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Thousands in East LA protest for 50th Chicano Moratorium anniversary

By Sol Marquez |
September 1, 2020
LA march marks 50th anniversary of Chicano Moratorium.
LA march marks 50th anniversary of Chicano Moratorium. (Luis Sifuentes)

East Los Angeles, CA - Thousands took to the streets in East Los Angeles on August 29 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Chicano Moratorium. The 1970 Chicano Moratorium was against the Vietnam War and racist conditions Chicanos lived with. From a caravan which started early in the morning to a double rally and march, Chicanos from all over the country once again attended the historic events on what is now recognized as National Chicano Liberation Day. Banners and posters called for the jailing of killer cops, community control of police, an end to racism, sexism, U.S. wars, and denounced Trump.

A large coalition called the 50th Chicano Moratorium Organizing Committee organized for nearly two years to put on events. Centro Community Service Organization (CSO) was one of the organizations within the coalition. After the killing of George Floyd - an unarmed Black man who died by being choked to death by a white cop - and mass uprisings against police brutality, many Chicanos showed solidarity by taking to the streets. In that determination many called for a march and rally for August 29, not just a car caravan. Centro CSO with the Brown Berets, La Raza Unida Party and other groups united and led the hard work to organize a march and rally for this historic day.

Aztec dancers opened the rally at Atlantic Park with a ceremony, followed by a lively performance by Zada Musica. The rally emcees Sol Marqez of Freedom Road Socialist Organization and Lupe Torres of UTLA/Centro CSO kept the rally spirited. The rally welcome and brief history of the Chicano Moratorium was given by long-time Chicano revolutionary Carlos Montes. To chants of “Chicana power”, he also called for self-determination for the Chicano nation of Aztlan, solidarity with oppressed nations of the world like Venezuela, Mexico and Colombia, as well as denouncing U.S. imperialism.

Some of first rally’s speakers included: Centro CSO Youth; Black Lives Matter - LA; Centro CSO; Lisa Vargas, mother of Anthony Vargas (killed by East LA sheriff’s deputies in 2018); the family of Cesar Rodriguez (killed by Long Beach PD in 2017); the family of Alex Flores (killed by LAPD in 2020); Freedom Road Socialist Organization; LA Mesa Nacional Brown Berets; La Raza Unida Party/818 Resolve; and United Brown Coalition. Each spoke about being proud Chicanos, family of Chicanos, in solidarity with the Chicano struggle, and of the relevance of the demands of the 1970 Chicano Moratorium to the 50-year anniversary. In particular, the family of Cesar Rodriguez was mourning the three-year anniversary of his killing at the hands of Long Beach PD on August 29, 2017.

Ending the beginning rally was the first ever woman Chicana/Black President of the United Teachers of Los Angeles LAUSD teachers union - Cecily Myart-Cruz. She said, “I am honored to be in this space! Our youth are leading this movement, and it is our duty to stand up and fight back with them.” She then demanded justice for Black victims of police brutality like Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and survivor Jacob Blake. Myart-Cruz then named Chicano victims like Jesse Romero, Anthony Daniel Vargas, Daniel Hernandez, Alex Flores, and Salvadoran-American Andres Guardado.

Shortly after speeches, La Mesa Nacional Brown Berets, at the direction of co-directors Connie Gonzalez and Rafael Avitia, helped coordinate one of the most well-planned and secure marches of recent times in Los Angeles.

Thousands took off from Atlantic Park along Whittier, while security stations of Brown Berets along the way provided water, snacks, medical aid and blocked traffic to allow the marchers to peacefully pass through the extremely busy Whittier Boulevard. For two-and-a-half miles the march continued until ending at Ruben Salazar Park. Once there, the marchers cooled off under the shade and sat on the grass. Stations at the park provided free snacks and water, and the second rally continued.

Immediately kicking off the second rally was Boyle Heights poet Sammy Quetzalli who before performing talked about how white supremacists are never brave enough to come to working-class Chicano neighborhoods like Boyle Heights and East LA. Zada Music performed two additional and proud Chicano songs. Once again, the rally highlighted police crimes against Chicanos, as the crowd heard from the family of Daniel Hernandez (killed by LAPD in 2020), a friend of Vanessa Marquez (killed by South Pasadena PD in 2018), and DeAnna Sullivan, the mother of David Sullivan (killed by Buena Park PD in 2019).

Other speakers at the second rally included Kareem Youseff of the U.S. Palestinian Community Network (USPCN); the family of Enrique Roman-Martinez (murdered on-duty in the army in 2020 while on a camping trip with other soldiers); Los Angeles Indigenous Peoples Alliance (LAIPA) Tino Torres; the daughters of Jose Tapete, an immigrant held in the Adelanto Detention Center for over two years; Alex Orellana of Centro CSO; Cholo Scarr and Heron Carrillo of United Brown Coalition.

Chicano attorney Humberto Guizar and his newly formed Justicia Team X spoke of the need to have Chicano representation during lawsuits against killer shops. Revolutionary poet Matt Sedillo wrote a poem specific to the 50th, and Brown Beret Aztek Speak who traveled from Atlanta, Georgia - performed two songs. At one point, even LA City Councilman Gil Cedillo hopped onto the speaker’s truck to greet the protesters. Cedillo spoke about being a proud Chicano and in solidarity of the rally and its attendees.

Aztlan flags held by various marchers and provided by the La Raza Unida Party (LRUP), waved in front of the speaker’s truck. One of the final speakers, Ernesto Ayala of LRUP, spoke about the need to continue demanding self-determination for the Chicano Nation of Aztlan. Ayala spoke of his father Xenaro Ayala, who not only helped create the Chicano flag but also marched the streets on August 29, 2020 as a proud revolutionary socialist.

For pictures and videos of all the speakers and participants during the 50th march, visit: facebook.com/CentroCSO.