Tuesday, February 02, 2021

"March in the Rain" January 31, 1971

Michael Sedano


Where were you on August 29, 1970, a day living infamously when police attacked an entire community, and got away with it?


KCET broadcast the coroner's inquest into the killing of Ruben Salazar. Killed by police were Lyn Ward, and Angel Diaz but, other than the date, quotidian shootings of Mexicans don't get much attention. The inquest wasn't about regular killings. 


16 days the inquest was on teevee.


Portavozes and regular everyday gente testified openly, victims of LAPD and LASD violence testified to the casual, routine lawlessness of cops who recreationally brutalized and terrorized. Community chiste held then, "If you want someone arrested, call the LAPD, but if you want them killed, call the Sheriff Department." 


"My gosh, that's just terrible," went people on the Westside and out in the Valley, "just awful." 


And nothing happened. (There was even a Federal Grand Jury into the deputy who shot Salazar, no charges. That would be in March.)


In January 1971, movimiento organizers still stung by loss of support from community dismay over the violence, felt compelled not to give up. They called for another public demonstration on the 31st. I've heard Rosalio Muñoz call that "the march in the rain" while others call the January 29, 1971 debacle, the final act of Chicano resistance of the seventies.


La Bloga-Tuesday today revisits that January 31, 1971 march, through the eyes of a key movimiento leader, Esteban Torres. This is a segment of Torres' as-told-to autobiography written by Michael Sedano, recounting events on 1/31/1971.




The Moratorium Committee didn’t give up in the face of shrinking community morale and fear. We called a meeting, in January 1971, in Belvedere Park next to the Sheriff station. 

 

August 1970 didn’t wear off. Jackson State, Kent State didn’t wear off. Official violence established itself as an inevitable consequence of protest.

 

The country was stunned, people in movements were afraid of police violence, of being killed at random like Salazar. Oppression had not won, however. In January 1971, the Moratorium Committee called upon the community to mass in public again, to reaffirm our commitment to mass protest and continue insisting on exercising our rights to be heard. It became known as “the march in the rain.”

 

We did not plan the rally to end in a march. Spontaneously, the crowd turned it into a march and headed from Belvedere Park toward Whittier Boulevard. We weren’t permitted for a march and the crowd was in the lead. As one of their Leaders, all I could do was follow.

 

The unorganized march passed the Belvedere sheriff building. Standing behind the fence was Lee Baca. I appealed to him not to unleash his forces. “Look,” I remember explaining, “the Committee didn’t sanction this, this isn’t a march, people are doing this on their own.”

 

Baca had already witnessed me gesturing at the marchers, “Go back! Don’t go down there!” Baca told me I’d better stop them somehow because if the crowd got down there to Whittier Boulevard, “they’re going to get in trouble.”

 

Trouble turned into death. The Los Angeles Times reported the next day “Chicano Violence Laid to Mob That Ignored Monitors.” The marchers confronted Sheriff Deputies. Some fools threw chunks of cement at the Deputies who fired back with shotguns. One deputy’s shotgun killed an Austrian immigrant named Gustav Montag.

 

That wasn’t the end of the Chicano Movement. The Moratorium wasn’t the movement. In fact, you might be reading my story as part of a newly-required ethnic studies course. Relevant education where we get to “see ourselves” in the curriculum is just one of the changes in United States education that the movimiento continues to deliver for our country.

 

When I hear some people say that the Moratorium’s three marches marked the end of the movement, I want to remind them that the movement was the collective labor of millions of people, raza and allies, pursuing community needs. The Movement is an organic feature of a community that develops and changes through generations. 

 

The police violence associated with the Chicano Moratorium drove the moratorium underground, four killings didn’t extinguish what others were doing elsewhere. Not then, and not to this day. As the old saying goes, “aqui estamos y no nos vamos.”

1 comment:

Türkiye Yapay Zeka said...

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