Fifteen years have passed since 20,000 members of the Mexican community expressed their discontent with the Vietnam War and discrimination and exploitation in the barrios. Ruben Salazar, news director for the Spanish-language KMEX and Times reporter and Chicano affairs columnist, died at the event. History was made that day. Del Olmo has confused history, memory, and legacy but more importantly he slighted the event and Salazar.
The history of the Moratorium has yet to be written. Del Olmo noted that it was the largest Chicano demonstration ever but proceeds to call it a “riot.” What led so many Chicanos to protest the war he does not say: that they comprised about 20% of the war casualties was not mentioned. In fact, for every protester one Chicano died in Nam. The rationale behind the affair and the events preceding it were put aside.
The moratorium was not a riot. Those in attendance attest that it was a peaceful demonstration down Whittier Boulevard and into Laguna Park in East L.A. Families participated, a newlywed couple marched, and nonviolence was the order of the day.
Rioting occurred after provocation from the police; 178 businesses were stoned, pillaged, or burned and three men died. Like the Watts Riot five years earlier, pent-up frustrations were unleashed. Those who attended the event dwell on the riot since it was out-of-the-ordinary (though a number of marches and then riots followed the one of the 29th). Memory works that way.
Del Olmo called Salazar a “skeptical reporter"--surely he deserves more credit and dignity. This history has yet to be written and memories falter and change, but the legacy of the Moratorium and Ruben Salazar remain in the hearts of the community.