Community Activists Respond to a Very Real Hypothetical
By Brent E. Beltrán
Barrio Logan’s national landmark, Chicano Park, is sacred space to the multitude of people that visit every year. It is the epicenter of Chicanx art and culture in San Diego and “el ombligo de Aztlán” as poetic wordmaestro alurista once wrote.
After the white supremacist terror in Charlottesville, Virginia I thought about what I would do if nazis and white supremacists decided to hold a rally in Chicano Park, steps away from my home.
Attacks by white supremacists and right wing groups are not something new to Chicano Park. The Minutemen tried to protest Chicano Park Day and cowered behind a police line, having to be escorted to their cars.
In the darkness of night religious fanatics have vandalized murals depicting Mesoamerican gods. Cuban exile extremists have spray painted slogans and paint bombed imagery of the Cuban Revolution. And most recently social media threats by the KKK directed at Chicano Park the night before Trump’s rally at the convention center.
Knowing this history it didn’t take much thinking on my part. I would fight and help organize others to do the same. But, I wondered, what would others do knowing that this isn’t an unreal possibility? So I asked a few of my friends, what would you do if nazis and white supremacists tried to hold a rally in Chicano Park?
“If Nazis and white supremacists tried holding a rally at Chicano Park, I would protest it and I’m certain that many organizations that have struggled in this community and park, would come together to do so as well. It is my duty as an activist and resident of Barrio Logan to protect my community, including Chicano Park, this is our land! Last year, a day before Trump came to San Diego, Chicano Park got threats from the KKK, myself along with other Mechistas and students from San Diego City College were at the park making posters for the Trump protest when we read Union del Barrio’s status saying that the KKK wanted to harm our park. We decided to stay and be vigilant to whatever they were planning to do. That evening, many activists showed up from the Brown Berets of Aztlán, to Unión del Barrio, MEChA de SDCC, and many others, ready to protect our parque. We didn’t know what the consequences were going to be, but we knew that our task was to keep our community safe, protect our park and murals. By having our presence there, by coming together as a community, our efforts showed and the racist threat was called off.” – Joanie Lopez, Barrio Logan resident/activist
“The white terrorists are feeling pretty emboldened right now. But, as dumb as they are, I have to believe they aren’t that dumb. If, however, they did come to Chicano Park, I’d most likely end up in jail.” – Mark Lane, activist
“To me Chicano Park is sacred ground and in the midst of this spirituality it should not be allowed. And in regard to our history of takeover and current historical status, they can go to hell.” – Victor Ochoa, Chicano Park co-founder/muralist
“Stand for our park!!! Not allow it!!!! Call out for all Raza to stand alongside me!!” – Tina Camarillo, Chicano Park Steering Committee
“Chicano Park, as is The People’s Lot, is a sacred pocket of resistance that will always be protected. We would utilize our CommUnity Vanguard Colectivo to protect the sanctity of the park, as it has been protected from invaders throughout its history.” – Francisco Mendoza, People Over Profits-SD
“The fascist cowards won’t dare come to our neighborhoods. They would be swarmed by a sea of people. This is why I feel semi-safe in my neighborhood. I know nazis won’t come here. And if they do, I know my neighbors and I will be ready. We are not here to understand nazis, we don’t consider hate speech free speech. If they try to spew hate speech at Chicano Park, they better hope the cops help them.” – Rafael Bautista, San Diego Tenants United
“I don’t think they have enough balls to even try that, but if they did, I’d be there ready to fight.” – Anabel Arauz, labor organizer/Las Tres Hermanas
“If nazi’s come to Chicano Park, I will stand. I will sing the songs of my ancestors and lift up sacred smoke. I will pray for strength and seek out the humanity of those who hate me as I stare fearlessly into their eyes. I will honor the Kumeyaay, first people of this land, and protect our sacred spaces. I will call on my family, friends and neighbors to stand with me. And we will not be moved.” – Olympia Andrade Beltrán, Barrio Logan resident/activist
“I would stand arm and arm with my brothers and sisters to prevent any nazi’s from stepping on our sacred ground!!” – Chris Zertuche, La Bodega Gallery and Studios
“The barrios of San Diego have a proud history of standing up against injustice. I am sure that if fascists and white supremacists dare to desecrate Chicano Park, one of the jewels of the Chicano Movement, considered sacred and historic land, I will be joining thousands of folks who will not allow hate to march unopposed. I know our communities will do everything in their power to protect Chicano Park in order to ensure that it continues to stand –as a testament to the power of the people in the face of oppression– for generations to come.” – Christian Ramirez, activist/District 8 City Council Candidate
“I would oppose nazis and white supremacists in our sacred homeland because they represent the complete opposite of the historical context of Chicano Park. Chicano Park is a statement of self-determination, equality, justice, respect, and love. Their presence in Chicano Park would represent violence and ugliness. That is why we need the Chicano Park Museum and Cultural Center to open in the park to educate on the true cultural, historical and scientific significance of Chicano Park and the Monumental Murals in San Diego, the region and the nation.” – Josie Talamantez, Barrio Logan resident/Chicano Park Museum and Cultural Center
There wasn’t a single person that responded that wouldn’t come to the aid of Chicano Park. Each may have different methods to oppose any potential threat by white supremacists but all agree that our park is worth defending.