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Holiday <i> Posada </i> Serves as Anaheim Protest

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Saying they are tired of violence in their city, 500 members of Anaheim’s Christian community used a Christmas celebration this week to assail city officials for their perceived indifference to crime.

Ministers from the Orange County Congregation Community Organizations said the members of the Anaheim City Council were invited to the group’s posada against crime Monday night at Pearson Park, but none appeared.

“Caesar is busy planning how to raise billions of dollars for Disneyland,” the Rev. Steve Mather of Anaheim First Presbyterian Church told the crowd, which filled the grandstand of the park’s softball field. “Caesar has money to spend for vast public works. But Caesar doesn’t have the time to help families plan for a drug-free Anaheim.”

Participants from 17 local churches said they are upset because the council has not delivered on its promise to develop a plan to halt the spread of gangs and drugs in the city. They also are upset over the Dec. 8 shooting death of Armando Hurtado, a 16-year-old parishioner of St. Boniface Roman Catholic Church.

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“When one of our priests visited the young man as he lay dying, a nurse at UC Irvine Medical Center told him that five young men had been brought in that night with wounds from drive-by shootings in the county,” the Rev. Ed Poetgen of St. Boniface said. “We need to do something about the great hurt in our community.”

Using the Mexican tradition of Las Posadas, which commemorates the search by Joseph and Mary for lodging, two residents portraying Joseph and Mary visited facades representing City Hall, schools, parks, the Police Department and families. In the procession, they futilely sought shelter, not to give birth to Jesus, but against Anaheim crime.

“We don’t have enough money,” the couple was told at the facade representing City Hall. “And you know we are too busy building our new arena and helping to expand Disneyland.”

Mayor Fred Hunter said he has talked to the ministers and has pushed on two occasions to raise taxes specifically to hire more police officers, but both the public and the council have rejected those plans. He said that when he asked the ministers to bring people to the council meetings to back him on the tax increases, they failed to respond.

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“I’m on their side, but where are we going to get the money?” he said. “You know the general public gets outraged any time we try to raise taxes for anything. I’m afraid there are no easy answers to crime.”

But parishioners who heard the ministers’ message said the city and the council need to do more to stop crime.

“I live close to the park and I see crime all the time, people buying and selling drugs,” said Bonnie Allen, a retired accountant. She said she hoped the large turnout would catch the council members’ attention.

“If they are up for election, it probably will,” Allen said.

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Mather said the churches plan to keep hammering on their anti-crime message and could target at the ballot box councilmen perceived as uncooperative.


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