Welcome to Anaheimistan

On July 29, several groups gathered in front of the Anaheim Police Department to demonstrate against a recent spate of police shootings including Occupy Oakland, Los Angeles and San Diego. Theresa Smith, who had been protesting outside of the Anaheim Police Department since her son Caesar Cruz was shot by police in 2009, was joined by supporters and other families affected by officer-involved shootings, who have called on the demonstrations to be peaceful in light of the vandalism at a protest on Tuesday.  Later on in the evening, nine protesters were arrested during a march to a vigil for Diaz, at least four of them from the Occupy movement.

The families of Manuel Diaz and Joel Acevedo have been out of the limelight since Tuesday’s riots,and many demonstrators from the neighborhoods where the shootings occurred were not present during Sunday’s march. Members of the Occupy movement swooped in from Oakland, Los Angeles and San Diego; as well as socialist, anarchist and other anti-police brutality groups. About 20 police officers mounted on horses lined the street in front of protesters, leading a few demonstrators to shout “Get those animals off of those horses!”

As the families affected by police killings stayed back at the police station, a group of about 200 protesters marched down Harbor Boulevard in an attempt to march to Disneyland, where another demonstration was taking place.

As protesters moved south from police headquarters, the cops followed, some in black vans, which passed by with SWAT officers in body armor hanging onto the sides of the vehicles, ready to deploy, as helicopters hovered ahead. The closest the two groups came to clashing happened about 15 minutes into the march, near Ball Road, when some 20 horse-mounted Orange County Sheriff’s deputies, as well as police officers from Anaheim and Santa Ana, chased demonstrators off the street and onto the sidewalk.

As they scattered, the protesters hurled curses and insults at police. “Save a life,” shouted one. “Kill yourself!”

As the police corralled protesters, one officer, evidently impatient with the stragglers, seemed to be seething with rage. He nearly lost control of his horse, which, for a few terrifying seconds, tilted toward the demonstrators on the sidewalk, dangerously close to toppling over.

Two blocks farther south, protesters reached the intersection of Harbor Boulevard and Ball Road, where police horses and the Anaheim SWAT team formed a half-circle, their weapons drawn. Unlike at previous protests, there were no projectiles thrown at the cops. Instead, many demonstrators looked visibly scared. “Are they going to shoot us?” one person asked.

Police issued no orders to disperse, instead repeating their demand that protesters stick to the sidewalk. But more than 100 of them sprinted down a side street; they were followed by officers, who quickly surrounded them.

Atef Nadal, an Anaheim resident who ran with the group, said that Latino residents started to come out of their homes, offering water and support, even hosing down some of the sweat-drenched protesters. “They were throwing their fists in the air and showing they were sympathetic with what we were protesting against, which is police brutality and harassment in Anaheim neighborhoods,” he said.

As police moved in on the demonstrators, prepared to make arrests, residents screamed at the police, “Leave them alone!” and, “Go home!” Within moments, officers put away their batons, apparently acting in response to an order from superiors to back up and mount up. No arrests were made, and protesters, who swiftly moved onto the sidewalks, passed around the police blockade without incident.

Little did Nadal know, he would be arrested only hours later in a snatch and grab attempt by police.

Nadal, with at least three other protesters were reportedly snatched up by police while marching to a vigil in the Anna Drive neighborhood honoring Manuel Diaz around 6 p.m.

One of the other arrestees was Richard Brown of Occupy Los Angeles. Witness Sam Aresheh said demonstrators were on their way to the neighborhood from the police station when police officers dressed in military fatigues jumped out of their vans and grabbed the protesters, who were peacefully demonstrating on the sidewalk.

Earlier on the day of his arrest, Brown showed off the sign he spent most of the day making at Kinko’s, which read, “Hey Kids! Check out my military police!”

Brown confirmed he is being charged with assaulting a police animal; he says he’s innocent. Nadal confirmed he is being charged with the same crime.

Shortly after being arrested, Nadal sent out this message to his followers on Twitter.

Aresheh says all of the protesters were on the sidewalk at the time of the arrests, and he denied that they had harmed the police horses during the march. Because Nadal and Brown were the ones to call out “Mic check!” to announce the march to the vigil, Aresheh says he believes they were targeted as “leaders” of the march.

Both Nadal and Brown were told the city was in a “state of emergency” and they could not be released until after it was declared over. After posting bail, Nadal left jail at 2 a.m. this morning, while Brown left about two hours later.

The Orange County Register released the names of nine people arrested, with Nadal’s name nowhere in sight. Nadal confirmed he was indeed arrested and spent the night in jail.

Brown was arrested on suspicion of throwing an object at police and providing a false name, and his companion Kristine Headley was arrested on suspicion of failure to disperse. Brown and Headley were among the four that Aresheh witnessed snatched up by police, as well as Govanni Loeza of Santa Ana, who was arrested on suspicion of throwing an object at police.

Here is the list of the rest of the individuals arrested on Sunday.

Nathaniel Sierdsma, 19, San Bernardino, suspicion of resisting arrest and pedestrian in the roadway from Occupy Los Angeles

Mark Dameron, 20, San Diego, suspicion of resisting arrest and pedestrian in the roadway from Occupy San Diego

Corbin Sobrita, 20, Escondido, suspicion of resisting arrest and pedestrian in the roadway from Occupy San Diego

Antonio Marquez, 24, Indiana, suspicion of resisting arrest and failure to obey an official street sign

Juvenile, 16, Anaheim, suspicion of felony assault and indecent exposure

Juvenile, 16, Anaheim, suspicion of resisting arrest and possession of less than one ounce of marijuana

Video where Nadal was arrested can be shown arrested at 1:32 and led to a white police van at 2:02. At 2:46 Brown is chased by police after holding up his Mickey Mouse military sign. Headley is arrested a few moments later.

Versions of this article originally featured in the print edition of OC Weekly Aug. 2 and OC Weekly’s Navel Gazing blog on July 30

Amber Stephens
amber.stephens@gmail.com