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

by Tricky Dick Friday, Feb. 07, 2003 at 5:51 AM

"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 Cuauhtmoc, 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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