National Chicano Moratorium: 43 Years Later
Rolling the calendar back to August 29, 1970, 30,000 people in East Los Angeles marched to what was then Laguna Park, 3864 Whittier Blvd protesting the Vietnam War and racism. In stories that were well researched and covered by the Los Angeles Free Press in the aftermath, the Los Angeles Sheriffs made an unprovoked attack on the thousands of peaceful demonstrators, men, women and children; old and young; civilians and anti-war veterans. Some fought back. People grabbed children, knocked on doors of people living near the melee begging them to take in the youngsters for safety’s sake. Others ran for their lives. The deputies, demonstrating that they were completely out of control and incompetent, threw tear gas grenades into the wind, an act not only dumb but filmed and later shown by LAPD in training classes about what not to do.
In the wake of this fiasco, Brown Beret Lyn Ward and demonstrator Angel Diaz lay dead, killed by the deputies. At a later demonstration the next year, Sephardic Jew Gustav Montag would join these martyrs in death, likewise, shot to death by the Sheriffs Deputies.
The biggest and still unresolved issue is the death of L.A. Times Reporter Ruben Salazar who took refuge farther up Whittier Blvd at what was then the Silver Dollar bar. Unlike tear gas grenades which are tossed by hand outside of buildings (you don’t throw them into buildings like the home that former LAPD officer Chris Dorner was burned alive in, because they heat up to hundreds of degrees in order to burn the hand of somebody who tries to throw them back), ten inch tear gas projectiles are for use to fire into buildings in the case of a hostage-barricaded situation only. Law enforcement officers are trained to fire the projectiles at a downward angle so that if you accidentally hit a human being with them, it will be more likely to hit them in the lower extremities rather than the torso or head.
Ruben Salazar was hit in the head with the projectile. Getting hit in the head with such a projectile will essentially, blow your head off in the proverbial sense of the phrase. Was the projectile properly used? First of all, there was no hostage situation in the building so there was no legitimate reason to fire it. If it had been properly fired at a downward projectile, Ruben Salazar would not have been hit in the head with it.
Every year for 43 years these events have been commemorated and emulated by the National Chicano Moratorium Committee (NCMC) along with promotion of the issues of the day. Today, American wars in Afghanistan and throughout the world replace the war in Southeast Asia as issues of concern. Racism still abounds. As just one example that has people wondering whether anything has changed in Los Angeles, the theme of this years NCMC commemoration was “Education for Liberation, Not Assimilation.” Along with this theme NCMC commemorated the life of Sal Castro who died earlier this year after his distinguished career in education, most notably supporting the East Los Angeles high school walkouts. An October 11, 1968 Los Angeles Freep article was headlined “Education, Not Eradication,” began “Sal Castro won his teaching job back at Lincoln High School because the new militant Mexican American movement here demanded it and fought for it….”
As in earlier commemorations and at the August 29, 1970 event, there were cultural performances. Danza Mexica Cuauhtemoc danced during the march from Belvedere Park (literally over four miles!) and then led off the ceremony with a traditional dance.
Son Jarocho (Veracruz style music) band Son Real delighted the crowd with several traditional Son Jarocho numbers and later, Native American Singer-Songwriter Relf Alison Star performed her original music ending with a piece she wrote about violence against the LGBTI community in rural California….and that was the perfect segue for speakers from the Latino Equality Alliance, Eddie Martinez and Ari Gutierrez, which leads to a discussion of the controversy surrounding this year’s commemoration.
Homophobes, Racists and Anti-Semites Boycott the NCMC
NOTE: this is an addendum based upon criticism I received, some positive and some negative and some ridiculous about this posting. First let me be perfectly clear that I AM NOT A SPOKESPERSON FOR THE NATIONAL CHICANO MORATORIUM COMMITTEE, just in case somebody was under that impression. I speak for myself unless otherwise expressly stated.
Second, it was pointed out to me that this was not the first time that NCMC had included LGBTI participation and/or speakers in its program. That is a perfectly reasonable correction that needs to be made.
A third criticism was that my allegations that Libertad Ayala was to blame for certain behavior at the 2012 Moratorium was misplaced, I categorically reject. This is the contention of one individual who has now changed his story at least twice about the facts of the matter and who has never claimed to have spoken to any of the relevant witnesses. I have an eidetic memory of the events in question; I believe that the individual’s memory of the events is at best, faulty.
