Disneyland, shopping, restaurants, and crystal clear oceans are what the average person may think about Orange County but there is more to the OC than these luxuries. Just this past Saturday (February 27th) there was a KKK protest that was met with anti-protesters in Anaheim and a protest against the Santa Ana Police Department seeking justice for Ernesto Canepa who was killed a year ago for allegedly committing a robbery. If these events are a representation of anything it is that the communities of color in the OC face great challenges against them in this supposedly safe county.
KKK in the OC
The KKK protest took place just a few miles away from Irvine, which is considered one of the safest cities in the U.S., in the city of Anaheim. A week before the protest was to take place the Grand Dragon ,terminology for a leader of the KKK in that State, announced on twitter his intentions to protest in Anaheim. There has been criticism by activist claiming the police and other media did not take these early signs seriously, leading to an altercation that did not have to take place. Below is a screenshot of a couple of his statements from the beginning of February.
The protest started around mid day at Pearson Park. Klan members were said to be saying that ,”White Lives Matter”, and had signs that read the same but they were quickly outnumbered by angry counter protesters. The violence took forms of fist fighting, kicking, and stabbings by blades and the ends of an American flag. Video of the different violent confrontations of the groups can be found here. The video shows that the anti protesters started the fights and the KKK were acting in self defense. Of course the validation of the KKK being there comes from their right to freedom of speech but that argument is hypocritical considering groups such as the Black Panthers who were encouraged to use violence as self defense were still eradicated. Counter protesters acting in violence does not compare to the horrendous violence the KKK’s history represents.
The clash of groups led to multiple arrest which included 5 KKK members and 7 counter protesters. There has been backlash by many activist who were outraged by the Anaheim Police Department’s decision to keep counter protesters behind bars while allowing the members of the KKK who were arrested to be released since they were said to be acting in self defense.
Activist took immediate action the following day in support of the remaining protesters still in jail. Many of their cardboard signs compare the Anaheim Police Department to the KKK and claim them to be just as racist. Although they may have been following policy, the acts taken by the APD do in fact protect racism spewed by the KKK. The KKK now have a positive relation with the police knowing they are being protected while the counter protesters now have a negative relationship knowing they will be put behind bars for fighting racism. The APD are also still searching for any others involved with the stabbings that took place. Since then protesters took to the street the following Monday night and held a vigil/march to City Hall to condemn the violent acts that occurred, an attempt to take back the city from an act of blatant white supremacy.
To many it may come as a surprise that this occurred in the OC in 2016 but it also proves that the post racial society many claim we are currently living in now does not exist.
The People V. SAPD
On the same day of the KKK incident I attended a protest against the injustice of the killing of Ernesto Canepa by the Santa Ana Police Department over a year ago and police brutality nation wide. In 2015 over a thousand individuals were killed by the police in the United States. The cops who killed Ernesto shot him 8 times, 6 to the face and 2 to the back. The cops actions were found to be justified. Ernesto was described by his family members as never being involved with gangs and someone who worked in construction. The meet up location was 3rd street and Shelton in Santa Ana, I was greeted warmly and saw many with signs in hand and ready to march. The mother of Ernesto spoke before the march and declared their three demands; the police officers involved in the killing to be fired, to be able to hold a private investigation, and to receive Ernesto’s car back which they are still paying for.
Ernesto’s mother condemned the SAPD for the killing of her son and for them targeting other young boys in the community. The Chicanos United page on Facebook claims that the SAPD told young men, “its open season on you mother f****ers and you have Goldenwest to thank”. Many at the protest claimed that the SAPD targets their young men of color and that they feel as if the SAPD are a gang themselves and that they act in ways of revenge. The mother also addressed that the SAPD hired more officers of color who represented their community in order to stop police brutality but she claimed it has not changed a thing.
The protest was relatively peaceful (in its actions not chants) and had one thing in mind, to send a message to the SAPD that the people of Santa Ana were always watching. The protest went through downtown Santa Ana and was followed closely by cops who did not intervene, only watched. At one intersection the demands were read out loud through a speaker where the police watched close by deterring traffic around us. After that a member of the Black Lives Matter movement from Long Beach read out loud the names of individuals killed by the police in Santa Ana, Oakland, Long Beach, and other states. Protesters also took the time to use chalk and write messages, ranging from anarchy signs to peace signs.
The climax of the march was in the heart of downtown Santa Ana where police officers stood in front of stores, a few feet away from protesters. Many took the chance to say what they could to the officers including their demands and other remarks. The police stood there with grins on their face, not knowing what to say. By the end of the protest organizers claimed it to be a success although the police gave little to no attention to us or the demands.
The night of the protest I attempted to find coverage of the protest but all I could find was an article about the protest a few days earlier. The KKK rally was all I could find, while I agree it is an issue that deserves much attention it should not drown out this great injustice that affects us more frequently. Racism obviously exist in groups like the KKK but the media is more hesitant to associate racism with an Orange County police department. Sadly the occurrence of both these events on the same day allowed the SAPD to hide behind the bigger story in the OC and allows them to continue to be unjust and not answer the demands of the families of the victims it takes. Orange County will continue to do all it can to not taint its image of perfection and never allow itself to be associated with racism.