Wednesday, February 26, 2003
ACTIVISTS CLAIM SANTA ANA POLICE CRACKING DOWN
Massive police presence at last City Council meeting
leads to arrest, harassment, and illegal detentions
By Duane J. Roberts
SANTA ANA, CA -- Last week, when several Mexican moms
pushing baby strollers decided to walk from their
working-class neighborhood to a meeting of the Santa
Ana City Council, little did they forsee the
possibility that a contingent of heavily armed police
officers would be waiting for them dressed in full
In a scene reminiscent to the kind of gross
overreaction that Anaheim police displayed in January
when they deployed a small platoon to harrass a
political prisoner benefit show, more than two dozen
police officers were dispatched to Santa Ana
City Hall that evening to protect Council Chambers
from the "threat" these moms posed to law and
Activists allege that the massive police presence
at the Tuesday, February 18, 2003 meeting of
the Santa Ana City Council was done for the
purpose of discouraging community members from
publicly criticizing them for killing Elmer Bustos
late last month.
Santa Ana police claim that Bustos was a parole
violator who was shot to death in self-defense when he
pulled a gun on two officers who pursued him after
ignoring their orders to halt.
Activists claim that when the moms tried to enter
Council Chambers, Santa Ana police forced them to
leave their children outside in the lobby by
threatening to arrest them if they cried or made
However, despite the huge number of police officers
at the City Council meeting, everyone who was
there was provided with an opportunity to express
their concerns about the shooting during the
public comments section.
But one activist who left the meeting early soon
found himself surrounded by Santa Ana police not far
from Council Chambers because the bicycle he borrowed
from a friend that night didn't have a license.
Since he wasn't carrying any identification on him,
they slapped the handcuffs on and hauled him off
to jail, running his fingerprints through a database
to do a criminal background check.
Although concerned family members contacted the jail
almost immediately after his arrest, even volunteering
to come down to bring them his driver's license, they
declined the offer.
While in custody, a Santa Ana police detective
interrogated him asking several questions about his
political views and beliefs and the organizations
he was affiliated with.
He was eventually released from custody at 3 a.m. the
next morning with a misdemeanor citation to appear
in court in April.
The offense he was charged with carries a maximum fine
In addition to the arrest and harrassment of activists
and community members, Santa Ana police are also
alleged to have been patrolling the streets around
City Hall and illegally stopping people who were
walking on the sidewalks nearby.
In one confirmed report, six police officers detained
a group of four men for about 45 minutes because
they crossed the street at an intersection -- while
the traffic light was still green.
One of the men claims an officer drove up directly
behind the group on his motorcycle and repeatedly
gunned his engine as if he was preparing to run them
Although police ostensibly told the men they were
being stopped because they had "jay-walked," the
entire group was split up and officers began asking
each of them questions of an explicitly political
"Are you an anarchist?" one man recalled being asked
by the police officer interrogating him. "Do you know
anything about the Immokalee Workers? [a labor union]"
was the question posed to another.
When one man asked why they were being detained, a
police officer allegedly said "his boss told them
to stop anyone in the area if they looked like they
were going to protest ... to get them out of the
Shortly before the men were released, the supervising
officer on the scene brought the group back together
and asked if anyone had felt they had been "harassed"
by Santa Ana Police that night.
"Yes, I feel I'm being held for no reason," replied
"I'll tell you what. I'll give you a ticket and your
three friends a ticket if you feel harassed!" this
officer is alleged to have said in response.
No tickets were issued.
The arrest, harassment, and illegal detention by
Santa Ana police of persons peacefully exercising
their constitutional right to free speech and
assembly on the evening of Tuesday, February 18, 2003
is raising serious questions about the state of civil
liberties in that city.
People concerned about this issue are strongly
encouraged to attend the next meeting of
the Santa Ana City Council to show their disapproval
over how police conducted themselves that
The next one is currently scheduled for Monday,
March 3, 2003 @ 6:00 P.M. in Council Chambers at 22
Civic Center Plaza, Santa Ana, CA.
See the following URL for more information: http://www.ci.santa-ana.ca.us/mayor/council/meetings/default.htm