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Youth Fight Back & Build Movement for Justice

by Carlos Montes |
March 1, 2000
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This is a photo of a mass march against Proposition 21.
East L.A. protest hits Proposition 21, a ballot initiative that criminalizes youth of color. (Fight Back! News/George Iechika McKinney)

East Los Angeles, CA - The campaign to defeat Proposition 21, the war on youth ballot initiative, climaxed with a statewide week of rage, and protests led by young people. Thousands of L.A. youth protested by walking out of school, and marching through the middle of East Los Angeles, chanting, "Schools not Jails!"

The New Raza Left organized a spirited, disciplined, multinational protest march to the L.A. County Central Jail on February 26. The purpose was to educate and mobilize against Proposition 21 and other police attacks. To the beat of drums, chanting, "Educate Don't Incarcerate!" protestors held a rally right in front of the central jail.

Various youth speakers denounced the racist attacks against African American and Chicano/Latino youth. They called for continuing the effort to build a grassroots poor people's movement for justice and real freedom. Others spoke out against the poor conditions students and teachers suffer in the L.A. City schools, and the large amount of money spent to build more prisons and not schools. The march ended in downtown L.A. by blocking traffic.

Activists Sum-up Struggle

Proposition 21 passed due to the turnout of more conservative voters who came to vote for proposition 22 (anti-same-sex marriage) and for Proposition 21. Governor Davis, a moderate Democrat, gave his support to Proposition 21. The Chicano upper class was weak in its opposition to the measure, and some gave their outright backing - like Henry Cisneros, CEO of Univison, who did Public Service Announcements supporting 21.

In summing up this campaign, we saw that we cannot rely on liberal electoral politics and tactics. These were prioritized by groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and Southern Californians for Youth.

The New Raza Left and Youth Organizing Communities (YOC) relied on independent grassroots organizing, community outreach, and mass actions such as rallies and marches with a left perspective, critical of capitalist conditions.

We linked Proposition 21 to the other oppressive conditions people of color face the U.S. We know we must build our own militant movement uniting the community, youth and working-class poor people. We have no illusions of change within the current system. We are fighting for a fundamental change of this society, where the riches produced will be for the benefit of all people, not just the elite few rich who run this country and plunder the world's peoples and resources.

Road Ahead

In our summation of this campaign, we discussed taking up a campaign for educational justice, to fight for better resources for teachers and students, better conditions and wages, and the reinstatement of bi-lingual education. We also discussed fighting to expose the racist, brutal LAPD Ramparts Division, and its attacks against the Central American community in the Pico Union area.

We also want to continue to build honest, concrete relationships with organizations and people who work and struggle for justice, freedom, self-determination and revolutionary change.

Call (323) 266-1408 for more information.

Carlos Montes is a member of New Raza Left.

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