ANAHEIM – Visitors to Disneyland are used to spectacle, but tourists at the park’s main entrance on Saturday saw something unusual: Protesters with signs criticizing the Anaheim Police Department.
The protesters, whose numbers grew to about 50 by late afternoon, came to take issue with the recent spate of fatal officer-involved shootings in Anaheim. City officials have called for state and federal investigations into the incidents.
Protesters carried signs, chanted anti-police slogans and engaged in conversations with anyDisneyland Resort visitors curious enough to approach them.
Motorists driving by on Harbor Boulevard occasionally honked their horns and raised their fists in solidarity. Otherwise, it was a peaceful protest that had started out with members of the media who were covering the gathering nearly outnumbering the dozen or so protesters who had arrived around noon.
A silent “peace walk” is scheduled for noon Sunday, starting and ending at Anaheim City Hall. A posting on Facebook under the heading “WE are Anaheim, SOMOS Anaheim” asks those who come to wear white shirts and bring “positive signs” along with “a Positive and Pacifist mind-set.”
Many of the protesters at Disneyland were from Los Angeles, and were part of Mexica Movement, an indigenous rights group that considers “Hispanic” and “Latino” as pejorative, “Eurocentric” labels.
Others came from Anaheim, Santa Ana, Costa Mesa and other parts of Orange County, and said they had participated in the protests earlier in the week that had turned ugly. Some of them brought their children and grandchildren.
Gabriela Hernandez of Costa Mesa, a 32-year-old social worker who counsels families, had witnessed the beginning of the violence Tuesday night near Anaheim City Hall. She left when things began to get out of hand. On Saturday, she stood with her two daughters, 11 and 12, holding signs as part of the protest outside Disneyland.
Hernandez said she wants people to know that the protesters include hard-working professionals like her who are not interested in violence but want to see justice done.
“This has been ongoing,” Hernandez said of what she called police brutality allegations and “bad apples” in the Anaheim Police Department. “This is nothing recent.”
Her older daughter, Angelina Alvarez, wore her green Girl Scout vest and held a sign that read “I’m a Girl Scout. Would you shoot me Anaheim PD?”
Other signs held by protesters addressed the police with such messages as “End police violence,” “No more racist cops” and “Fire the Police Chief.” Another depicted a character resembling Mickey Mouse giving a Nazi salute.
Tourists gave the protesters curious looks, some of them stopping to read the signs as they walked into the park, or even snapping photos of the protesters. Most tourists simply walked into the park.
In the early part of the day, more than 10 mounted police officers stood by watching about 100 yards south on Harbor Boulevard, and every few minutes an Anaheim police car cruised up the street.
“I think that they’re here to intimidate the protesters,” said Iris Thomas of Hemet, whose nephew Martin Angel Hernandez was shot and killed by Anaheim officers in March.
The protesters, who had all left by 4:30 p.m., did not impede any part of the sidewalk or Harbor Boulevard traffic.
Disneyland Resort spokeswoman Suzi Brown said the company would not comment on the protesters’ presence.
Anaheim police officers who observed the Saturday protest said it had remained peaceful.
It was a different scene on Tuesday, when dozens of protesters denied entry to the Anaheim City Council meeting took to the streets. As the evening went on, the group grew to about 1,000 people and became unruly, pelting police with rocks, blocking traffic on major boulevards, smashing storefront windows, and setting fires. Anaheim authorities called in hundreds of police officers from around Southern California to help quell the crowd. All told, more than 20 people were arrested.
On Saturday, barricades stood in front of the Police Department’s headquarters.
The protesters outside Disneyland had little positive to say about Anaheim police.
Olin Tezcatlipoca, Mexica Movement’s director, called the shootings and the Police Department’s reactions to them, “racist.”
“If it had been blond-haired, blue-eyed kids, it never would have happened that way,” he said.
Police and union officials have said it was the victims’ actions that prompted the officers to shoot the men who later died from their wounds.
Marisol Briseño, 25, who was born and raised in Anaheim, has a different view from that of the protesters. Briseño was visiting Disneyland on Saturday and saw the Mexica Movement group.
“This is ridiculous,” she said, adding that she was unhappy with the damage the protesters caused in downtown Anaheim earlier in the week.
“You choose to live your life a certain way,” she said, adding that the protesters have focused their passions in the wrong directions.
Briseno said she believes the shooting victims were targeted not because they’re Latino, but because they were suspected criminals: “You either get up and go to work, or you go out and steal a car.”
Protester Patty Diaz, 23, of Anaheim said some of the Disneyland visitors stopped to find out why she and the others were there, while others “are upset because we’re interrupting their nice vacation.”
Diaz, wearing dark sunglasses and dressed in black, said she lives in the same neighborhood where Martin Angel Hernandez was killed and was a friend of his. She wants people to know how the officer-involved shootings are impacting her community.
“When a community member of color gets shot by the police, we don’t get as much attention as when a white person in Anaheim Hills gets shot.”
By LOU PONSI, MICHAEL MELLO and THERESA WALKER / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced Orange County Bail Bondsman to assist you in any bail situtation.