Every year for the past 43 years, August 29th has been commemorated and emulated by the National Chicano Moratorium Committee. On August 29, 1970, thousands of Chicanos and Mexican-Americans took to the streets in East LA to protest discrimination and lack of civil rights, and in particular, the high rates of the government draft of Chicanos for the Vietnam war. In a mixed setting of militancy and festiveness, the march was more a parade with children and families.
As wikipedia describes:
The Chicano Moratorium … was a movement of Chicano anti-war activists that built a broad-based coalition of Mexican-American groups to organize opposition to the Vietnam War. Led by activists from local colleges and members of the “Brown Berets”, a group with roots in the high school student movement that staged walkouts in 1968, the coalition peaked with an August 29, 1970 march in East Los Angeles that drew 30,000 demonstrators.
At some point during the original protest along Whittier Boulevard, the LA Police Department, as the LA Free Press reported then – taking from the report below- :
“made an unprovoked attack on the thousands of peaceful demonstrators, men, women and children; old and young; civilians and anti-war veterans. Some fought back. People grabbed children, knocked on doors of people living near the melee begging them to take in the youngsters for safety’s sake. Others ran for their lives.
The deputies, demonstrating that they were completely out of control and incompetent, threw tear gas grenades into the wind, an act not only dumb but filmed and later shown by LAPD in training classes about what not to do.
In the wake of this fiasco, an untold number were injured through their unwarranted actions, 3 lay dead, killed by the officers. L.A. Times Reporter, Ruben Salazar, was among the dead.”
Since that fateful event, the area has been the site of all the commemorations. This year was no different; the theme of this years Moratorium commemoration was “Education for Liberation, Not Assimilation.” Along with this theme the National Chicano Moratorium Committee also commemorated the life of Sal Castro who died earlier this year after his distinguished career in education, most notably supporting the East Los Angeles high school walkouts.
This year’s commemoration in the LA area was held this past weekend and began with a march from Belvedere Park at soon after 10 am to the location of the Silver Dollar bar for a memoriam to Ruben Salazar, the reporter – which is where he had escaped during the initial riot, and then on to Salazar Park for a rally.
The following are excerpts from a report written by Los Angeles Free Press reporter, Jan Tucker (.
National Chicano Moratorium: 43 Years Later
By Jan Tucker / Los Angeles Free Press
On this past Saturday, people all across the land remembered Martin Luther King’s famous dream, his vision that one day all people will be judged not by the color of their skin but by ‘the content of their character’. And with respect to that, we at the Los Angeles Free Press, turned our attention to another event that was being commemorated on the very same day. An event that, at the time, was under reported, its importance historically understated, an event we covered then, one we feel compelled to cover now.
It was a struggle for the very same ideal that was at the heart of Dr. King’s speech, and while it was marked here in LA on this past 24th, its true Anniversary is this coming 29th. It was the Chicano National Moratorium, a protest against the Vietnam War and its racist stance that held that Chicano lives were less valuable, and more disposable, than others.
LA had already seen Chicano protests. In 1968, Chicano students rose up and walked out as a protest against the public school’s unjust treatment of them; they were the Brown Berets. Their first protests encouraged Chicano neighborhoods in LA to march, and Chicano students in other states to also stand up against their schools’ inequitable policies. In turn, their families and their neighbors marched, as well. It was one of America’s most potent student led movements.
And as the Vietnam War recruited more of their number, and their death toll mounted in percentages far above those of other minorities who had also been called in for service, family members and supporters, near and far, converged in East LA and the National Chicano Moratorium began. It was a Civil Rights march if there ever was one and, with more than 30,000 participants, it was the largest the City had seen in its history. It could not be ignored nor, apparently, could it be allowed.
While the mainstream press reduced the numbers and remarked on the noise, it was the Los Angeles Free Press that made it front page news with not just one, but two, detailed articles. These were found under the bold headline – WAS SALAZAR MURDERED?
Ruben Salazar, the LA Times reporter who often articulated the Chicano viewpoint and who would have certainly written a true account of that day was, in fact, killed that day, as was Brown Beret Lyn Ward and demonstrator Angel Diaz. At a later demonstration the next year, Sephardic Jew Gustav Montag would join these martyrs in death, likewise, by the horrific actions of LA Police Department. They, and others were spoken of and honored at this year’s Commemoration as Chicano activists again put their Civil Rights issue on front and center stage in Los Angeles. …
As the LA Free Press reported – nearly 43 years ago – , the Los Angeles Police Department made an unprovoked attack on the thousands of peaceful demonstrators, men, women and children; old and young; civilians and anti-war veterans. Some fought back. People grabbed children, knocked on doors of people living near the melee begging them to take in the youngsters for safety’s sake. Others ran for their lives. …
In the wake of this fiasco, an untold number were injured through their unwarranted actions, 3 lay dead, killed by the officers. L.A. Times Reporter, Ruben Salazar, was among the dead. He had taken refuge in what was then the Silver Dollar Bar on Whittier Boulevard. … Ruben Salazar was hit in the head with the projectile. … If it had been properly fired at a downward projectile, Ruben Salazar would not have been hit in the head with it.
Every year for 43 years these events have been commemorated and emulated by the National Chicano Moratorium Committee (NCMC) along with promotion of the issues of the day. Today, American wars in Afghanistan and throughout the world replace the war in Southeast Asia as issues of concern. Racism still abounds. As just one example that has people wondering whether anything has changed in Los Angeles, the theme of this years NCMC commemoration was “Education for Liberation, Not Assimilation.” Along with this theme NCMC commemorated the life of Sal Castro who died earlier this year after his distinguished career in education, most notably supporting the East Los Angeles high school walkouts. An October 11, 1968 Los Angeles Freep article was headlined “Education, Not Eradication,” began “Sal Castro won his teaching job back at Lincoln High School because the new militant Mexican American movement here demanded it and fought for it….”
The march started from Belvedere Park at 10:15 a.m., marching initially to the location of the Silver Dollar bar for a memoriam to Ruben Salazar. From there it proceeded the rest of the approximately four (4) mile total march to Salazar Park (3864 Whittier Blvd) and the rally began around 12:45 p.m., just a little past schedule. About 300 people made the march this year.
Typical for an off-year (the 10 and 5 year events usually draw much bigger crowds, such as the 40 year commemoration in 2010), the peak attendance was estimated as around 450-500 with overall 650 attendees. Although several media outlets had indicated possible attendance including the Los Angeles Times and KTLA TV, only one reporter showed up….but with several competing Martin Luther King 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington events the same day…..combined with the trend of newsroom cutbacks, coverage of the Moratorium got short shrift. The competition with MLK events as well drew many of the usual suspects inclined to show solidarity with NCMC.
As in earlier commemorations and at the August 29, 1970 event, there were cultural performances. Danza Mexica Cuauhtemoc danced during the march from Belvedere Park (literally the whole four miles!) and then led off the ceremony with a traditional dance. Son Jarocho (Veracruz style music) band Son Real delighted the crowd with several traditional Son Jarocho numbers and later, Native American Singer-Songwriter Relf Alison Star performed her original music ending with a piece she wrote about violence against the LGBTI community in rural California….and that was the perfect segue for speakers from the Latino Equality Alliance, Eddie Martinez and Ari Gutierrez. …
NCMC has once again been invigorated and national organizations are moving forward to expand NCMC participation and activities throughout the United States. People or groups who are interested in forming NCMC regions can contact this writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.