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Baldwin Park 2: La reconquista continúa

by Leslie Monday, Jun. 27, 2005 at 5:35 PM

Report from the second invasion of Baldwin Park

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BALDWIN PARK, June 25, 2005--By noon, about eight hundred counter protestors stood against the invasion of Baldwin Park by Save Our State from Ventura and Minutemen from Arizona, both militant anti-migration groups, and the Nazi National Vanguard, a white supremacist group, together numbering about forty or fifty. This was the invaders' second unsuccessful effort to attract attention to a monument at the Baldwin Park Metrolink station entitled Danzas Indigenas by renowned artist Judy Baca, which commemorates a Tongva ("Gabrielino") Indian uprising led by Toypurinah against the San Gabriel Mission and the history of the land from that time forward. At their first incursion on May 25, SOS had declared inscriptions on the monument referring to indigenous Mexican culture "seditious."

I was escorted into the celebration by two friends, one looking particularly sharp in his brown beret. We were met by eight hundred celebrants who had come to assert their Indigenous, Mexican, and Chicano culture in the face of the racist intruders, surrounded by cops. A mild-mannered poet burst into a fierce diatribe proclaiming "Genocide alert!" in a poem about Kristallnacht. An interlingual agitprop teatro group told a history of the Native and Mexican land grabs. Behind the tarp that hung as a backdrop, young actors hastily tore off one costume and slipped into the next. They parodied a white SOS member in the large, droopy American-flag hat who had appeared at an earlier demonstration and Lupe Moreno, the Latina spokesperson for SOS. El Pelado ended the acto with a costume transformation revealing him not to be a clown, but a proud Chicano declaring "Ya basta!".

Under the omnipresent helicopter, musicians and speakers, including the Jornaleros Unidos de Valle San Gabriel, a group that had joined the Alhambra demonstration in support of day laborers and against Save Our State, extended their support. Danza Cuetemoc from Lincoln Park and from Baldwin Park performed to the north along Ramona Boulevard for passing motorists.

Near the police line across the Metrolink station's parking lot, thirty large signs on ten-foot poles staked out the southwest boundary of the celebration. The signs interspersed various pictures of non-Europeans with "Good Art Confuses Racists," "We Remember Toypurina," "The land doesn't belong to us. We belong to the land," and "He thinks the land belongs to him, and that we plan to reconquer it. His mind is upside down." When those holding the signs turned around, the National Vanguard, SOS, and Minuteman protestors at the other end of the park saw on the signs silhouettes of backs of people identified as immigrants and in Spanish and English, "America Turns Its Back on Hate-Groups."

Piñatas of Jim Gilchrist, leader of the Minuteman Project, and Arnold Schwarzenegger were strung over the crowd, and giant puppets in the Bread and Puppets tradition, one with red, brown, black and white faces pointing to the four directions, swirled across the lawn. Police videographers (from the L.A. Impact unit, which investigates major drug dealing and organized crime) not surprisingly were more interested in gathering footage of those attending than the cultural celebration in front of them.

Among the celebrants were an assortment of Mexican cultural, anarchist, socialist, and groups. A dozen young Brown Berets from San Diego, crisply disciplined in starched brown uniforms and led by a dignified older woman in a slightly worn beret, mingled with Mechistas and hundreds of neighborhood Chicanas and Chicanos.

While about five hundred of the largely Chicano/a and Indigenous crowd stayed at the celebration, about three hundred counter protestors walked nearly three miles around cordoned-off city streets to confront the racists. A small contingent of socialists, including a Franco-Iraqi, invited me to hook up with them, and three Chicanas later joined our group as we wended our way through Baldwin Park side streets, getting shooed off by cops at their barricades, and asking neighbors for directions and where we could get one of those Big Gulps. As we passed the railroad tracks our wiser members warned us that we might get arrested. Some of us laughed it off--why would the police bother with people walking on the tracks? But we decided it wasn't worth even the small risk. We tried and failed to cut through a fence behind an apartment complex while the residents looked over their railings at us, and we wished for a ten-year-old guide who would have known the shortcuts and led us through the sprinklers and slip-'n-slides in the midday heat. I later learned from legal observers that the police had indeed staked out the tracks and arrested those who had cut through to Pacifica Avenue.

With the streets secured from foot and vehicular traffic by 12:30, the racists were waving their placards at only the police, counter protestors, and a handful residents standing on balconies. But apparently the sixty or so police got their message. Baldwin Park, West Covina, Polomo, San Marino, and California State University police had joined with L.A. County Sheriffs in front of, to the side, and behind the counter protestors, while about twenty others chatted with the racists.

