Anti-police brutality protests staged in Anaheim

Hernandez's son Zahid at a demonstration on March 10

Two separate demonstrations took place over the weekend protesting Anaheim Police officer-involved shootings.

More than 100 residents of an Anaheim neighborhood took to the streets Saturday night in a march from Ponderosa Park to an alley on Wakefield Avenue where 21-year-old Martin Angel Hernandez was shot by police March 6.

The incident was the fourth officer-involved shooting in Anaheim this year. Last year, there were four officer-involved shootings total.

A dozen Anaheim Police officers wearing ballistic helmets were on the scene. Four officers were at the far end of the alley and eight were standing on the side closest to the memorial. Some demonstrators shouted expletives at the officers and others stood silently facing the police car holding a sign that read, “Stop Police Violence!”

Sgt. Bob Dunn of the Anaheim Police Department said there were no arrests or violent incidents at the demonstration.

According to The Orange County Register, the shooting occurred when officers responded to reports of five or six males in the alley and at least one of whom was allegedly seen with a firearm. A patrol officer shot one of the males about 15 minutes later.

Dunn told the OC Register it does not appear Hernandez fired the weapon.

Hernandez was released from jail in December stemming from a misdemeanor contempt of court conviction. The Register reported Hernandez was named in an Orange County District Attorney gang injunction in July 2010.

The District Attorney investigates officer-involved shootings. The investigations can take anywhere from nine months to a year. The Anaheim Police Department is also conducting its own investigation.

The OC Register reported police were called to the area Wednesday afternoon, when a group of about 100 families and friends gathered in front of the memorial. On Thursday night, more than 200 mourners gathered in the alley where police were also called out. There were no arrests made on either day.

Protesters marching through the Ponderosa neighborhood

At Saturday’s demonstration, protesters chanted “Que viva Martin!” “Whose streets? Our streets!” and “No justice, no peace!” during the half-mile walk to the alley.

Friends and family members gathered around a makeshift memorial holding signs to support justice for Hernandez. Hernandez’s three-year-old son Zahid wore a sign that read “My daddy will get justice!”

A group stood on top of a roof of a double car garage where speakers addressed the crowd below. Sonia Hernandez, Martin’s sister, reminisced about growing up with her brother.

“Martin was always a loving person, even when he was a little kid,” she said. “… Throughout the years I’ve known him, he was never disrespectful to anybody.”

The crowd chanted “No justice, no peace, no racist police!” and “Martin! Martin!” between speeches. The rest of the speakers expressed anger and grief over the death of Hernandez. His stepfather Isaias Rincon said he was a dedicated father trying to turn his life around.

The mother of his son, Marla Perez, held back tears as she spoke about the last time she saw Hernandez.

“The last time I saw Martin, he was playing with his son,” she told the crowd. “They were pretending to be dinosaurs and (pretending to) eat each other … It was the first time they slept together (in the same bed).”

Theresa Smith (left) outside of the Anaheim Police Department

On Sunday, a group of about 15 protesters in a separate demonstration stood outside the Anaheim Police Department with signs protesting officer-involved shootings.

Theresa Smith, a Fullerton resident, has organized weekly peaceful protests ever since her son, 35-year-old Caesar Cruz, died after he was shot by Anaheim Police in 2009. The Orange County District Attorney did an investigation and found that the shooting was justified.

Smith has been active in pursuing justice for her son. Civil dispositions for a lawsuit the family has filed started last summer.

Jeff Levine (pictured far right) participated in the Kelly Thomas protests last summer outside of the Fullerton Police Department

For more than a year and a half, Smith’s demonstrations consisted of herself and family members. Since the officer-involved death of Kelly Thomas last July, it has brought attention to the stonewalling family members receive from authorities during the investigations of such incidents.

Smith has coordinated with other families whose loved ones have died in officer-involved shootings to protest outside of the department. She said the number of supporters is growing but some people are still afraid to come out to protest.

“Someone asked me recently why I am not afraid to be out here,” she said. “I’m not afraid. I’ve been out here for two years. They (the Anaheim Police) can’t hurt me anymore than they already have.”

Originally featured in The Daily Titan

Read more about Theresa Smith’s fight for justice

Click here for a timeline of the case of Kelly Thomas

Amber Stephens