In 1969, the Brown Berets formed the Chicano Moratorium to organize and build support for an anti-war movement among Chicanas/os. The first Chicano Moratorium was held in December 1969 with approximately 2,000 in attendance. The Brown Berets called for a second protest in February 1970 where almost 7,000 people marched in the pouring rain.
At the second National Chicano Youth Liberation Conference organized by the Crusade for Justice, participants called for a united front to galvanize the Chicano Movement with a larger march scheduled for Los Angeles in August 1970.
August 29, 1970 represented the largest gathering of Chicanas/os during the Chicano Movement (1965-1975) when over 30,000 people converged in East Los Angeles to declare Ya Basta to the imperialist war in Viet Nam and the brutal police war in the streets of Aztlán.
August 29, 1970 was the culmination of a movement that sought to articulate the goals of El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán by any means necessary.
August 29, 1970. Forty-three years ago the rebellion in East Los Angeles was drenched in blood; streets were filled with broken glass; buildings and police cars were set ablaze; and the smell of tear gas permeated the hot summer day as the Chicana/o community defended itself from the unprovoked assault of the Police State.
August 29 is forever steeped in Chicano martyrdom: Ruben Salazar, Lyn Ward, and Angel Gilberto Diaz were killed by the violent power of the State.
Prior to August 29, 1970, many Chicanas/os had believed that grievances could be settled within the system.
The events of August 29, however, marked the end of the innocence for the Chicana/o community.
The death of three Chicanos at the hands of the police demonstrated that the system did not work for Chicanas/os.
Many movement activists had finally come to the realization that an Aztlán Libre could not be obtained through traditional political or electoral methods. August 29 was a fierce wake-up call for the Chicana/o activists at the time.
Many Chicanos were forced underground, such as the Brown Beret Minister of Information Carlos Montes, whom Sargent Lee Ceballos physically and verbally threatened with, “I’m either going to kill you or see that you spend the rest of your life behind bars.” Carlos would not re-appear until 1977 at which point he was promptly arrested for his political activities in the early 1970s.
The Chicano Movement attorney Oscar Zeta Acosta, the Brown Buffalo, who at every opportunity possible challenged the legality of American jurisprudence vis-à-vis the Chicana/o, disappeared never to be seen or heard from again.
A group calling itself the Chicano Liberation Front went on the offensive targeting governmental, institutional and corporate facilities with a series of at least twenty-eight bombings using the declaration that the actions were taken in the name of “outraged barrio communities that are powerless and without rights.”
Between August 29, 1970 and January 31, 1971, there were at least five police riots in East Los Angeles and according to Dr. Armando Morales a total of thirty police riots occurred throughout the rest of Aztlán.
Five months after the events of August 29, 1970, Gustav Montag would became the fourth movement martyr in Los Angeles when the L.A. County Sheriff’s killed him at the final Chicano Moratorium on January 31, 1971.
It should be noted that at the end of May 1974, two separate car bombings within two days of each other rocked the Chicana/o community in Denver, Colorado killing six Chicana/o activists.
The group came to be known as Los Seis de Boulder.
On May 27, 1974, a car bomb claimed the lives of Alamosa attorney and University of Colorado law school graduate Reyes Martinez, 26; Ignacio High School homecoming queen and University of Colorado junior Neva Romero, 21; University of Colorado double major graduate Una Jaakola, 24, who was Martinez’s girlfriend.
Then, on May 29, 1974 another bomb went off in a car in the Burger King parking lot on 28th Street, killing Florencio Granado, 31, who once attended the University of Colorado; former University of Colorado student Heriberto Teran, 24; and Francisco Dougherty, 20, a pre-med student from Texas.
The Martyrs of the Movement remain alive within this writing. Their sacrifices made my opportunities possible.
Fast forward forty-three years later. The memories fade away. In this case, the system has worked to perfection as the history of August 29, 1970 and the Chicano Movement is stolen, erased or hidden in some banned book.
It is in this writing and in this space that I have made an attempt to reclaim our history for a new generation.
The remnants of the Chicano Movement have smoldered for forty-three years. The movement is awaiting its return.
Forty-three years later the streets of East LA are no longer drenched in blood, broken glass, or the smell of tear gas.
All that is left is what appears to be a hand-me-down, worn out picture of journalist Ruben Salazar stitched to a yellow painted storefront on Whittier Blvd hiding the events of August 29, 1970.
The struggle of the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and 1970s was neutralized by the power of the Police State through infiltration and physical violence.
Forty-three years later, Los Angeles law-enforcement agencies continue to harass, intimidate and kill Chicanas/os with impunity.
Forty-three years later, with the exception of Ruben Salazar, the Martyrs of the Chicano Movement have been largely forgotten by those forces that continue to oppress our people:
Angel Gilberto Diaz
Oscar Zeta Acosta
Luis “Jr” Martínez
The Martyrs of the Movement are not forgotten. There are other countless names who must be remembered. Their names must be etched forever in the history of Chicano resistance so that the younger generation can continue the legacy of building Aztlán.
The echoes of August 29 rumble throughout Aztlán. It is a day of remembrance and resistance. It is a day that we can never forget.