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Newsletter: The Chicano Moratorium, half a century later

Two young men hold a banner marking the National Chicano Moratorium in East Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 1970.
(Sal Castro / Los Angeles Public Library)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, Aug. 25, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

Fifty years ago this week, more than 20,000 demonstrators paraded down East L.A.'s Whittier Boulevard in what would become the biggest gathering of Mexican American demonstrators in U.S. history to that point.

The National Chicano Moratorium Against the Vietnam War was intended as a peace march — an exuberant call to suspend an already unpopular war that was sending a disproportionate number of Mexican American soldiers home in body bags. But things turned violent when sheriff’s deputies stormed a local park, and chaos followed.

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By the day’s end, hundreds were arrested and three people were dead — including trailblazing Latino journalist Ruben Salazar, a Los Angeles Times columnist. A half-century later, the events and emotions of Aug. 29, 1970, still reverberate in L.A.'s Latino community and beyond. As my colleague Carolina Miranda writes, the Chicano Moratorium “marked a seismic moment in the fight against the Vietnam War, the struggle against police brutality and in the Chicano civil rights movement.”

“It was, I guess, a loss of innocence,” Gloria Molina, now 72, said of watching the community destruction that ensued as law enforcement responded with force. Molina would go on to become the first Latina elected to the California Assembly and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, but at the time she was barely out of her teens.

On the eve of its 50th anniversary, my colleagues from across the paper have come together to produce a remarkable series examining the Chicano Moratorium and its legacy. Here’s a look at the stories inside the special section, which appeared in Sunday’s paper.

Know your East L.A. history: Don’t know much about the Chicano Moratorium? Start here, with this piece by Louis Sahagun. (If possible, I recommend reading this one on your computer rather than a phone, to best take in the interactive map as you scroll.) Louis’ piece will take you through the events of that fateful day, and explain how simmering anger over brutal policing, unequal education and racist neglect finally exploded. Los Angeles Times

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The moratorium generation: The march and its chaotic aftermath — which came two years after the 1968 East L.A. school walkouts — “marked both the peak and the beginning-of-the-end of the Chicano movement” for many in Los Angeles, according to my colleague Daniel Hernandez. Hernandez interviewed Moratorium participants to look at the legacy of the Chicano movement, and explore how the event shaped a generation of protesters. Los Angeles Times

A catalytic moment for art and culture: In a wide-ranging piece, culture reporter Carolina Miranda chronicles how the Moratorium influenced the art of its time — and our time too — through murals, theater, photography and music. Los Angeles Times

The Chicana revolt: Julia Barajas and Vanessa Martínez delve into how the women of the Brown Berets broke free and formed their own movement. The name of their group — Adelitas de Aztlán — referred to the soldaderas who fought alongside the men during the Mexican Revolution. Los Angeles Times

“Over the years, the story kept pulling me back ...” Ruben Salazar was killed when a sheriff’s deputy shot a tear gas projectile into the covered doorway of a bar in the chaos of the police melee that followed the Moratorium march. But was Salazar’s death an accident, or an assassination? Former Times reporter Robert J. Lopez delves into his years-long quest to find out how and why the trailblazing journalist died. Los Angeles Times

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Ruben Salazar in 1963.
Ruben Salazar in 1963. As one of the few prominent Latino journalists in a mainstream publication, Salazar wrote about systemic issues affecting Mexicans, including racial profiling and police brutality.
(Associated Press)

The making of a myth: Dorany Pineda looks at how in death, Salazar has been made to be more radical than he was in life. Los Angeles Times

Reading Ruben Salazar: Gustavo Arellano on discovering — and coming to terms — with Salazar’s work. Los Angeles Times

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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Firefighters saw a welcome respite in dangerous fire weather with the cancellation of a red-flag warning for the Bay Area, as two of the three largest fires in California history continue to burn simultaneously in Central and Northern California. Los Angeles Times Are the fires affecting your life? Tell us about it.

Speakers at the Republican National Convention turned California into a dystopian punchline on Monday, portraying America’s most populous state as a dangerous wasteland ruled by liberal politicians who are oblivious to public safety. “If you want to see the socialist Biden-Harris future for our country, just take a look at California,” said Kimberly Guilfoyle, a leading Trump campaign fundraiser and the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr. Her dig was also personal, as she used to be married to Gov. Gavin Newsom, the man currently in charge of the state in question. “It is a place of immense wealth, immeasurable innovation, an immaculate environment, and the Democrats turned it into a land of discarded heroin needles in parks, riots in streets and blackouts in homes,” she continued. Los Angeles Times

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.

