Chicano Moratorium Against the Vietnam War: August 29, 1970

It will be thirty seven years August 29 after the Chicano Moratorium against the Viet Nam War was first held in East Los Angeles -- at the time the largest anti-war demonstration in a community of color in the country. Some 30,000 people came from all over Los Angeles, the Southwest, and other parts of the country to proclaim, "Ya Basta"--that's enough. It also became the scene of one of the worse police abuse cases in the country when LA County sheriff's deputies attacked the mostly peaceful crowd at Laguna Park, enacting hundreds of arrests, causing hundreds of injuries, and resulting in at least three dead. One of those killed was Chicano reporter Ruben Salazar -- the only national media voice Chicanos had at the time.

This was as significant as the murders of anti-war protestors by National Guardsmen at Kent State University in Ohio and Jackson State University in South Carolina earlier that year of 1970.

I was sixteen years old at the time. I was a gang member, a heroin (and other drugs) user, and quite lost. Still I took part in the march and protest. This demonstration awakened me to the vital struggle for justice, peace, and the possibilities of a new society, something I had only glimpsed at but never really understood. I didn't expect to be taken in by this--I had only come to party. Soon I got swept up in the chants, the songs, the ardor for revolutionary change.

I was also one of the cholos arrested early on in the so-called riot that ensued. Hundreds were arrested, but the cholos (at the time, cholo meant Chicano gang member) were separated from the others, held in different facilities, and held for much longer than other protestors. Eventually I was placed into two adult jails (even though I was a juvenile), including the murderer's row of the old Hall of Justice jail in downtown LA. I had a cell next to Charles Manson. The reason: we were threatened with possible charges in the murders of those who died in the rioting. Of course, they really couldn't charge us for this. But the punishment was what they were after. I was placed in a cell with two murderers -- one of whom put a razor blade to my neck. But I stood up to them, as I had learned to do from my many years in the streets (since the age of seven I had been stealing, and since 11, I had been in a gang), and I survived. I was even involved in a lightweight cellblock disturbance when we heard that Ruben Salazar had been killed.

I was eventually released -- but I was never the same after this. It took me another two to three years, but I eventually left the gang, the drugs, and the jails to dedicate myself to revolutionary study, organizing, and action. In a few more years, I committed myself to becoming a writer. I've learned a lot since then, but the initial spark of my own purposeful life had been during the Chicano Moratorium.

This year, more than 35 years later, we are still at war. This year we must protest the US role in Iraq and Afghanistan -- we are not winning anything over there, but we are losing many of our men and women (and many more civilians).

Tomorrow we must protest these wars. We have not stopped terrorism -- in fact, terrorism around the world has increased since we first invaded Iraq. We cannot win a war against terror with more terror. That's a lesson we seem to have not learned in more than thirty years. There are many ways to protest -- the Internet is one of those places. If the streets still call you then join with others as much as you can against these wars that only really benefit the rich and powerful among us (it's the working class poor, of all colors, who are dying in Iraq).

Use poetry, song, dance, film, and story. But do something. In concert with others. With millions. With dignity. With creativity. And with all the moral authority we can muster. No more dead for Bush/Cheney or the ruling class of thieves they represent. Ya Basta!

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.