Latinos in southern California are outraged after a local county parks commissioner and prominent conservative consultant posted a photo on a blog mocking victims of police shootings.
Matt Cunningham, a conservative blogger, posted a photo on his “Anaheim Blog” last week of a mauled teddy bear next to a Virgin of Guadalupe votive candle — items which are commonly found at makeshift, street memorials to those killed in police or gang violence throughout the Los Angeles area. In his post Cunningham compared the scene to those set up after a slew of police shooting in Anaheim last year and made light of activists’ responses.
Cunningham wrote that “This senseless tragedy seems to have struck a chord with the community,” and discussed “teddy bear participation in Anaheim municipal government.”
The post, which went live on December 12 – a day after Theresa Smith, the mother of Caesar Cruz killed by police in 2009, held a candlelight vigil for her son outside the Anaheim Police Department – drew the condemnation of many family members of the victims and Latino rights activists.
“You’re making fun of me losing a child, having to bury him,” Smith said, according to the Voice of Orange County. “I’m outraged. I’m absolutely outraged.”
Cunningham has since replaced the post with a message explaining why he put up the photos of the bear and candle.
“Regardless of my honest intent, it’s clear that feelings were hurt nonetheless, independently of anyone’s politics, and for that I am sorry,” Cunningham wrote. “This post was intended as satire of the tendency of leftists to claim tragedies of violence as evidence of this or that underlying systemic social injustice, and then to exploit them to push political/policy agendas.”
The general manager of the Orange County Employees Association Nick Berardino has called on the Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer to remove Cunningham from his position as county parks commissioner.
“He’s managed to assault and affront a whole community,” Berardino said, according to the Orange County Register. “and he shouldn’t be allowed to remain in a position of authority in our county.”
Spitzer responded that the earliest he could make a decision on Cunningham was in middle January, when the supervisors meet next.
“He is my commissioner,” Spitzer said, “so what he does reflects on me and my judgment.”
Anaheim has been plagued with tension between city officials – especially in the police department – and the Latino community. A series of police shootings that left a number of Latino men dead caused widespread riots and national media attention on greater Los Angeles.
The ACLU has since sued Anaheim to gain more Latino representation on the City Council, claiming the existing election system violates the California Voting Rights Act.