As a coalition of Eastside groups and organizers prepare to mark next year’s 50th anniversary of the Chicano Moratorium, a Boyle Heights organization is hosting its own commemoration this week of the Aug. 29, 1970 anti war march, regarded by scholars as a pivotal event in the Chicano Movement for equal rights – and by some as a breakthrough moment for Latino political power in the U.S.

Boyle Heights’ Centro CSO will host its fifth annual commemoration of the Chicano Moratorium –marking the march’s 49th anniversary– on Thursday, Aug. 29 at 6 pm at Self Help Graphics + Art.

Activist and author Ernesto Vigil (The Crusade for Justice: Chicano Militancy and the Government’s War on Dissent) will be the evening’s keynote speakers. Also speaking will be Lisa Vargas, whose son Anthony Vargas was shot and killed by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies in 2018. Other speakers include teacher and UTLA member Antonia Montes, local activist and Moratorium participant Carlos Montes, Vietnam veteran and poet Rudy Chávez and organizer and activist Sol Márquez, a member of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO) and staffer at Centro CSO.

The event is open to the general public and admission is free: there will be food, a performance by the band Resonance Group, artwork, books and a raffle. 

Although Chicano Moratorium is short for the National Chicano Moratorium Committee – a coalition of Chicano groups and activists that organized a number of anti Vietnam war marches in Mexican American communities throughout the Southwest from 1969 to 1971 – the name is mostly associated with the Aug. 29, 1970, march that brought as many as 30,000 protesters to East Los Angeles. 

The march down Whittier Boulevard ended at what was then known as Laguna Park, where a riot ensued after LA County Sheriff’s deputies declared it an “unlawful assembly” and began shooting tear gas into the crowd and pushing protesters back to Whittier.  Several area businesses were set on fire, dozens of people were injured, more than 150 arrested and four people were killed.

Among the killed was journalist Rubén Salazar, news director at KMEX 34 and columnist with the Los Angeles Times who was covering the march and was hit by a gas projectile while he was inside a bar on Whittier Boulevard.  Laguna Park has since been renamed in his memory.

Centro CSO is one of several area groups that have formed a coalition to organize next year’s 50th anniversary of the Chicano Moratorium. The group is holding a fundraiser next month: a party at Rudy’s Club that will feature a performance by Eastside legend Rudy Salas, former Tierra lead singer.

Organizers of this week’s anniversary event in Boyle Heights say they expect the location to be filled at maximum capacity –as it has during the last years– and encourage participants to arrive early and grab a seat. 

Self Help Graphics is at 1300 E 1st St, just steps from the Pico Aliso Gold Line Station. For further information, contact Centro CSO at (323) 943-2030, [email protected] 

Photo above: from Creative Commons: “Rioting following Chicano Moratorium Committee antiwar protest”by sinfronteras is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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