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Anaheim residents warn that city is at risk of more violence

August 2, 2012 |  3:10 pm

Protesters gather in front of the Anaheim Police Department recently
Anaheim residents on Thursday told City Council members that they blamed “outsiders” for the violence that welled up during last week’s street protests and warned that the city could be at “grave risk” of another riotous incident.

The midday public forum was held before council members went behind closed doors, where -- among other things -- they were expected to discuss a lawsuit that seeks to force the city to adopt council districts, rather than at-large voting.

The suit argues that at-large voting marginalizes the city’s Latino residents, who make up Anaheim’s majority. Anaheim is the largest city in California that still has at-large voting.

“We are at grave risk of another large incident,” warned resident Richard Ulquin, who suggested the city give second thought to its plan to hold a citywide forum next week.

Ulquin said the city could be setting itself up “to have another riot” if it goes forward with the community forum.

Several of the 20 or so speakers said that “outsiders” had infiltrated last week’s protests, which were in response to the fatal police shootings of two Latino men.

Speakers also said that the city needs to dramatically change the way the voters select their city leaders to ensure that the city’s Latino neighborhoods are better represented.

One resident urged council members to hire a Latino police chief and suggested that the owners of the city’s best known attraction, Disneyland, had stood in the path of change.

“Unfortunately, Disney wanted a white Police Department and a white police chief,” said William Fitzgerald, one of the older speakers in the crowd. “And Disneyland gets what it wants.”

Fitzgerald, who underscored that he has nothing against the city’s current chief, said that if that city had a Latino at the helm of the Police Department, the violence would not have occurred.

Others speakers also pointed to Disney as having an outsized influence in the city.

Barbra Kordiak, who identified herself as a longtime protester of alleged police misconduct, said “we need to clean up the Anaheim Police Department from the top on down.”

She said residents deserve “a Police Department we can trust and work with, and that’s not what we have now.”

Though there was a whiff of anger in the air, most of the speakers seemed calm and urged city leaders to likewise remain calm.

“We need to do something to bring everyone together,” said John Dunton, a member of the Anaheim Coalition for a Peaceful Community. “We can’t turn the clock back, but we can move forward.”

Several dozen uniformed police officers stood inside and outside the council chambers during the hearing.

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-- Mike Anton

Photo: Protesters gather in front of the Anaheim Police Department in response to two fatal police shootings. Credit: Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times

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