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40th Anniversary of the Chicano Moratorium Against the Vietnam War

By Carlos Montes

A Long History of Struggle against War and Racism

August 29, 2010, marks the 40th anniversary of the historic Chicano Moratorium protest against the Vietnam War. On Aug. 29, 1970 over 30,000 Chicanos marched down Whittier Boulevard in the heart of East Los Angeles protesting the Vietnam War, the high casualty rate of Chicano soldiers and racist conditions in the barrios. The participants included youth and families of a mainly working class community with delegations from throughout the Southwest. The marchers chanted “¡Raza Si, Guerra No!” inspired by the call for Chicano self-determination and opposition to the imperialist U.S. war in Vietnam. Many Chicano youth had been drafted into the military after being pushed out of high school. The Chicano Movement was on the rise after several years of mass actions like the East Los Angeles high-school walkouts of 1968, land struggles in New Mexico, strikes by the United Farm Workers union, and the growth of new Chicano groups like the Brown Berets and MEChA (Movemiento Estudiantil Chicano de Atzlan, a Chicano Student Movement of the Southwest).

The mass rally held at Laguna Park by the Chicano Moratorium was brutally attacked by the combined forces of the Los Angeles city police and the Los Angeles county sheriffs. Whole families were beaten and tear gassed. Youth responded by defending the rally with their bare hands against the police. A rebellion followed for the entire day, where later Ruben Salazar, a Los Angeles Times journalist and Spanish TV news director, was killed by a sheriff at the Silver Dollar. He was shot in the head with a tear gas missile projectile normally used for barricaded situations.

It is important to commemorate the Chicano Moratorium because it is part of our history of resistance that is not always taught in history classes. This event is also part of the long struggle of Chicanos for self-determination and liberation. Today it is important to continue the fight against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and to protest the military recruitment targeting Chicanos and especially immigrant youth.

Jose Gutierrez was the first U.S. Marine killed in Iraq. He came from Guatemala to Los Angeles and then joined the Marines at age 17 even though he had no papers. Gutierrez is an example of how U.S. intervention and support for Central American militaries trained at the School of the Americas that massacred over 200,000 Guatemalans has driven people to the United States. U.S.-sponsored counter-insurgency and counter-revolutions in El Salvador and Nicaragua are other examples. The U.S. supports U.S. business interests and brutal military regimes that attack popular movements and democratic or socialist governments. This causes war, poverty, displacement and mass migration to the United States.

NAFTA is an example of how U.S. policy has caused mass unemployment and poverty in Mexico, forcing millions to come to work in the U.S. and live in horrible conditions. Today these immigrants are facing growing numbers of deportations, expanded use of local police to track down the undocumented and racist laws such as Arizona’s SB1070. The mass migration of Mexicans and Central Americans to the U.S. has led to the strengthening of the Chicano/Mexican communities and to the growth of a strong mass movement for immigrant rights. Our fight for legalization and is part of our historical struggle for equality and self-determination and liberation of Chicanos/Mexicans.

This is why we continue our struggle today against U.S. wars and interventions like in Colombia, and Plan Merida in Mexico. Also we must support movements and governments that are independent and oppose U.S. power, like those in Bolivia and Venezuela.

We make a call for principled unity to the community and all the organizations organizing for the Chicano Moratorium, to continue the struggle for Chicano self-determination. In addition to the the 1970 slogan of “¡Raza si, guerra no!” we now add “¡Raza si, Migra no!” and “¡Aquí estamos, y no nos vamos!”

This year’s march and rally is organized by several groups and will take place on Saturday, Aug. 28. The march will start at 10:00 am at Belvedere Park (1st Street and Mednick) and go to Salazar Park (3864 Whittier Boulevard) for a rally. For more information call 213-712-0370.

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