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Baldwin Park Round 2 - A lesson in movement building

by Ricardo Thursday, Jun. 30, 2005 at 6:30 AM (760) 451-1754

A report from a volunteer security person

Baldwin Park Round Two

A lesson in movement building and keeping the peace by any means necessary

A report from a volunteer security person

There was a lot riding on the event that happened this last Saturday, June 25th. There was much more activity going on aside from the presence of the Minutemen/SOS in Baldwin Park. More than simply protesting the Minutemen/SOS was our effort to coordinate our own event, our own protest, build our own movement and to support the local organizers from the Baldwin Park community in their own struggle.

Within our own demonstration, which was surrounded and contained by an army of police and separated from the Minutemen/SOS camp by approximately 100 yards we had to be alert for anything that would disrupt the event and allow the police (who were armed to the teeth with assault rifles and much more) to repress our cultural protest and our growing movement. We understand well from the experience of the Chicano Movement that repression on behalf of the police is almost always instigated by “protesters” amongst the people, whether they are paid police agents or just plain idiots who don’t know what they are doing. We also understand that repression on behalf of the state has been effective in destroying movements and the people’s fighting spirit and morale, especially when organizations are not in a position to respond to repression in an effective manner, either by legal or other means. So as organizers of the event, and especially as security personnel for the event, we had to keep the peace by all means in order for this movement to grow and to keep the men, women and children who attended from being hurt, beaten or gassed by the police.

Errors and Lessons from Baldwin Park 1

Due to the number of people who participated and the lack of security for the event, Baldwin Park 1 was a free for all event. Certain organizations who attended broke unity with the event and split the demonstrations into two factions. People left the permitted protest area to confront the Minutemen/SOS face to face and ultimately put the entire event at risk of being called an “unlawful assembly” and repressed by the police. Known agent provocateurs such as Frank “Mohammed” Martinez, dressed in Muslim garb were a part of this crowd and eventually, some unknown person threw a water bottle at the opposing side. This and other undisciplined acts compromised the whole event, but luckily, there was no further response either by the police or the Minutemen/SOS. Our concern here is not so much for the safety of the Minutemen/SOS, or a “fear” of the police and their guns (which any unarmed person in their right minds should have some fear of, especially if you’re Mexican or African), but for the working-class people from the community who brought their babies and their children with them. Our concern is for these people who have never come out to protest anything before, who are outraged enough to begin to take a political stance at this particular moment and who we need to protect in order so that they can come out again to the next meeting or other political function. Our concern is for the future of a movement we are trying to build which is the only means we have to deal with people like the Minutemen and the bigger problems we have and will continue to have once they leave the scene.

Having learned from the errors of the first Baldwin Park demonstration, the organizers of Baldwin Park Round Two made the efforts to prevent these situations from arising again. In order to create a more comfortable environment for the community to participate, the protest was organized as a cultural event with live music, teatro and piñatas. It was agreed that since these Minutemen/SOS fear or hate our culture, or languages and our history so much, we would counter-protest them with our culture, our languages and our history. This would be an alternative to just yelling and screaming at the Minutemen. A security team was formed with the combined efforts of the Harmony Keepers and Mexicanos Unidos en Defensa del Pueblo along with others and a permitted protest area was designated and announced to everyone with the cautionary note stating that should anyone, or any group protest outside of the designated area, they would be on their own and would no longer be a part of the organized protest and if they were to leave the area, they were not to not be allowed to re-enter our demonstration. In other words, if they were going to create a confrontation with the police, they would deal with it themselves and would not bring the community along with them.

Having set the terms for how the protest was going to take place, the event had gone much calmer and smoother than the previous one and allowed for a clear line to be drawn between a disciplined and organized demonstration versus any other type of demonstration which only invites for agent provocateurs to do their thing. As the culture and art took their place in the event and took the focus away from the Minutemen a few incidents took place which tested the emotions and the discipline of the organizers and the protesters. On a few occasions, Minutemen and SOS members deliberately walked either through the permitted protest area or very near by the area, occasionally animating the crowd. Our security team was on the scene to tell the police about these intruders and to calm down the crowd in order to avoid confrontations.

