Friday, August 29, 2014

August 29, 1970

An event that has had long-lasting repercussions took place in Los Angeles some 44 years ago.  There was a march that had more than 20,000 marchers.  Some estimate the number to be closer to 30,000.  Like other parts of history this event has been forgotten by much of Southern California.

Photographer - Oscar Castillo

The Chicano Moratorium took place on August 29, 1970 in East LA.  The march began at Belvedere Park and ended at Laguna Park, a park where I used to go to play while my mom attended Girl Scout leader trainings.  As I recall there was more space than there were things to play on, but that it made it a great site for the end of a peaceful demonstration.  

The march and rally were the sorts of protests that were taking place across the U.S. as people were highlighting their communities' struggles with discrimination.  The moratorium was a protest to the disproportionate numbers of young Chicanos that were being drafted to fight in the Viet Nam War.  According to a study by Dr. Ralph Guzman, nearly 20% of casualties in Viet Nam (1961-1967) were of Chicanos from the Southwest despite representing 10% of the overall population.

My friends were among those who ran as teargas was shot at the unarmed crowd.  A woman who has doctorate in the field of Gerontology shared the following with me today - "[It was] a day I will never forget...1st time experiencing critical mass, social solidarity and later that afternoon ... tear gas, the thud of a baton on my head, absolute chaos, and the murder of Rubén ... memories of a 13 year-old Chicana".

Looking at the footage of that day, it's clear that the deputies were in command of the situation.  It's clear that what had started as a peaceful protest changed to a forceful response.  The sheriffs went through the crowd using batons and teargas and some of the protestors responded with rocks and sticks.  Hundreds were arrested;  Lynn Ward, Angel Diaz, and Los Angeles Times journalist Rubén Salazar were killed.  

Courtesy - Zinn Education Project

While all deaths are tragic, the loss of Ruben, as most folks remember him, was particularly painful.  Rubén was the first Chicano reporter for the Times.  He had been the voice that shared a viewpoint that up until his writing was not being heard or read by the greater population.

Following his initial coverage of the moratorium Rubén went to the Silver Dollar Bar for a beer.  While in the bar Ruben was killed by a nine inch tear gas projectile that was fired into the bar from the street.

Photographer - Raul Ruiz
Following an inquest the jury found that he had been killed at the hands of another, but the deputy who shot the projectile was never charged with manslaughter or murder.  In 1973 the Salazar family were paid $700,000 by Los Angeles County because the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department did not use "proper and lawful guidelines for the use of deadly force" in the killing of Rubén

In 2008 Rubén Salazar was one of five journalists recognized by the US Postal Service by issuing commemorative stamps with their images on them.  The other four were John Hersey, Martha Gellhorn, George Polk, and Eric Sevareid.


  1. I hadn't known any of this. It's reminiscent of today.

  2. According to one of the articles written by director Jesus Trevino the officer who shot the projectile shared that he couldn't remember the event taking place. There is a play that was written about the occurrence "August 29".