week I sat on the steps of the Santa Ana police station in vigil for five
arrested protestors inside, while a group of about thirty of their exhausted and
forlorn supporters chanted their support and hoped for their release into the
early morning hours, alone except for a handful of police almost casually
looking on. The five arrestees were facing felony charges for protesting
the encroachment of the racist anti-immigrant Minuteman Project into
California, at a demonstration in Garden Grove against a organizing meeting with
the Project's founder, Jim Gilchrist.
I returned to many of those same people and a hundred more marching outside the
District Attorney's office in Santa Ana. The mostly young, mostly Chicano
and Asian-descent protestors had pulled together the May 25 Legal Defense Group
and presented a letter to the Orange Count District Attorney demanding the
charges against their comrades be dropped; that charges be re-filed against the
driver of a vehicle that plowed into six protestors, and that the Garden Grove
police be investigated for their actions on that day. They gave the D.A.
one week to answer.
organizers had done their work. Signs and T-shirts echoed the demands,
chants of ¿Que queremos? ¡Justicia!
resounded through the county government district, and three
young men with cuatros riffed on the chants. Marchers
paraded down the long city block and back up the other side. Half a dozen
television cameras showed up, KPFK covered the rally live, suited newspaper
reporters crouched on paving stones scratching out notes.
time the mood was determined and powerful, harmonious, with a hint of righteous
celebration. The group worked with the media, providing backdrop to
prepared press representatives, posing with their signs, responding with both
clarity and outrage to the reporters' questions. Lacking the provocation
of the Minutemen or a visible police presence, the well-disciplined and peaceful
protestors completed their mission and dispersed at the 6:00 pm announcement.
dozen marchers attended a community follow-up meeting. We briefed each
other on the arrestees' situation, the Save Our State plans to return to Baldwin
Park in June, the Minutemen's border plans this summer, and the May 25 Legal
Defense Group's next actions. Everyone took a few minutes to speak about
why they were there. Several spoke in horror at the lifetime implications
of felony convictions for the Chicano brothers; a young man spoke of using
Garden Grove to educate the community about the police state; una abuela told of
a career of victories over school boards and police chiefs, while her
granddaughter spoke of her first protest.
had differences that should have splintered the group, across race, between
genders, among generations and classes. But these young adults are of a
generation that intuits that they must isolate and annihilate old white peoples'
racism. Some of us had been at Garden Grove, some at Baldwin Park, and for
some this rally was their beginning. But we all understood: la policía
had locked up la raza and freed los racistas.
the ride home, my mind flitted from All Power to the People! to Solidarność
to ¡Ya Basta!, and even to the naive and idealistic "Make love, not
war." And then I got it. Last night, I had been privileged to
witness the birth of a pueblo.