The 1970 Chicano Moratorium Against the War in Vietnam – 45 Years Later!

by on August 27, 2015 · 1 comment

in California, Civil Disobedience, Civil Rights, Culture, History, Media, Organizing, Politics

Chicano Moratorium posterBy Herman Baca / August 26, 2015

Long forgotten by US history and barely remembered by many (even in the Chicano community) is the historical 45th anniversary of the August 29, 1970 Chicano Moratorium against the War in Vietnam.

The Moratorium held in Los Angeles, California was one of the most seminal historical events for Chicanos in the US since the end of the US/Mexico War of 1848.

Depending on whom you speak with; the moratorium drew 20 to 40,000 Chicanos from all over the US that marched and protested the war in Vietnam, where Chicano youths were dying in disproportion numbers. Parents, children, seniors, working people, students, war veterans and activists from thru-out the U.S., Mexico and Puerto Rico marched.

Numerous persons were hurt; hundreds were jailed including national Chicano leader, Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales. Three people were shot and killed by the police; martyred Angel Diaz, Lynn Ward, and LA Times Journalist, Ruben Salazar. The moratorium at the time was the largest protest to be organized by Chicanos in their 130 years history as a conquered people in the US. In essence, the demonstration turned into a police riot that was planned and carried out by the LA police, and the US Government.

The Vietnam War – President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 had declared a police action in Vietnam. Chicanos, at that time comprised but 6% of this nation’s population, but made up an obscene number of the causalities in Vietnam! Young whites were receiving college deferments and white controlled draft boards begin to draft (in record numbers) poor people, blacks, and especially Chicanos for Vietnam.

After five years of the Vietnam War, reality finally hit home. Young Chicanos were dying and numerous “body bags” were being returned to the homes of grieving families throughout the US.

It had always been the Chicano movement’s political position that the US’s white supremacist system had made Chicanos strangers in their own land, placed them last in jobs, education and rights but had always placed them first to die in its wars!

From the beginning, the demonstration organized was to be a peaceful protest to seek redress from the US Government under rights supposedly guaranteed and protected by the US Constitution.

I remember arriving in Los Angeles on Saturday morning around 7:00 am. At least one thousand persons from San Diego attended the demonstration. The march was 5 long miles, it was a very hot day and arrived at Laguna (now Salazar) Park around 2 or 3 p.m. People were tired, resting on the grass and the scene appeared to be like a giant family picnic.

As we sat down we heard and saw a commotion at a liquor store on Whittier Blvd. Suddenly without provocation the sheriff and police began to advance on the peaceful crowd. Security (the Brown Berets) attempted to explain that everything was under control to no avail, a full-fledged instigated police riot was under way.

As the police advanced I witnessed scenes that I have never forgotten. Before my eyes, hundreds of our people, children, woman, young and old persons were being beaten, tear gassed, maimed, and arrested. Many of us remembered the zoot suit riots, and it was 1940 all over again! In self-defense, Chicanos witnessing what was happening to our people (after suffering from 130 years of oppression, racism and discrimination) stood up and fought back.

There I learned a lesson I have never forgotten to this day. Even though there were thousands of Chicanos, and only hundreds of police they had something we didn’t, organization! As I stood in the park around the litter, fighting and mayhem I saw the police lining up in formation to lob tear gas indiscriminately.

Afterwards, a kind hearted individual asked us if we needed a ride, so we asked if he would drive us to MAPA headquarter on Brooklyn Avenue (now Cesar Chavez Blvd). There, MAPA State President Abe Tapia and Bert Corona stated that a press conference was going to be held shortly to denounce the “police riot.” At the press conference Bert Corona and Abe Tapia lambasted the police for the unprovoked attacks on our people, and the political system for the death of our youths in Vietnam.

We departed from LA to San Diego around 6:30 p.m., I remember getting on Interstate 5 and looking back, only to see East LA burning.

45 long years have passed since August 29, 1970 and the political question for our people remains; what has changed?

Some things have changed. I

n 1970 our population numbered but 7 million Chicanos/Latinos in the US. In 2010 it was 55 million, and by 2050 it will number134 million. Some progress has been made for individuals, but not for the masses of our people.

In my opinion, things are worst today than 1970. Why? Because there are more of us, and less of everything needed to address the myriad of issues and problems afflicting our people. Our population has increased dramatically, but our social, political and historical consciousness has regressed back to the 1940’s.

Our people remain afflicted with the effects of white supremacy. We have more of our youth in prisons than colleges. The age old issues such as police brutality, high unemployment rates, youth, seniors, housing, and health care problems remain. Deaths at the US/Mexico border are rampant and gross violations of constitutional rights by law enforcement especially Homeland Security, ICE and the Border Patrol occur daily in our communities.

Nationally, we are plagued by His-Her Panic unaccountable politicians; US Senators, Congress persons, Governors, and corporation paid poverty pimp organizations such as the National Council of La Raza. Locally, do nothing His-Her Panic politicians seeking contributions such as Congressman Juan Vargas, the CA Hispanic Caucus, State Senators, Assembly, and go along get along lackey city council members that don’t care why cities such as National City, CA are poor.

Chicano youths during the Vietnam War were used as “cannon fodder.” In 2015 millions of Mexican/Latin ancestry people are being used as fodder by proponents of white supremacy. Who are represented by Donald Trump and the Republican Party under the guise of the immigration issue. The political reality is white supremacists are not discussing immigration, but what to do about Mexicans and demographics!

One thing however is certain, history will surely repeat itself if 55 million of our people do not stand up and fight against white supremacist immigration attacks; anchor babies, deport them all, walls, etc. being proposed by both Republicans and Democrats.

To date Democrats have deported more Mexicans than any Republican administration. History, documents that the 1930 repatriations (during the great depression) deported over 2 million Mexicans; an estimated 1.2 million of who were US citizens, including documented and undocumented!

Worst is what is happening in our own community, 14% to 25% of our people supposedly agree with “mop head” Donald Trump? That Trump fears and respects (out of a population of 55 million) only one person, “El Chapo?” After reports that Trump ran (like a baby) crying to the FBI seeking protection after El Chapo’s son was quoted, “my dad will make Trump eat his words.” Even more disgraceful was the boot licking display by malinche politicians in Laredo, Texas who unbelievably welcomed Donald Trump, after he accused them and all Mexicans of being rapist and murderers?

Proving the old Mexican saying, ‘Pa’ pendejo no se estudia’!!!

After 45 years at age 72, the August 29, 1970 Chicano Moratorium for me remains both a historical and defining event in my personal and political life. To the Chicano movement and our people the Moratorium provided a valuable political lesson that problems such as the Vietnam War and other issues could be confronted and addressed thru our own self-determination. Finally, historically the Chicano Moratorium in demanding an end to the War in Vietnam to bring our youth home was, “the moral high ground.”

Herman Baca is the President of Committee on Chicano Rights (CCR)

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Avatar aron pieman kay August 30, 2015 at 3:05 pm

i was at the historic lausd riot in 197o at salazar park in east los angeles….i was there with the green power free food vehicle…we had setup a food and drink distribution center to accomodate the protest goers….on that hot day……
things seemed mellow in the park as we were waiting for the arrival of the march….
suddenly all hell broke out as the deputies started to attack the protest with their phallic extenders…many folks were hurt and /or busted….we had to safety drive our 1949 green power plymouth stationwagon out of the park ……
meanwhile the sheriffs murdered journalist ruben salazar of the la times…..

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