Twenty years after a historic march, rally and riot involving 20,000 Los Angeles area Mexican-Americans, the 1990 National Chicano Moratorium Committee will hold a commemorative parade and protest down the same East Los Angeles route.
Organizers believe that about 10,000 people will participate Aug. 25 in the three-mile parade and a rally featuring longtime Chicano activists, politicians and student leaders.
"It's a protest," but also a Chicano cultural parade, said Sandra Vargas, Los Angeles regional co-chair of the 1990 National Chicano Moratorium Committee. Latino community leaders, politicians and celebrities will ride aboard caravans draped with banners, Vargas said.
In 1970, the catalyst for the event was the Vietnam War, but it addressed other Chicano grievances. "The moratorium was generated because of a protest not only against the war in Vietnam but a protest of the way . . . Mexicanos were being treated in society and how the Mexicanos were giving their lives disproportionately in a war that nobody wanted," said Richard Martinez, a 1970s activist who is executive director of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project.
Organizers say they will be demonstrating for decent jobs and salaries for all, quality education and the end of barrio violence and drug trafficking. "It's not just a one-day thing, we're talking about the resurrection of the Chicano movement, " said Jorge Castro, a Chicano Moratorium Committee official. "It will be a vehicle to address the needs of the community."
The 1990 committee also is critical of the planned celebration in 1992 of 500 years of Christopher Columbus' "discovery of America." "The Europeans imposed another culture and annihilated the indigenous people," said Carlos Montes, the committee's Los Angeles regional co-chair.
On Aug. 25, marchers will gather at 10 a.m. at Alberto Diaz Plaza in Belvedere Park. Starting at 11 a.m., following the march route of Aug. 29, 1970, they will walk up 3rd Street, down Atlantic Boulevard and west on Whittier Boulevard to the old Laguna Park, now named Ruben Salazar County Park. Salazar, a Los Angeles Times columnist, was one of three people killed in violence after the 1970 march.
Dolores Huerta of the United Farm Workers Union, historian Rudy Acuna and David Sanchez, founder of the 1970s Chicano unit known as the Brown Berets, will be among speakers at the Salazar Park rally.
Organizers also have asked local politicians to address the gathering.
Los Angeles-area high school and college students have joined longtime Chicano activists in organizing the event.
"Fifty percent, if they were not involved in the (1970) moratorium committee, they were very active," Castro said. "The other half was too young."
Castro stressed that the current organizers are politically "more center" than their counterparts of 1970, who were seen by many as radicals.
Organizers were granted their parade permit last April when the Board of Supervisors overruled the Sheriff's Department, which was opposed to the use of the 1970 route because of the possibility of rioting and the estimated $37,000 it would cost in overtime pay for officers.
Some Whittier Boulevard business owners also have criticized the location of the protest route. Howard Barsky, whose family owns La Popular furniture store on Whittier Boulevard, helped organize water stations for marchers in 1970.
"I think the boulevard has been used enough for this particular march," Barsky said. "But now that they're going to have it, we'll watch the march as it goes by."
Vargas believes there is little reason to worry about violence. "We did have a march on the fifth-, ninth- and 10th-year anniversaries, and there was no violence," she said. In addition to police security, Vargas said, people from the community are being recruited to march and monitor participants in this year's protest.
"As far as non-Latinos, the things we're fighting for are also for them. The opportunities we're calling for in education are also for their children too," she said.
The 1970 East Los Angeles march made headlines when violence broke out between some marchers and law enforcement officers at the culminating rally at Laguna Park.
Before the trouble began, "It was a very good feeling, " Vargas said. "You came from there with a lot of self-esteem and pride." But then incidents at a nearby store and along the edge of the park escalated into a major confrontation. "The cops started coming up," Vargas said, "and we knew we had to get out of there."
The chaos continued on neighboring streets, with marchers running for refuge in strangers' homes and residents watering down people who had been tear-gassed.
Rioting erupted along Whittier Boulevard, where windows were smashed and fires were set in the battle between demonstrators and hundreds of Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies and Los Angeles police officers in riot gear.