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Chicano Moratorium March
East Los Angeles, August 29, 1970

Chicano Moratorium, Vietnam, East Los Angeles, August, 1970

Protesters march along Whittier Boulevard in East Los Angeles, 1970. Photo from the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive at UCLA Library.

On August 29, 1970, 20,000 to 30,000 people from across the country joined to march and protest against the Vietnam War. The marchers rallied at Laguna Park (present-day Ruben Salazar Park). The event was organized by the Chicano Moratorium, an alliance of Chicano anti-war activists. It called attention to the disproportionate number of young Latino casualties in the war. At the time, 19 percent of U.S. war casualties bore Spanish surnames, despite Latinos being only 12 percent of America’s population.

Chicano Moratorium, Vietnam, Protest, November, 1969

U.S. Army infantry on break while on patrol in Vietnam, 1969. Photo by Specialist 4 Dennis J. Kurpius, U.S. Army, in National Archives.

The rally at Laguna Park was peaceful and even festive, featuring speakers, musicians, dancers and theatrical performers. The crowd included families with children. A few hours after the rally started, sheriff deputies responded to call from a liquor store near the park that several youths had stolen beverages. As deputies entered the area, they were pelted from the fringes of the crowd. Police reinforcements were already poised, so deputies formed skirmish lines to push back against the rally. The rally was declared an illegal assembly. Many in the rally were still unaware of what of was happening at its fringes, when deputies fired tear gas into the park. Baton-swinging police skirmish lines followed to clear the park. People fled where they could to escape the gas and batons. Some, enraged by the police excesses, fought back. Others smashed and torched businesses along Whittier Boulevard and chased off firefighters.

Chicano Moratorium, Sheriff, East Los Angeles, August, 1970

Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies clash with Chicano Moratorium demonstrators, 1970. Photo from the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive at UCLA Library.

Ruben Salazar, a popular award-winning Mexican American journalist, took refuge with others in a nearby bar. He was killed when a deputy fired a tear gas canister through the bar’s open door.

Ruben Salazar, Journalist

Journalist Ruben Salazar. Photo from the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive at UCLA Library.

By early evening, 44 businesses had been looted or destroyed, hundreds arrested, 75 law enforcement officers and many others injured and three, including Salazar, were dead. The day became a historic Latino civil rights event, but, as is so common in the struggle for civil rights and social justice, one not without pain and loss.

Chicano Moratorium, Whittier Boulevard, Vietnam, East Los Angeles, Riot, August, 1970

East Los Angeles residents view damage on Whittier Boulevard after rioting, 1970. Photo from the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive at UCLA Library.

A Day of Rage in East L.A., by louis sahagun, LA Times
August 1970 - Chicano Moratorium Protests in East L.A.; Journalist Rubén Salazar Killed, by Elson Trinidad, KCET
Chicano Moratorium, Wikipedia
An important day in U.S. history: The Chicano Moratorium, by Mario T. Garcia, National Catholic Reporter

L.A. Video

L.A. Videos
L.A. Video: The Chicano Moratorium: Why 30,000 People Marched Through East L.A. in 1970