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ACTIVISTS CLAIM SANTA ANA POLICE CRACKING DOWN ON DISSENT

by Duane J. Roberts Thursday, Feb. 27, 2003 at 7:44 PM
duaneroberts92804@yahoo.com

Massive police presence at last Santa Ana City Council meeting leads to arrest, harassment, and illegal detentions

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

ACTIVISTS CLAIM SANTA ANA POLICE CRACKING DOWN

ON DISSENT

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

riot gear.

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

order.

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

noise inside.

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

of .

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

over.

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

nature.

"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

area."

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

one man.

"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

night.

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

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