By Holly Jenvey
A march and festivities linking communities of all ethnicities commemorated the 50th anniversary of the historic Chicano Moratorium on Saturday, Aug. 29.
Hosted by the Pico Youth & Family Center and local grassroots social justice groups 4Corners4Justice and Save Venice, the event took place in Santa Monica at Memorial Park and Virginia Avenue Park. A diverse crowd of about 50 people gathered to commemorate the historic anti-Vietnam War protest that took place in East LA in the summer of 1970 and was a key point moment in the Chicano Movement.
Drawing at least 20,000 people, that demonstration in Laguna Park was the biggest gathering of Mexican American demonstrators to that point in U.S. history. It also marked a pivotal point in the Chicano civil rights movement as the peaceful march devolved into chaos when sheriff’s deputies clashed with protesters, resulting in at least three deaths, including that of LA Times journalist Ruben Salazar.
While the original protest and a sister protest this weekend took place in East LA, local organizers wanted to show Westside solidarity by amplifying indigenous voices in the community, which have dissipated as Santa Monica has undergone sweeping gentrification for more than decade.
“We wanted to do our own thing,” said Mike Bravo, the main coordinator for Save Venice.
However, the speeches of MEChA students from Venice High School demonstrated how the future generation can expand indiginous representation.
“It’s so powerful in how we’re giving them that space so they can make… bigger changes,” said Alejandro Arroyo, a co-founder of 4Corners4Justice.
Musical performances by Lady Soul and Zipactli also highlighted the significant role women played in the Chicano Movement, breaking the stereotype that it was mainly dominated by men.
“They’re breaking from stereotypes with their music,” said Alex Aldana, the Executive Director of Pico Youth & Family Center.
Yet, this event also highlighted current racial injustices and tensions happening on the Westside and around the country. Solidary was shown for the Black Lives Matter movement as gatherers held signs that read “Black and brown unity,” “Raza Unida” and “Chicanos for Black Lives Matter.” The event also put a spotlight on allegations of child abuse by members of the Santa Monica Police Department’s Police Activities League (PAL) with a stop in front of the organization’s offices. In March, the City of Santa Monica agreed to pay out $42.6 million to settle the abuse claims against PAL volunteers who worked in the predominantly Latino Pico neighborhood of Santa Monica.
“All of our struggles are not separate. They’re linked,” Arroyo said.