Joe Turner, head of Save Our State, repeatedly tried to cross into the counter protestors' group. It was reported that Turner was briefly arrested during one of these provocations, only to be released when he was escorted back to the other side of the street. Apparently the police were unaware of his previous arrest record.

The counter protestors demanded that the racists go home and asserted their claim to the land and their culture.

At 2:15, the police moved against the counter protestors, now joined by danzantes, backing them away and down Pacifica Avenue, two blocks from the anti-Mexican group. At 2:30, half a dozen counter protestors confronted police on a side street shouting that the police were the same as the anti-migrant racists. The protestors and police lunged at each other, and I heard the sharp crack of rifles being cocked to my left. But other counter protestors urged their companions to return to the main group, while warning the cops not to attack the community.

At the northeast end of the park, white supremacists apparently had carte blanche from the cops to mill around the cultural celebration. In one instance, Aztlan Mexica Nation/Harmony Circle, in black slacks and red shirts, escorted out one National Vanguard member wearing a white construction hat and using an American flag to mask a four-foot long, 2-inch wide pole. A replica rifle was confiscated from another intruder. Three more, one in military khakis, ribbons, and a garrison cap, tried to lecture the crowd.

Ultimately, a lone, smirking young white guy, mistaken by the crowd for Turner, marched the length of the celebration on Downing Avenue carrying a colonial American flag. He strode to the police barricade expecting to cross, but the cops refused to let him pass. A hundred angry Chicanos quickly surrounded him shouting, "Get off our land--the Mayflower's waiting for you!" The man, with his haughty, aloof grin, stood unperturbed, while police refused to act either to arrest or protect him. The Harmony Keepers intervened and asked the crowd to step back, saying the day's celebration shouldn't turn ugly. The crowd, understanding the Harmony Circle's message, stayed at arm's length. The police apparently attempting to rile the crowd by leading the man back through the celebration on Downing Avenue rather than escort him through police lines. The police turned east on Ramona Boulevard, away from the celebration, but then turned around and took the man west past the protestors on the street. When asked by one spectator if they intended to provoke an outburst, a police officer chortled, "Heh, heh, heh."

Back on Pacifica Avenue, at about 2:45 the police began escorting the National Vanguard, Minutemen, and SOS out of the area. Three cop cars behind the protestors pulled out as the counter protestors headed back to the celebration, this time around the block. The cops stopped the protestors on a side street entrance to the park, but after chants of "Whose streets? Our streets!" the cops allowed the counter protestors to walk single file back onto Downing Avenue. As we marched back to our sisters and brothers, we were greeted with raised fists, hugs, and tearful eyes. We melded into one voice chanting "Aquí y allá la lucha seguirá."

Aztlan Underground began their set invoking the spirit of Toypurinah. It ended with dozens of young Chicanas and Chicanos dancing to the driving, 21st-century drums and flute surrounded by their elders and allies. With Toypurinah's burial mound just yards away, I'm pretty sure she had stepped up to join the crowd of dancers.

Bulldog announced that the permit for the celebration had expired. I walked out between rows of tired danzantes lining the sidewalk and noted the police tape now fluttering on the ground, except around the monument, which remained untouched. I glanced back and saw twenty Harmony Keepers proudly marching down the sidewalk, their work done for the day.

Obviously, I couldn't be in two places at once. My thanks to those who helped fill in the blanks and to Arturo Ramos for the artwork.

