State-sanctioned violence in the United States is part of the American experience for communities of color. As we near the one year anniversary of the murder of Brandon Lopez at the hands of the Anaheim Police Department, it’s important to look at central Orange County’s history and its record of inaction, incompetence, and enforcement of violence targeted at marginalized communities.
On August 20, 1892, a mob of men—including many “prominent citizens” lynched Francisco Torres–hanging him from a telegram pole on the corner of Sycamore and Fourth Streets in Santa Ana.
Francisco Torres was a Mexican farm worker at the Modjeska Ranch in Santiago Canyon during the summer of 1892. On July 30, 1892, Captain William McKelvey withheld $2.50 from Mr. Torres’s weekly wage, as a “poll tax” owed to the county. As Mr. Torres protested, he returned to the ranch to demand his money. A fight ensued and Mr. McKelvey was found dead by a housekeeper. Torres was captured in San Diego County and taken to the Orange County jail. Mr. Torres’s lawyers had asked for a change of venue, arguing that their client’s life was in danger and that Torres could not have a fair trial in Orange County. A place card was pinned to Mr. Torres’s chest which read “Change of venue.”
No one was ever held accountable for the lynching of Torres.
In fact, Orange County Sheriff, Theo Lacy, had been strongly advised by San Diego officials to take Torres to the Los Angeles jail. Yet, the Sheriff took Torres to an already deteriorating Orange County jail where mob rule prevailed on his watch.
129 years later, Brandon Lopez was killed by Anaheim SWAT officers less than a mile from where Francisco Torres was lynched. The Orange County District Attorney’s office has failed to hold any of the officers accountable. The parallels between both stories shine a light on the social fear that people of color live within Orange County and across America. It begs the question: When will it end?
The stories of Francisco Torres and Brandon Lopez should be memorialized, honored, and remembered by the community.
On August 16, 2022, I felt an obligation to share the story of Francisco Torres to the Santa Ana City Council to immediately install a Community Historical Marker on the corner of Fourth and Sycamore streets so that the community can come together to learn and heal from a historical wrong that is embedded in the history of Orange County.
On September 24, 2022, the community gathered to remember Brandon Lopez who was killed by the Anaheim Police Department. Councilmember Johnathan Ryan Hernandez spoke alongside families impacted by police violence to continue to fight for justice.
Orange County is home to diverse communities that embody the blood, heart, and soul of an ever moving county that has contributed so much to help shape what the United States is today. Forms of resistance against oppressive institutionalized racism have come and gone. The people who run Orange County are still here.
Santa Ana set a historic precedent by becoming the first city to declare the month of August as Chicano Heritage Month in 2021. As we celebrate the momentous occasion and contributions of Chicanos throughout the history of America, let’s begin to have the conversation about the atrocities driven by hate against communities of color.
Let’s forever remember and support victims of state-sanctioned violence.
Francisco Torres was lynched over $2.50. Brandon Lopez should be with his family today.
Nonetheless, these forms of violence have evolved from a noose hanging from a tree to a badge and a gun.
Ray Diaz is a student at UC Santa Cruz and a proud Santa Ana resident. More recently, Ray served as the Chairperson of the Santa Ana Youth Commission where he served as an advisor to the Santa Ana City Council regarding youth & teen services. Over the years, Ray has worked on a number of political and social movements across the state of California.
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