After unrest, divisions grip Anaheim, Disneyland's home

ANAHEIM, California Sat Aug 11, 2012 3:04pm EDT

A protester is arrested by police officers from Orange County as protesters try to occupy the the intersection of Anaheim Blvd. and Broadway to demonstrate against recent police shooting in Anaheim, California July 24, 2012. REUTERS/Alex Gallardo

A protester is arrested by police officers from Orange County as protesters try to occupy the the intersection of Anaheim Blvd. and Broadway to demonstrate against recent police shooting in Anaheim, California July 24, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Alex Gallardo

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ANAHEIM, California (Reuters) - Civil unrest over fatal police shootings of two Hispanic men has divided the normally placid city best known as the home of Disneyland and renewed calls by Anaheim's growing Latino community for a greater say in local government.

The City Council this week voted 3-2 to reject a proposed ballot measure to end Anaheim's at-large voting system and have council members elected from specific districts, a change that supporters say would have given Hispanics more of a voice in the city of more than 335,000.

The three council members who opposed putting the proposal on the November ballot said they wanted more time to study alternatives to the at-large system.

Latinos make up nearly 53 percent of Anaheim's population, up from less than 47 percent in 2000, U.S. census figures showed. But only three Latinos have ever been elected to the City Council, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

The five-person City Council in Anaheim, the largest California city still electing its leaders on an at-large basis, is mostly made up of whites, but one member of the panel is originally from India and another claims Hispanic heritage as the daughter of a man from Spain.

The Orange County tourism hub made headlines last month when violent protests erupted following two fatal weekend police shootings of Hispanic men, one of whom was unarmed, leading to dozens of arrests and smashed storefront windows.

"I think there's a feeling of many people that there's not one Anaheim, and maybe a sense of not belonging and a feeling that they don't own their government, and none of that's good," Mayor Tom Tait told Reuters in a phone interview.

It was Tait who introduced the defeated proposal to have Anaheim voters decide in November whether to adopt a council district system. Such a system could potentially create at least one majority-Latino district, the ACLU said.

The ACLU sued Anaheim in June over its election system on behalf of three Latino plaintiffs, claiming at-large districts violate the state Voting Rights Act by denying Hispanics an opportunity to elect representatives of their choice.

It remains unclear whether the controversy over municipal elections was a factor in last month's civil disturbances. But recent unrest in Anaheim exposed a divide between the city's wealthier, mostly white Anaheim Hills neighborhood in the east, home to all but one City Council member, and predominantly Latino areas to the west known as the flatlands.

In the mostly Latino west and central Anaheim, about 60 percent of residents had household incomes of $50,000 or less, according to a study from Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development (OCCORD). In Anaheim Hills, 75 percent of people had household incomes of $50,000 or above.

West Anaheim has fewer than five parks per 50,000 residents, as compared with more than 11 parks for the same number of people in Anaheim Hills, OCCORD said.

And a 2009 OCCORD survey of 524 families in three of Anaheim's mainly Latino neighborhoods near Disneyland found 40 percent of families reported incomes of $25,000 or less.

SPARK FOR UNREST

It was in the working-class, largely Latino neighborhood of Anna Drive that on July 21 a police officer shot and killed Manuel Diaz, 25, after a foot chase. Police say Diaz, a suspected gang member, was unarmed.

The next day, officers shot and killed Joel Acevedo, 21, after he opened fire on them while being chased, police said.

Two nights later, residents and activists gathered at City Hall to protest the police shootings in a demonstration that devolved into clashes with police when protesters threw chairs through windows of a Starbucks coffee shop and damaged about 20 other businesses.

It was the most violent of several protests to hit Anaheim in recent weeks.

The shootings that led to those demonstrations occurred as law enforcement data shows a recent spike in the use of deadly force by Anaheim police. The city's officers have opened fire in the line of duty seven times so far in 2012, compared with only four officer-involved shootings in all of last year and one in 2010, police said. Five people have died from police shootings this year alone.

Police say their increased use of firearms coincides with officers facing more armed gang members in recent months.

FBI statistics show the number of violent crimes in Anaheim rose to 1,281 in 2011 from 1,161 the year before, while murders more than doubled to 15. At the same time, the number of violent crimes reported to police across the United States fell by 4 percent in 2011, according to the FBI.

On Friday, more than 100 federal agents and local police officers fanned out across Orange County to target an Anaheim street gang. Forty-nine people face criminal charges following the crackdown, federal officials said.

At a City Council meeting on Wednesday, some residents took to the microphone to complain that in certain Anaheim neighborhoods people are not doing enough to stop crime by cooperating with police or keeping their children out of gangs.

But a larger share of speakers at the meeting, which took place among shouting matches and heckling, called for district-based council elections. Many of those arguing for the change were Latino, and some addressed the council in Spanish.

"Having district elections will really open the door to so many communities that have been shut down by the city of Anaheim," said resident Marisol Ramirez, 20.

(Editing by Steve Gorman and Vicki Allen)

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Comments (3)
DDavid wrote:
The whites don’t just live in Anaheim Hills, they are sprinkled all over this huge city which spans more than 13 miles E to W and touches dozens of other city’s. Anaheim Hills is relatively small to the rest of the city and they have more parks only because it’s newer and the land is there. While they would have to raise houses to build more parks in the older sections.
The cops in California equate to the Gestapo of ol’ Germany. Gee, I was treated better there then, as here in California now. Even when one just needs help and approaches a cop you are handled like a potential criminal. One is afraid to get directions from a Calif Cop because he may search you and write some ticket to something that never happened. They lie thru their teeth. (That I can proof)

When I first came to Calif I stopped at Restaurant to get a bite to eat. I looked out my window and saw a man being beat and he didn’t do anything — he may have said something, but I could not hear sound thru the window. Just last month or so, a man sitting on the park bench in Fullerton was beat to death by cops on suspicion of stealing a car, which in reality turned out to be a crank call to the police station. Shoot first, ask questions later is California Policy.
Our Cops are true Thugs. When I walk in Santa Ana gang district to buy an item at a store I have less fear then when I see a cop anywhere in California. That’s how bad it is.
If I was a visitor I would never set foot in California, from the incidents I have seen. Or stay away from cities.

When I lived in Downey, Calif. working as an Engineer on the Apollo Space Program, I lived next to a cop party house. The stories I overheard bragging how they beat someones’ head in was sickening. I just took it with a grain salt that it was just that “bragging with no truth”. Now I wish I had recorded the many incidents to show that these cop mishaps aren’t just isolated incidents. It’s always grabs me when I hear people say how free you are, when I was freer walking down Marianplatz on Oktoberfest with a beer laughing and singing. You don’t know what free is Mr. California.

Aug 11, 2012 5:59pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
elsewhere wrote:
The first thing that must be done is for the Latino community to stop supporting gang members and giving them safe harbor. They must condem them and testify against any who violate the law. Otherwise the police will not provide help and will retreat from any responsibility other than self preservation.

No one wants to face Hispanic gangs in a crowd of unknown loyality. If they don’t receive community support they will only try to survive. When minorities learn this simple fact the sooner we can go about fixing this country’s problems. They should be part of the solution not the root of the problems.

Aug 11, 2012 11:33pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
CountryPride wrote:
How’s that illegal immigrant invasion working out for you California? The illegals and their supporters have declared war on America, this is a foreign invasion of our country and now it is clear they want to take it over, look at how now they are trying to take over the government. It is time for Americans to take matters into their own hands to protect the country because it is obvious our government will not and instead chooses to reward and aid these foreign criminal invaders at the expense of American citizens.

Aug 11, 2012 11:50pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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