Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A.

By Luis J. Rodriguez | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER SEVEN

"When the hanging's done and the embers at the burning stake are grayed and cold, the conquered bodies of martyrs become the unconquerable ideas."

-- Nelson Peery

August 29, 1970: Tens of thousands gathered in East L.A.'s Belvedere Park to protest the Viet Nam War. The organizers placed flyers on lampposts and bus stops with the following statistics: 22 percent of the war's casualties came from Spanish- speaking communities -- although this population made up less than six percent of the U.S. total!

The ensuing march and demonstration -- called the Chicano Moratorium Against The War -- became the largest anti-war rally ever held in a minority community.

I jumped on a bumpy bus from South San Gabriel and exited on Beverly Boulevard and Third Street, toward Belvedere Park. When I arrived, people carried signs denouncing the war, including a few which said "Chicano Power." The Brown Berets, both men and women, in military- style tan, fatigue clothing, marched in cadence on Third Street. A man with a bull horn shouted slogans: "No More War," "¡Chale! We Won't Go" and "¡Qué Viva La Raza!"

The slogans incited the crowd to chants. Signs and fists pierced the sky. Conga drum beats swirled around a grouping of people at one end of the park. I melded among the protesters, dressed in street attire and my favorite blue Pendleton shirt. When the marching started, I threw a fist into the air.

We advanced down Atlantic Boulevard, past stretches of furniture stores, used car lots and cemeteries. Store owners closed early, pulling across rusty iron enclosures. Young mothers with infants in strollers, factory hands, gang-hangers, a

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