It has been over 50 years since that day, but Irene Tovar remembers her frantic search for friends and family following an anti-Vietnam War protest in east Los Angeles that she helped to organize.
It was August 29, 1970, a day when more than 30,000 Latinos protested the Vietnam War along Whittier Boulevard before gathering in what was then known as Laguna Park.
“It was a family event. We invited our grandmothers and parents to come with our little siblings and we all walked. There was no violence on the course. People were sitting in the park, listening to the speakers and music, and then all hell broke loose, ”recalls the Mission Hills resident, now 83.
Violence erupted when the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department entered the park, killing three people, including LA Times reporter Ruben Salazar, and a county-wide curfew.
This protest, known as the Chicano National Moratorium, and other events leading up to the day, are the focus of a new exhibit titled “Patriotism in Conflict: Fighting for Country and Community,” which opens November 5 and runs through June 19 at La Plaza de Cultura y Artes in downtown LA The exhibit also includes contributions made by Latinos who have served in the military since World War II .
“We had over 30,000 people organizing, mobilizing and protesting to end the war and bring Chicano men back to the United States and also defend civil rights, education and political representation,” he said. declared Esperanza Sanchez, curator of the exhibition.
“It was a very peaceful protest,” Sanchez said.
But the peaceful protest later turned violent after police responded to a disturbance reported by shop owners at a nearby liquor store, then clashed with protesters in the park.
“The sheriff started chasing people (from the park) and beating them. Many people got scared and started to fight back or run away. They received tear gas, hit by the police, ”Sanchez said.
Learn from the past
The exhibition, made up of around 300 objects, including pictures, posters, leaflets, artwork and personal items of Latino servicemen, was due to open last summer at the cultural center to mark the 50th anniversary of the moratorium. . It has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
And while it focuses on the moratorium and the events leading up to August 29, it also examines the broader history of patriotism in the Chicano community, from their involvement in World War II to the Chicano moratorium, Sanchez said.
The exhibit begins by highlighting Latinos’ contributions to the military and their patriotism by displaying personal items such as a stack of handwritten letters sent by soldiers, some of which date back to World War II.
Also on display are a Purple Heart along with other medals awarded to Latino soldiers and a photo album of a soldier serving in Vietnam.
The exhibit then focuses heavily on photographs that include images of walkouts at local high schools to protest the war, as well as photos of female members of the Brown Berets protesting the Vietnam War in eastern LA in December. 1969. It is described in the exhibition as the first Chicano moratorium against the war.
Dressed in military-style skirts, jackets and berets, the photo shows the women marching in a straight line during the protest which included more than 1,000 people rallying against the war.
“A lot of these women were the ones who mobilized everyone,” Sanchez said.
Other walls in the exhibition space are filled with black and white photographs of the August 29 demonstration.
One photo shows a massive crowd on Whittier Boulevard holding up signs, another shows a woman dressed in white holding her young daughter’s hand.
Still others show the aftermath of the violence that followed with footage of protesters showing the injuries they received that day, including bloody legs and bruised torsos and arms.
Salazar, who was killed at the Silver Dollar Bar & Cafe while reporting on the protest after a tear gas projectile fired by sheriffs hit him in the head, features prominently in the exhibit There are several works of art, including a colorful acrylic painting of the journalist, who became a martyr of the movement after his death.
And for Tovar, the exhibition is not only a lens to the past, it is also a lesson for future generations.
“It represents what I went through and I’m so happy that we remember what happened during that time,” Tovar said. “I really believe that if you don’t know your story you are doomed to repeat it and I think our community should recognize what a lot of people have done on behalf of their children,” she added.
Patriotism in times of conflict: fighting for the country and the community
When: November 5 June 19 2022
Where: La Plaza de Cultura y Artes, 501 N. Main St. Los Angeles
COVID-19 Protocols: Proof of vaccination or negative test and masks should be worn indoors.