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OC WEEKLY article on Anaheim Police response at Unitarian Church of OC on 1/25/03

by Tricky Dick Thursday, Feb. 06, 2003 at 9:51 PM

"Maybe [Anaheim Police] will hesitate next time they try to raid a political show."

From the OCWEEKLY

February 7 - 13, 2003

Show of Farce

Anatomy of an averted raid

by Gustavo Arellano

Police raids on punk concerts are nothing new; hell,

Black Flag made a career out of them. So concertgoers

attending a Jan. 25 political prisoners’ benefit show

at Anaheim’s Unitarian-Universalist Church weren’t

surprised that the city’s finest scoped out the venue

hours before a 7 p.m. show to benefit political

prisoners. They didn’t flinch when eight cop cars --

some with barking police dogs ready to chomp into

anarchist ass -- cruised into the nearby Benjamin

Franklin Elementary School parking lot. Event

organizers even waved hello to the three officers

spying from behind shrubbery across the street at

Anaheim Police Department headquarters.

Actually, the slow-motion raid began the day before,

according to Ruth Shapin, a Santa Ana attorney who

serves on the church’s seven-member board. That’s when

she fielded three phone messages from Anaheim Sergeant

Thomas Geary "strongly suggesting" the show not go on.

"He kept telling us that the group holding the event

caused trouble and that they would tear up the

building and the surrounding neighborhoods," recalls

Shapin.

In fact, the group coordinating the show was the

Orange County Revolutionary Collective (OCRC), which

has held several previous punk concerts at the same

church without problems. But Shapin says Geary’s

apocalyptic forecast of rampaging anarchists and

not-so-subtle pressuring spooked her and the board.

"So we told him we would call it off," she said.

Shapin then contacted fellow church member Duane

Roberts. Roberts, a longtime Anaheim activist, figured

more than mere concern for the facility motivated

Geary’s call to pull the plug on a concert that was

co-sponsored by the Anarchist Black Cross Federation.

"The police didn’t like the politics of the sponsors,"

Roberts alleged. "Once they saw the word ‘anarchist’

attached to the event, and some of the bands, such as

Over the Counter Intelligence and Cuauhtémoc, they

probably had visions of youth destroying property.

I’ll tell you this much: [the police] wouldn’t have

had a problem if we had a Dixieland band serenading

the Kiwanis Club."

The church board decided to reverse its previous

decision on the grounds that canceling the show would

be tantamount to endorsing censorship.

"Although [the church] doesn’t necessarily agree with

anarchist beliefs," Shapin says, "we do feel that they

have a right to express their views. This was a First

Amendment issue."

But just to make sure there would be no problems,

Roberts devised a plan. Geary had told Shapin the

church could hold only 50 people in the church at any

time without violating the building’s conditional use

permit. To circumnavigate this restriction, organizers

decided bands would perform in the church lobby, and

the audience would gather in the parking lot. They

proposed this idea to the police department Saturday

afternoon; the police approved. The concert was on

again.

But the police approval was apparently granted without

Geary’s knowledge. Roberts claims Geary went ballistic

when he found out about the renewal of the event. (The

Anaheim Police Department declined the Weekly’s

request to comment.)

Thus, the massive Geary-led police presence before the

show’s start.

Organizers and concertgoers claim Geary harassed them

throughout the night, at one point taping off a

church-leased parking lot to discourage anyone from

entering. Alarmed at the escalating repression, church

member Artie Castillo took action.

"I didn’t want anything to happen, so I called Geary’s

superior," Castillo says. "After that, Geary backed

off."

Or so it seemed. Shapin herself opened the event with

a particularly relevant "This Land Is Your Land" for

the young crowd. But a code-enforcement officer soon

arrived and deemed the concert illegal. He claimed

that the event was for entertainment purposes and the

church didn’t have a permit for that.

Geary and his platoon lined up in riot formation after

the code enforcer’s proclamation, ready to confront an

unruly mob. But the 70-plus attendees accepted the

decree, marched across the street to the police

station, and filled out 70 complaint forms accusing

Geary of intimidation and unconstitutionally shutting

down the concert.

The church board is currently deliberating what, if

any, legal recourse they’ll take against the police

department. "We want good relations with the police

department," Shapin stresses. "But the event shouldn’t

have been shut down. It was a political event, and

they didn’t seem to like that."

Roberts has already received assurances from Mayor

Curt Pringle and Councilman Richard Chavez that

they’re going to launch an investigation into Geary’s

actions. Roberts does see an upside to this ordeal.

"The police were surprised so many people came to the

police station in a disciplined matter," Roberts says.

"They’re not accustomed to people standing up to them

when they use the type of intimidation tactics they

did. Maybe they’ll hesitate next time they try to raid

a political show."

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