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Latinos Oppose War and Racism!

by Carlos Montes |
April 2, 2003
LAWII march against war in Iraq, in East Los Angeles.
Above:
LAWII march against war in Iraq, in East Los Angeles. (Fight Back! News/Carlos Montes)
Banner says "Escuelas Si!"
Banner says: "Guerra No!"
Right:
Latinos Against War in Iraq press conference says yes to schools and no to war! (Fight Back! News/Carlos Montes)
Left:
Latinos Against War in Iraq press conference says yes to schools and no to war! (Fight Back! News/Carlos Montes)

Los Angeles, CA - The Latino community has taken a strong stand against the Bush war drive and invasion against the people of Iraq. Here in Los Angeles, a new group, named Latinos Against War In Iraq – LAWII – was formed and immediately plunged into a series of demonstrations.

LAWII was started in late January, to form a united front of groups and individuals to organize the Latino communities’ voice against the war on Iraq, and to expose the racist conditions Latinos continue to suffer in the U.S. The meeting was initiated by Centro CSO, Carlos Montes, Javier Rodriguez, Rosie Martinez, Guillermo Bejarano and Antonieta Villamil. Over 80 people attended the first meeting, with Central American, South American and Chicano-Mexicano representation.

The groups that came together felt the strong need to form a Latino organization which made sure that the voice of our community was saying “No!” to war and racism and demanding schools, healthcare and jobs.

Latinos Against War In Iraq sees the U.S. war drive as a superpower’s attempt to control the oil, the politics and the economics of the Middle East and to support Israel. The Latino group feels that the war is here at home - in the struggle for genuine equality and justice, free from racism and poverty.

Action Against Recruitment

On Feb. 7, the LAWII held a march from Roosevelt High School to the army and marine recruitment centers in the town of Boyle Heights. Over 250 people marched through the heart of town, down Soto Street, demanding no recruitment of Latino youth. Chants included, “No to war! Escuelas si, guerra no!” and “Recruit us for college, not for war!”

The march and rally helped to expose the U.S. Department of Defense advertising campaign targeting Latinos for military recruitment. Latino youth, especially in inner-city schools, are targeted for recruitment to the armed services with false promises of careers and college tuition. Recruiters invade barrio schools where racists and bad conditions force students to drop out.

These same youth, who are not provided the opportunities for college admissions and skilled jobs, are sent to fight, die and kill in foreign lands in unjust wars. Many of these youth have fled harsh conditions in Mexico and war-torn Central America, where the U.S. government has supported repressive military regimes.

The U.S. Army currently has allocated special monies to target Latino recruitment, with a target of 27% of its total force. The number of recent Latino service men killed in Iraq is reminiscent of the high casualty rate of Latinos in the Viet Nam War. “This targeting for military recruitment of our Latino youth is a racist practice; our youth should be recruited to college, not to war,” states David Cid, teacher at El Sereno Middle School and LAWII member.

Protests Continue, Groups Unite

On March 9, a large march and rally was organized in East Los Angeles. This march took part of the same route that the Aug. 29, 1970 anti-Vietnam War Chicano Moratorium. This enthusiastic march went through East L.A., down Whittier Boulevard and to the historic Salazar Park. Over 1000 people condemned the U.S. war as an imperialist war for domination of the people of the Middle East.

The speakers clearly exposed the U.S. drive for world domination and denounced the racists’ attacks against Muslims, Arabs, Latinos and immigrants. Groups participating, endorsing or speaking included the SEIU Local 660 and UNITEI, the Free Palestine Alliance, Bayan, American Indian Movement, Peace in Colombia, Black Students Against War, MECHA de UCLA, Roosevelt High School, HERE Local 11 and the National Chicano Moratorium.

LAWII and the National Alliance for Human Rights have initiated a call for broader unity among the diverse Latino, Mexican and Chicano groups who are doing work in many communities and on different issues. The March 9 march was, in part, due to a call by Dr. Armando Navarro of the National Alliance for Human Rights, at a conference held in Riverside for a united action.

Various groups agreed to unite for a large march and rally on April 12 in Boyle Heights to honor the legacy of Mexican revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata and to protest the invasion of Iraq. The April 12 Zapata march, initially called by Frente Unida de Pueblos de America, promoted unity and brought together Latino groups from Riverside, Los Angeles and San Diego counties.

Speaking Out

LAWII spoke at the L.A. national conference of the National Association of [email protected] Studies, on a panel on Chicano anti-imperialism and war. Marta Guererro, a teacher in East L.A., and Marlene Mendoza, a student, spoke of LAWII’s work in the school and community. They called on college professors and students to work with the community and unions in building greater unity and actions to oppose the current and future wars.

LAWII was invited to speak at the ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism)-organized mass marches and rallies held in Los Angeles and San Jose in February and March. ANSWER has been key to organizing the largest mass marches against the war since April 20, 2002.

The Latino group has received wide coverage in the local and national media, especially the Spanish language TV and press. On Jan. 30, soon after LAWII formed, it held a press conference in front of the Roybal Health Center in East L.A. to protest the cutbacks to healthcare by Los Angeles County and to voice opposition to a war on Iraq. Over 30 students, teachers, union members, actors, families, activists and elected officials attended.

Latinos Against War In Iraq has continued to organize teachings and community meetings to expose the war and military recruitment at Roosevelt High School. LAWII will participate in the May 3, San Diego and May 4 San Ysidro protest marches against war and immigrant abuses.

For more information, see www.latinoscontralaguerra.org or www.centrocso.org, or call (323) 221-4000.

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