Also, the so called “socialists” had decided, for reasons only known to them, to demonstrate on the other side of the taped area which separated the permitted area of protest from the non-permitted area. All they needed to do was step a few feet to the right in order to be in the permitted area, but again, for reasons only known to them, they chose to be on their own and disunite with the cultural demonstration. Their first attempt to gather a crowd and animate the few people from the community who joined them did not last long, especially after our security team warned the people that anyone on the other side of the tape was not in a permitted area of protest and were on their own. They again went back to the main area where the cultural demonstration was taking place to get some more people, and marched back to the same un-permitted location. This time they had a few more people with them. At first the police did not seem to react to this situation, so we did not make a big deal out of it either. But then it became apparent that the police had called for back up, so once again, we announced to them that anyone on the other side of the tape was not in the permitted protest area, that these actions would only provoke a police confrontation and all they needed to do was be on the other side of the yellow tape to do the same thing they were doing, but without putting people at risk. Apparently, most of the people there weren’t ready for a confrontation with the police, so the “socialists” were left by themselves. They eventually left.

One final provocation took place which could only be summed up as a clear attempt to sabotage the demonstration and provoke a violent confrontation, and not between us and the Minutemen, but between us and the police. A Minutemen/SOS supporter had again walked nearby our protest area, at a time when the event was at its peak in terms of the number of people who were in attendance. This blue-eyed white male bearing a large American flag hanging from a stick quietly walked by the crowd of angry Chicanos and stood next to the police in the same un-permitted area of protest where the “socialists” had been an hour or so earlier. He did not say a thing, he just walked by, and stood in one place long enough for the angry young Chicanos to gather around him and get even angrier. Our security team had been escorting him out in order to prevent a provocation, but since at this point he wasn’t leaving, and the police weren’t doing anything about it, we had formed a circle around him. This Minutemen/SOS supporter stood right next to a line of police, so that if someone would have thrown an object, or tried to push or hit him, the police were right there to come down on the people.

One of our security members began to inform the crowd with a bullhorn that they must calm down and get behind the yellow line. The security person informed everyone about how this idiotic person was clearly there to provoke an incident and cause for the police to get involved. People then hesitantly began to back away, while the rest of the security team began to tell the rest of the crowd to move back.

Then a fully armed platoon of police dressed in riot gear, donning assault rifles, shotguns and hand guns, arrived and placed this person under arrest. They could have easily taken this person across the police barricade and carried him away without any further hassles, but they chose to parade him back along side of the area where the main event was taking place. The angry crowd of Chicanos, Mexicanos and other protestors followed the police and the security team quickly formed a buffer between the rifle yielding police and the angry crowd. This was an intense moment, especially being in the middle of it all, for as you looked to your right, you literally saw assault rifles and police with their fingers on the triggers almost in your face, and on the other side the emotional crowd of Chicanos and Mexicanos who could barely contain their anger. We had to maintain the peace at all costs. The European-American was eventually taken away and the security team was quick to sum up this action as a provocation by this individual and the state. The crowd was informed in English and Spanish how important it was for us to remain peaceful and disciplined, and that this person was only trying to create an incident in which the police would have a reason to end the event and keep it from being successful.

This incident was what tested the character, the organization and the discipline of the entire event and we met the challenge successfully. This is where the victory occurred on Saturday, that we were able to maintain the peace and discipline by any means in order for our people to struggle another day. The biggest enemy we faced on Saturday was not the Minutemen, nor the SOS, nor even the colonial state. The hardest enemy to deal with is the internal enemy, our lack of organization, our lack of discipline and our lack of willingness to unite with other forces who struggle for the same cause and which keeps us from getting our shit together and which allows for the state to do their job that much easier. We succeeded in building and controlling our own movement.



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Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 11 posted about this article.
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A well--behaved criminal is still a criminal Farkus Thursday, Jun. 30, 2005 at 7:47 AM
It is now a crime to Fed Up Thursday, Jun. 30, 2005 at 9:17 AM
Have any evidence of that, rightard? Fredric L. Rice Friday, Jul. 01, 2005 at 1:34 PM
You talking to me? Fed Up Friday, Jul. 01, 2005 at 4:59 PM
Hey guys Chop Chop Friday, Jul. 01, 2005 at 6:20 PM
The Pride is back! The Pride is back! Friday, Jul. 01, 2005 at 9:08 PM
Right on Andrew Saturday, Jul. 02, 2005 at 11:17 AM
Baldwin Park 2: Statement of a Harmony Keeper (repost) Ixachilanka Saturday, Jul. 02, 2005 at 5:17 PM
Duh GubmintCheese Friday, Jul. 08, 2005 at 9:15 PM
ISO statement about BPII Reposted for Sake of Balance by Xicano Monday, Jul. 11, 2005 at 2:30 AM
que me importa los del ISO mexica Sunday, Jul. 24, 2005 at 6:03 AM

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