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Fourth annual May Day in Boyle Heights demands, ‘Jail killer cops’

By Jared Hamil |
May 6, 2018
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May Day march in Boyle Heights.
May Day march in Boyle Heights. (Fight Back! News / Staff)
LA May Day march speaks out against police terror.
LA May Day march speaks out against police terror.

Los Angeles, CA - On May 1, International Worker’s Day was marked in LA’s Eastside Boyle Heights. Boyle Heights is a historically Chicano/Latino neighborhood. In the past five years the neighborhood has seen an upsurge in police killings and an influx of charter schools trying to move in and poach students from public schools.

Organized by Centro CSO, the 4th annual May Day in Boyle Heights took place at a busy intersection off of Cesar Chavez Avenue. One hundred people came together to march against deportations, police killings and attacks on public education.

Sol Marquez, one of the organizers of the march, stood atop of a truck riling up the crowd through a loud speaker. “¡Aquí estamos, y no nos vamos! ¡Y si nos hechan, nos regresamos!” The crowd was loud, and neighbors came out of local businesses cheering them on. One person came out of a barber shop with a sign that read, “We are Boyle Heights!”

The crowd poured into the streets. Many organizations were present, including the members of Black Lives Matter, Catholic Worker Center, Eastside Greens, Students for a Democratic Society at PCC, United Teachers LA, different rank-and-file union members, White People for Black Lives Matter, March and Rally LA, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, the MORENA Party of Mexico, and a large presence of students from Mecha of Roosevelt High School. They cheered and chanted, with “education not deportations!” “What do we want? Justice!”

Marching into the heart of Boyle Heights via Chavez Avenue, protesters arrived at the site where the Los Angeles Police Department killed 14-year-old Jesse Romero. Romero, an undocumented teenager, graduated from Hollenbeck Middle School, was attending Mendez High School and was well liked by teachers and students. On August 9, he was murdered by the LAPD on the sidewalk of Breed Street off Chavez Avenue. LAPD police officer Eden Medina 12 days earlier had killed Omar Gonzalez.

Organizers were sure to point out the injustice. They continued marching with cheers from neighbors and onlookers. They stopped the large sound truck in front of the LAPD Hollenbeck police station were the families denounced the police killings of their loved ones. Also, Black Lines Matter member Joseph Williams stressed the importance of Black and Brown unity along with all oppressed people in the fight against police killings and capitalism.

Estella Rodriguez, mother of Edwin Rodriguez, said “The cop who killed my son says he doesn't even remember shooting 12 rounds at my son, the female cop shot at him seven times. They still have their jobs. I don't have any more words to explain what it feels like to lose a child. When you lose your parents, you're an orphan. If you lose your partner, you become a widow or widower. But when as parents, you lose your children, you're nothing.”

Sara Figueroa, sister of Christian Escobedo said, “We believe the police should be prosecuted just like any other individual. We're out here with the hope that the cops who did this will be prosecuted.” Christian Escobedo was murdered by the LAPD Jan. 14, 2018, making it eight young Chicanos killed by LAPD Hollenbeck in 23 months.

Marching on, the crowd continued down First Street to Mariachi Plaza. There they continued chanting and heard from more speakers. Speakers addressed the demand of legalization of all immigrants and stopping the deportations.

Dafne Jacobs, a member of Centro CSO, said “The work we're doing right now is so important. The caravan from Central America is sleeping outside of the border. I came to the U.S. when I was only 11 years old, and I'm DACAmented. DACA, along with in-state tuition, are two victories obtained for undocumented people not because those in power changed their minds, it's because we forced them to make a change.”

The crowd heard from local teachers and a leading activist of the teacher’s union, the UTLA. They spoke about the rise of charters and the Los Angeles Unified School District’s push to privatize public education. Dan Barnhart, secondary vice-president of UTLA said, “The billionaires have put in a billionaire banker – one of their own - to run our schools. A guy named Austin Beutner, who spent his whole career tearing companies apart and putting workers out of work. He's not an educator. We need to stand up against that. He's connected to privatization and connected to the billionaires.” Barnhart also exposed the role of former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in pushing privatization of LAUSD via charter schools.

Centro CSO member and teacher, Lupe Torres said, “Charter schools are discriminatory and they're creating segregation. We are being profiled! Our students are threatened by the police. Nine of our students in LAUSD have been killed by LAPD and LA sheriffs. We need to organize with our teachers, our community leaders and our students and fight in the street.”

Local parents spoke about the influx of charter schools on the East side. Eloisa Galindo said, “We fought back against privatization efforts by Kipp at my daughters' elementary school and we won! Now the big money politicians like Monica Garcia and Antonio Villaraigosa are campaigning to ensure a seat to help usher privatization of public education. Their big money won't silence the truth! We will continue organizing against charters and against privatization.”

The crowd also heard from Ernesto Vigil. Vigil was a member of Denver, Colorado's Crusade for Justice. The Crusade fought for Chicano rights throughout the late 1960s up to the early ‘80s. In March 1973, the Crusade got hit with heavy police repression. Vigil recounted, “When the police found out that they were being rivaled by a powerful and mighty organization like ours, that successfully united with the people, they retaliated. Their attack was specifically against us. They killed my best friend and shot four bullets at me.” He added, “Perhaps the biggest error that the cops committed was in not killing me that night. I have to say, that they get away with this because they are powerful. In this society, those with money have power. They have their army, their weapons, their tanks, but they don't have the people…What we want is justice. We can talk example after example of these police killings. We shouldn't forget them though because this is important to our history.”

Vigil continued, “I get very emotional because I'm 70, I have grandchildren and they deserve to live in a better society than we live in today. It is my intention to do all I can, until the day I die – fighting for a better society than the one we live in. I am willing to give my life now as I was willing to back then. I'm a historian and throughout this talk I haven't mentioned the word 'immigrant' and that's because my ancestors were native to the land of Colorado and New Mexico. This whole land was Mexico, none of us are foreigners to this land. We need to be willing to fight for the justice that we all deserve.”

Wrapping it up, Centro CSO organizer and long-time Chicano revolutionary Carlos Montes said, “We will continue to have the May Day march and rally every year. We will continue to organize against the Kipp charter schools. We will work with parents and teachers against the privatization of public schools. And of course, we will keep fighting for not only legalization [of all immigrants], but also for self-determination for the people of Aztlan - which is the Southwest territory that was conquered and occupied by the U.S. As an oppressed people in this territory we have the right to self-determination. That's what I learned from the struggle growing up here in East LA. I grew up being abused by the police. That racism that I suffered made me a radical, a socialist! Whether it's Vietnam, Colombia, Africa, Asia, the U.S. empire wants to be the policeman of the world. We need to organize here at home, but also support the struggle of oppressed people to defeat the U.S. empire!”

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