The hyper-criminalization of communities of color in central Orange County must be recognized in order to implement sound policy that truly keeps our neighborhoods safe.
Santa Ana made history in electing its first woman Mayor in the City’s 153-year history. In this momentous occasion, Pastor Nati Alvarado opened up the night with his words of wisdom to the Council. Mr. Alvarado made sure to acknowledge the tragic loss of Maria Mora, a mother of 3, who was shot on Dec. 4th. In a packed room full of supporters, friends, family, and community members, folks from all walks of life gathered in the Council Chambers to capture history in the making.
I too was there to commemorate and witness the peaceful transition of power. Instead, I bore witness to an inaugural City Council focus more on casting fear in the minds of residents who call Santa Ana home.
In her very first address as Mayor, Valerie Amezcua did not disappoint those hoping for a revival of police-centered policy moving forward in Santa Ana. In her address, Mayor Amezcua with conviction shared, “I worked in law enforcement for 30 years and I thank the men and women that serve our community in uniform.”
All while the Orange County Sheriffs, Anaheim Police, Santa Ana Police and most notably, Santa Ana Police Officers Association President, Gerry Serrano, looked on. For reference, the POA nearly spent $1 million dollars for four Santa Ana council candidates which included Mayor-elect, Valerie Amezcua.
The Mayor then followed up with, “I come with a very different lens… My priorities are to make your city safe because, in my 30 years of law enforcement, I can’t tell you how many times I have seen the boogeyman up close and personal.” Mayor Amezcua described, “I have heard the scream of a mom that has watched her son die on the sidewalk because of gang violence. I stood by and held a young man’s hand while he took his last breath… So my lens is very different.”
In Donald Trump’s inaugural address about the “American carnage” happening across America, he described, “the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives.” We have seen this kind of fear-mongering before and know where it leads us.
What struck me the most had to be her description of this so-called “bogeyman,” where she says, “he really does exist… we’ve seen him.” It begs the question: Who is this “he” that the Mayor so passionately refers to?
Frankly, I see it as a direct attack on community members like myself who have been raised in Santa Ana and walked the same streets as our elected officials.
I have seen my friends go from suspension to expulsion and incarceration. Thus, fueling the prison-industrial complex. A system can not fail those it was never meant to protect. As someone who is system-impacted, I have seen up close and personal the criminal justice system and the generational trauma that impacts youth.
I have bore witness to too many acts of police violence against my community in Santa Ana. In a time where our City is still healing from the murder of Brandon Lopez at the hands of the Anaheim Police Department, I expect more from those in public service who should be striving for unity.
The Mayor did not forget to acknowledge Maria Mora in her speech, “In memory of the mom that was shot down! I want you to think about this tonight when you leave and you kiss your family goodbye.”
For a person who claimed to not be a “politician,” I argue that politicizing the death of a mother is inherently political.
Madam Mayor, your comments aren’t only wrong but dangerous to the community you have taken an Oath to serve and protect. Let’s work to find viable solutions to keep our families safe, together.
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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