California: The Thrill Is Gone

Anaheim Police Brutality

Kelly Thomas

Anaheim Police Brutality

The thrill is gone. I have always been attracted to and loved California. When I received orders to go to Vietnam in the ‘60s, the last place I made sure I visited was San Francisco. After I was discharged from the military, I lived in several California cities throughout the state. Of course, it was only natural that once again before departing the United States we spent time in the Golden State; but, what a difference a few decades make!

It appeared to me that truly this was the best of times and the worst of times. In 1969, I wrote from Vietnam that “there may not be a heaven, but there is a California.” Today I would substitute hell for heaven.

The California I knew showcased religious leaders defending the poor and migrant workers while championing the cause of social justice. Now I see, especially in the Catholic church, nuns and “common” people who still have intact social consciences opposed by those with the real power and authority to set policy of the church.

These men have recognized that this particular time gives them an opportunity to push their partisan agendas through what has become the Republican party and as such have utilized every opportunity to oppose the president on so-called religious issues, something that would have never happened decades ago.

The police, an institution I was so proudly once part of, has, in some cities, degraded to tools of the ruling elite. We arrived in Southern California on our way to Vietnam shortly after Manuel Diaz (24) and Joel Acevedo (21) where gunned down by the members of the Anaheim Police Department even though both men were unarmed.

We were told that over the past year this police department had killed a total of eight people. Young Hispanic males told me that now whenever “racist cops” pull them over they raise their arms over their heads and never place their hands near their waist: “Once you put your hands near your belt, those (deleted) will shoot you and claim you were going for a gun.”

In Fullerton, it was more of the same. Kelly Thomas, from all accounts, was your average white guy throughout high school with a middle class home and whose father was something of a local war hero. But something happened after graduation. Kelly developed a range of mental illnesses, including schizophrenia.

As an adult, Thomas refused treatment and preferred the life of the homeless in Fullerton, the city he knew and loved. Everyone seemed to know Kelly and sympathize with his condition, except for a business owner near the upscale train station who objected to him using their restroom facilities “without making a purchase” and “annoying the paying customers” with his appearance and talking to himself.

What happened to Kelly did not make any sense to me until I heard this story from a resident who begged to remain anonymous. Apparently at times the business that had a problem with Kelly using its restroom facilities and “hurting their business” complained to local police who allegedly, while in uniform and on duty, would consume free beer at this facility. The manager of this facility was told they (Fullerton police) would take care of the situation.

Soon thereafter Kelly was spotted in the parking lot of the train station. Fullerton police were dispatched and, in view of about 100 shocked witnesses, were videotaped taunting and harassing Kelly. After about 10 minutes, Officer Manuel Ramos was filmed putting on gloves, placing them in front of Kelly’s face and stating “I’m going to fuck you up.”

jim rhodesFullerton police beat Kelly to the point of unconsciousness. Before he passed out, Kelly is recorded crying “Daddy, please help me; they are killing me. Daddy help me!” When medical rescue units arrived, Officer Manuel Ramos insisted the wounds he sustained beating Thomas be treated first while Kelly lay dying in the street.

How these actions can be excused and defended by city and police mouthpieces is beyond belief. Apparently, we are much safer here in Hanoi. The times, they have changed.

Jim Fuller

Posted: Friday, 10 August 2012

Published by the LA Progressive on August 10, 2012
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