Anthony Claret Catholic Church to discuss what, if anything, has changed in the city’s Latino working-class neighborhoods since the unrest.
The consensus from the forum attendees was clear: The police department is still racist, and city government still can’t be depended on for services.
“If the community has fear, it’s not because we don’t have faith in God. We don’t trust our government,” said Victoria De Gomez, a real estate agent and nearly 40-year resident of the city.
St. Anthony Claret Catholic Church is close to the Anna Drive neighborhood where police shot and killed 25-year-old Manual Diaz on July 21. It was Anaheim’s fifth officer-involved shooting of the year and drew angry residents to the streets in protest.
Police responded by shooting beanbags at protestors and then — accidentally, according to police — unleashing a police dog into the crowd. Police officials said residents had been throwing bottles and rocks at officers.
Tensions continued to escalate until three days later about 1,000 demonstrators were denied access to a City Council meeting. Protesters were driven into the streets outside City Hall, where they clashed with police officers, tossed bottles and rocks in exchange for volleys of beanbags and pepper spray pellets from police officers in riot gear, and damaged 20 downtown businesses.
The days of unrest were considered symptomatic of the larger problems and pent up frustration that plague the city’s Latino community. Many Latinos said they are unrepresented by council members, who reside in affluent areas, the result being a lack of city services in their neighborhoods.
Monday, Anna Drive resident Yesenia Rojas asked whether the officer who lost control of the dog, which was seen on news footage toppling a baby stroller, had been disciplined. She said that police officers during the day hand out stickers to children but return at night to profile young men.
“What is the consequence for police officers who intimidate and harass the community?” Rojas asked.
Other residents said they wanted basic amenities for their communities. One man from Anna Drive asked that speed bumps be installed in the winding road through the neighborhood because police officers and others drive too fast. Another resident, who said the city’s Latinos can’t afford access to Disneyland, called for the city’s business community to invest in community centers.
Organizers of the forum will prepare a document with residents’ complaints and distribute it to the media and city leaders, said Galloway, who co-moderated the event with Jose Moreno, president of the grassroots Latino group Los Amigos of Orange County.
“This is a first step in voicing what we feel and what needs to be heard,” Galloway told the crowd.
Moreno said that what he heard residents say was that while they need to advocate at City Hall for resources, in the meantime the Latino community needs to depend on itself.