L.A. STORIES

How did Beverly Hills become a hub for conservative rallies? While stay-at-home orders have thinned the number of visitors, crowds of conservatives and Trump supporters have turned a small park into the site of a weekly “Freedom Rally.” LAist

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The Beverly Hills park in question during pre-COVID times.
The Beverly Hills park in question during pre-COVID times.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

USC reports an “alarming increase” in COVID-19 cases. In the past seven days, 43 cases have been identified and more than 100 students have been placed in a 14-day quarantine due to exposures. Los Angeles Times

A deaf Long Beach paletero was treated to a “buy-out” event Saturday where members of the community came out to purchase all of his cart inventory. Long Beach Post

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IMMIGRATION AND THE BORDER

Who gets asylum? For the world’s most vulnerable, protection in the United States has all but disappeared. Los Angeles Times

POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

The Republican National Convention is breaking norms and bringing admonitions from ethics experts with its planned use of the White House as backdrop and speeches from administration officials, with some suggesting President Trump himself could potentially violate provisions of federal laws meant to ensure official authority is used for public good. Los Angeles Times

Trump unofficially accepted his party’s nomination for reelection Monday by delivering an unscripted, tradition-busting and falsehood-riddled speech. He accused Democrats of “using COVID to defraud the American people” and “steal an election.” He also suggested, as he has before, that he might stay in office beyond the constitutional two-term limit. Los Angeles Times

The California Assembly approved a ban on the retail sale of flavored tobacco products in the state, with supporters saying it is needed to reduce smoking and vaping by minors and others attracted by flavors that include fruit and menthol. Los Angeles Times

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Jerry Brown takes stock of the pandemic and the president: California’s longest-serving governor talks to Sacramento bureau chief John Myers. (Subscribe to our Essential Politics newsletter, which John writes on Mondays, here.) Los Angeles Times

CRIME AND COURTS

TikTok on Monday sued the Trump administration, declaring that the president’s executive order against the popular video app and its Chinese parent company is unconstitutional. Los Angeles Times

[See also: “Why Trump’s WeChat ban could hurt Hollywood’s ties to China” in the Los Angeles Times]

California’s top court overturned Scott Peterson’s death sentence. The court left in place the guilty verdict and said prosecutors could retry Peterson — who was convicted of killing his wife, Laci, and their unborn son in 2002 — on the penalty if they wished. Los Angeles Times

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HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

State officials are poised to decide whether four gas-fired power plants along the Southern California coast should keep running past 2020, in the first major energy decision for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration after this month’s blackouts. Los Angeles Times

Last week’s heat wave is threatening to have a large and unforeseen consequence on Tulare County agriculture, as cow carcasses begin to pile up in the nation’s No. 1 dairy region. Visalia Times-Delta

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

Zoom was experiencing partial outages Monday morning as millions of students, relying on the video conferencing technology to connect with educators, got into the new school year. Los Angeles Times

A dispatch from a rural Northern California school district where classrooms reopened for in-person instruction. If the district is successful, it could be a preview for other California schools, including in Los Angeles County, as infections begin to decline. Los Angeles Times

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Oakland police raided the country’s most prominent psychedelic “church” and magic mushroom dispensary. Oakland City Council voted last year to decriminalize hallucinogenic fungi possession and consumption, but that policy doesn’t extend to sales — which the “church” was engaged in. KQED

Whose native territory are you occupying? Text your ZIP Code or your city and state, separated by a comma, to (907) 312-5085 and a bot will respond with the names of the Native lands that correspond to that region. Hyperallergic

San Diego’s increased focus on racial equity prompted city officials to consider paving 40 miles of dirt streets scattered across low-income neighborhoods south of Interstate 8. Residents and businesses near the roads deal with excessive dust in warm months, flooding and mudslides during winters, and crater-like potholes throughout the year. San Diego Union-Tribune

A poem to start your Tuesday: “Back Yard” by Carl Sandburg. Poets.org

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CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: partly sunny, 87. San Diego: partly sunny, 82. San Francisco: partly sunny, 69. San Jose: partly sunny, 84. Fresno: sunny, 98. Sacramento: sunny, 93. More weather is here.

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory comes from Félix Gutiérrez:

My memories of the 1960 Democratic convention in Los Angeles include a Biltmore Hotel bustling with conventioneers, candidate hospitality suites and pastel-clad Kennedy women towing young children. A high school journalist, I hung around the Biltmore Bowl press room and learned presidential nominee-designate John F. Kennedy would be appearing. Standing by the press front row I was surprised when a reddish-faced JFK appeared sporting an unnatural sunlamp tan. He quickly announced Lyndon B. Johnson as his running mate, triggering murmurs among reporters surprised he picked someone he so fiercely battled for delegates. Kennedy exited by where I was standing and he shook my outstretched hand, making a memory lasting a lifetime.

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If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.


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