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Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 53 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
WOW! AWESOME! Latinos Unidos Monday, Jun. 27, 2005 at 7:24 PM
Corrections Leslie Monday, Jun. 27, 2005 at 7:50 PM
After the Revolution Bananas Monday, Jun. 27, 2005 at 8:15 PM
FLAT OUT LIES nevercarryinacrowd Monday, Jun. 27, 2005 at 10:31 PM
Excellent report! I saw that white supremist, also. Fredric L. Rice Monday, Jun. 27, 2005 at 11:44 PM
White Helmet guy Next Move Tuesday, Jun. 28, 2005 at 2:04 AM
Honestly, can ANYONE count ? littlebopeep Tuesday, Jun. 28, 2005 at 4:46 AM
Damn, guess I'd better leave now, huh? Fredriuc L. Rice Tuesday, Jun. 28, 2005 at 3:48 PM
Racist Report Big Dave Tuesday, Jun. 28, 2005 at 5:47 PM
Response to some of the comments Leslie Tuesday, Jun. 28, 2005 at 7:20 PM
I'd like to see specific errors Fredric L. Rice Tuesday, Jun. 28, 2005 at 7:41 PM
Lies and Propaganda Big Dave Wednesday, Jun. 29, 2005 at 12:03 PM
Who doesn't have arrest record? Fed Up Wednesday, Jun. 29, 2005 at 12:17 PM
> Show me the proof Hex Wednesday, Jun. 29, 2005 at 3:25 PM
Strange. Fredric L. Rice Wednesday, Jun. 29, 2005 at 4:17 PM
I've never been arrested Fredric L. Rice Wednesday, Jun. 29, 2005 at 4:30 PM
COMPREHENSIVE PROOF OF SOS RACISM In Your Own Words Thursday, Jun. 30, 2005 at 4:54 AM
La reconquista continúa" = racism Rich White Thursday, Jun. 30, 2005 at 9:20 AM
RE:COMPREHENSIVE PROOF OF SOS RACISM Big Dave Thursday, Jun. 30, 2005 at 2:06 PM
Guilt by association Fredric L. Rice Thursday, Jun. 30, 2005 at 4:28 PM
Guilt By Association WITH YOUR OWN WORDS In Your Own Words Thursday, Jun. 30, 2005 at 8:47 PM
Is SOS an "unconscious" front group for Nazis? In Your Own Words Thursday, Jun. 30, 2005 at 8:53 PM
Leslie Roberto Gotti Saturday, Jul. 02, 2005 at 4:55 AM
Leslie 2 Roberto Gotti Saturday, Jul. 02, 2005 at 5:09 AM
OneEyedMan KPC Saturday, Jul. 02, 2005 at 4:13 PM
Amusing fresca Saturday, Jul. 02, 2005 at 4:29 PM
she'll be coming around the mountain whe she comes.. canat Saturday, Jul. 02, 2005 at 6:19 PM
To Robert Leslie Saturday, Jul. 02, 2005 at 8:01 PM
Gotti's Pittance In your own words Sunday, Jul. 03, 2005 at 4:25 AM
In your own words Fed Up Sunday, Jul. 03, 2005 at 11:00 AM
Response Roberto Gotti Sunday, Jul. 03, 2005 at 7:32 PM
On land grabbing and US prosperity Leslie Sunday, Jul. 03, 2005 at 10:30 PM
Who we are Noxtinnomecayotzin Monday, Jul. 04, 2005 at 1:03 AM
Fed Up With Your Ignorance In Your Own Words Monday, Jul. 04, 2005 at 7:20 AM
Roberto Gotti Blah, Blah, Blah Monday, Jul. 04, 2005 at 5:03 PM
In your Own Words #2 Fed Up Monday, Jul. 04, 2005 at 7:10 PM
Where are you from? johnk Monday, Jul. 04, 2005 at 8:13 PM
The Mestizo Concept: A Product of European Imperialism by Jack Forbes Noxtinnomecayotzin Tuesday, Jul. 05, 2005 at 10:40 AM
What's Obvious: We are Native to Aztlan Noxtinnomecayotzin Tuesday, Jul. 05, 2005 at 11:00 AM
The data do not substantiate the myth of the "Spanish / Indian." Noxtinnomecayotzin Tuesday, Jul. 05, 2005 at 11:10 AM
OneEyedMan KPC Wednesday, Jul. 06, 2005 at 2:19 PM
all mixed up! brainiacuatl intelectuali Thursday, Jul. 07, 2005 at 12:20 AM
churchhill? canat Thursday, Jul. 07, 2005 at 11:37 PM
lol ! ca nat Friday, Jul. 08, 2005 at 1:04 AM
.... another INDN Friday, Jul. 08, 2005 at 1:49 AM
Another so-called "INDN" Pobre de ti Friday, Jul. 08, 2005 at 7:26 AM
Not Native American, but Anahuac Pachuco Friday, Jul. 08, 2005 at 4:54 PM
how ignorant is your statement rs Wednesday, Feb. 01, 2006 at 9:47 PM
Who doesn't have arrest record? Border Raven Wednesday, Feb. 01, 2006 at 10:12 PM
Huh? Leslie Wednesday, Feb. 01, 2006 at 10:35 PM
Border Raven: Slow to catch on.. Pete Nice Wednesday, Feb. 01, 2006 at 10:50 PM

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