This year a rump group of the La Raza Unida Party (LRUP), headed by perennial leader (since 1988 without any apparent elections) Xenaro Ayala of San Fernando and a splinter group calling itself the “National Brown Berets” (NBB) led by Randy Gamez (who has been publicly criticized by the Colorado Brown Berets for having done time for trying to stab his former wife to death) announced a boycott of the NCMC immediately after the NCMC voted to amend its principles to strengthen its commitment to LGBTI equality and to invite representatives of the Latino Equality Alliance (LEA) and TransLatina to speak at this year’s commemoration. A La Raza Unida Party member, Arthur Fuentes, inadvertently outed the organization’s homophobia with an organizationally un-repudiated posting on their Facebook Page:
I do NOT know exactly what the Situation(s) are that are Causing this Division? But my own Personal Experiences, in the Past, had to do with Opposing the Joto/Queer Agenda that has Infected the NACCS Body, like HIV/AIDS, for awhile. I was a Mechista in my Jr. College/Univeristy Years @ the University of Tx-@ San Antonio during those years. As a Young Chicano, I learned about all the Great History from El Plan de Santa Barbara to the Chicano Moratorium established in the early 70′s. Aside from that, I find the forcing of Adoption of the Gay Agenda on La Raza as Disgusting & Offensive. In my Opinion, being born into a Race/Ethnic Grupo & Being Subsequently Discriminated Against on the Basis of Race is Wrong & One Thing, but Equating a Lifestyle to being a Minority is also Wrong! It is Somewhat a Slap to the Civil Rights Movement as Well! I support the Boycott & feel a Sense of Repemption as Well!
This statement, along with a statement by Randy Gamez denouncing this writer’s (Jan B. Tucker) role in the NCMC as being suspect because amongst other things this writer is “…a Jewish man….” was brought to the attention of 2012 Justice Party Vice Presidential candidate and current Green Party California gubernatorial candidate Luis J. Rodriguez, who allowed the use of his Tia Chucha’s community center for the boycotting organizations’ counter-commemoration. Rodriguez, supported by Peace & Freedom Party endorsed gubernatorial candidate Cindy Sheehan, emphatically denied that LRUP and Gamez were either homophobic or anti-semitic.
However, LRUP and Gamez (aka Chimalli Cuetlachli) are notorious in other completely unrelated circles for their discriminatory and harassing behavior. Eddie Martinez – meeting NCMC people for the very first time and discussing the boycott – pointed out that somebody using the internet Moniker “Aztlan Flag” had been harassing LEA for years with internet postings they considered to be homophobic, misogynistic, racist, and anti-semitic. It just turns out that “Aztlan Flag” happens to be Ernesto Ayala, LRUP and NBB member and son of Xenaro Ayala. Ernesto, like Randy Gamez, has an arrest for domestic violence to his credit (discredit?). Ernesto also has been criticized publicly—and has never denied—for doing overtly racist “Amos ‘n Andy” routines in the presence of Xenaro and other family members and friends, as though this was not going to be offensive to somebody like this writer (who Ernesto knows to have an African American godson).
In discrimination law there is the concept of the “mixed motive” for harassment, retaliation, and adverse job actions against employees. Sometimes haters despise people for various reasons, such as their race, their sexual orientation, and/or the fact that the object of their hatred is a whistle blower as examples. In the case of LRUP it is likely that they have other motives than their overt homophobia and racism for boycotting the NCMC. Incidentally, Xenaro’s racism is so overt and his impulse control so weak that he periodically, in violation of the NCMC principles of unity, would rant and rave about “blond-blue eyed” people in the presence of the sole gabacho in the room (this writer) who happened to be blond and blue eyed.
Prior to the LRUP and NBB announcing their boycott of NCMC, they had also stopped attending meetings of the planning committee. The last meeting they attended was their opportunity—at which they made no denial whatsoever–to respond to charges that amongst other things, Libertad Ayala, had retaliated as MC of the 2012 commemoration against speakers from organizations LRUP didn’t like by truncating their time from six minutes to two minutes without authorization and without advance warning. Another charge they could have responded to was the very serious allegation that in 2010, Xenaro Ayala blocked having a speaker on behalf of Chicano Political Prisoner Ramsey Muniz by falsely claiming that he’d met with Muniz in prison in Texas and decided from Muniz’s answers to his questions that Muniz was in fact guilty. In point of fact, Muniz has never met Xenaro and Xenaro did not deny making this story up to justify his position against Muniz, a potential rival for the mantle of leadership of LRUP. In 1972 Muniz ran for Governor of Texas and received the highest vote for any statewide LRUP candidate in the history of the organization, after which the federal government framed, jailed, and stripped Muniz of his lawyer’s license.
Tempest in a Teapot
The so-called boycott appears to have been a tempest in a teapot. It seems to have fizzled and been largely ignored. Not only was it mostly ignored, the boycott itself turns out to have been boycotted! According to a reliable source within the Aztec Danzante community, every single Danzante group in the San Fernando Valley was asked by LRUP to participate in their boycott program at Tia Chucha and every single group approached refused! That adds insult to injury to their efforts.
NCMC has once again been invigorated and national organizations are moving forward to expand NCMC participation and activities throughout the United States. People or groups who are interested in forming NCMC regions can contact NCMC Chair Jaime Cruz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Latino Equality Alliance Weighs In On Our Struggle
To Jan B. Tucker and the Chicano Moratorium Committee:
An especially, poignant experience was to have a young man approach us at the Chicano Moratorium rally wearing his Brown Beret uniform. He told us how excited he was to see us there with the “gay” flag. We invited him to join us on stage to hold the flag during our LGBT speech. He explained that since he was in uniform he would have to ask his troop leadership for permission. He came back with news that his Brown Beret troop took a vote, and they voted, “Yes”!