Prior to the Brown Berets, a group of students worked at the Los Angeles Times Boys Club. The group called itself the Young Citizens for Community Action. Vicky Castro was the first President. Eventually, David Sánchez became the President as the young group began to grow.
In 1967, at the age of seventeen, David Sánchez wrote a successful proposal to the Southern California Council of Churches. The grant provided the necessary funds to fund the founding of La Piranya coffee house.
La Piranya coffee house was located on the corner of Goodrich Avenue and Olympic Boulevard in East Los Angeles. The youth hangout was the location where the Brown Berets and members of the United Mexican American Students (UMAS) met to plan for the high school blowouts. Teacher Sal Castro was at the meetings giving hope to the students.
David Sánchez recruited Vicky Castro, Ralph Ramírez, Moctezuma Esparza, and other friends from the Camp Hess Kramer conferences of 1966. Eventually the group changed its name to the Young Chicanos for Community Action signifying the political awareness brewing among the students.
In September of 1967, David Sánchez, worked after school at the Magnolia Elementary School playground in South Central Los Angeles. At this school, David began wearing a “brown beret,” and the young elementary school students began calling him “Brown Beret.” David believed that if the young students liked the brown beret then it could be a good psychological ploy to unite La Raza.
From the beginning, the Brown Berets were under intense law-enforcement surveillance and according to Jennifer Correa in Chicano Nationalism: The Brown Berets and Legal Social Control there are approximately 1,200 pages in the FBI database devoted to the group.
The Brown Berets were constantly harassed, beaten and arrested by the the various Los Angeles police agencies. At least seven of the 13 Chicanos arrested as a result of the 1968 East Los Angeles High School Blowouts were Brown Berets.
As a result of an FBI directive, police agencies infiltrated the Brown Berets causing division within the group as well as accusing the Brown Berets of instigating acts of violence, such as during the Nueva Vistas Conference at the Biltmore Hotel where then Governor Ronald Reagan was scheduled to speak.
It was later out found out that police officer Fernando Sumaya had infiltrated the Brown Berets and had set the fires at the Biltmore Hotel that led to the arrests of six Chicanos known as the Biltmore Six, including Carlos Montes.
Frank “Eustacio” Martínez, an informant for the DEA, also infiltrated the Brown Berets and the Chicano Moratorium while instigating acts of violence in order to entrap Brown Beret members as well as intending to destroy the Chicano Movement.
The above photo shows the Brown Berets in the center unknowingly flanked on the extreme left and right by suspected law-enforcement intelligence infiltrators.