- js reader version
- email this article
- view hidden posts
- tags and related articles
by Rosalio MuÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â±oz
Sunday, Nov. 06, 2005 at 8:41 AM
An honest appreciation, not uncritical, of the late Ed Roybal and his major contributions to coalition building and grass-roots politics.
Ed Roybal, first 20th Century Mexican American elected to the Los Angeles City Council (1949-1963) and to the House of Representatives (1963-1992) was a progressive Latino politician long before there was something called a Chicano movement. His political contributions should be deeply studied by Latinos and progressives.
He was a New Deal Democrat with left of center politics all his life. He stood up against the loyalty oath of the McCarthy era, he was an early Congressional critic of the Vietnam War, and was a supporter of labor rights and put domestic need over militarism all his life.
He kept running for higher offices like Lt. Governor and County Supervisor and was a founder of the Mexican American Political Association well as the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. In his later years in Congress he held important committee appointments defending important programs against Reaganism.
The Los Angeles Times article says he voted against the Landmark Amnesty law, that is a distortion, he voted against the vicious employer sanctions provisions of the bill that also included the amnesty. Without the fight of Roybal in Congress against sanctions along with Latino, civil rights and progressive labor activists, the amnesty provisions would never have been written, much less passed. (Today we need to extend the “amnesty” and get rid of the employer and other sanctions.)
I remember the first mass Chicano demonstration I went to, it was in downtown LA in June of 1968 and was a protest of the conspiracy charge arrests of the LA 13, organizers and supporters of the student walkouts that year. I remember hesitating going fearing the police might attack, but hundreds and maybe thousands were there downtown including Roybal. A few weeks later I had the courage to help lead a protest to get UCLA cafeterias and vending machines to stop selling grapes during the farm worker called boycott. Having principled politicians around helps.
As an activist and also a writer for the Peoples World and Peoples Weekly World I had a chance to learn of and see Roybal in action at key points. At labor meetings I heard him speak how as a young child in New Mexico during a railroad strike he would join with the other “manito/a” children in throwing rocks at passing trains.
At a meeting with the establishment “LA 25” after the police attack on the Chicano Moratorium of Aug 29 1970 he told of how as a youth in Boyle Heights a siren would go off near sunset signaling a curfew for Mexicanos. At this critical time he told the LA establishment something like “police brutality was a top priority when I was first elected, and it is today as well”!. Just before the moratorium he had joined in a mass downtown demonstration protesting the police killing of the undocumented Sanchez cousins.
In the back issues of the Peoples World of the early fifties are articles about Roybal standing up to the loyalty oath, standing up against the elimination of rent control, protesting the Bloody Christmas police brutality, protesting the prohibitions on public housing projects, and much more. In one story, I believe it was on the abolition of rent control, Roybal was the lone “no” vote and his colleagues were mad. One of the council members came up with the canard that Roybal had threatened him with a knife”.
Yes like Rosa Parks, Ed Roybal was a pioneer who had to take heat. He was no radical, not a leftist but he came from the New Deal era, he was part of the CCC program that showed government could and should do much more for the working people. He benefited and joined in united front programs and issues and developed.
I remember an article critical of Roybal in La Raza Magazine that accused him of being an “arco iris” a rainbow politician who came out after the storm. Looking back on this I can see that article two ways, Roybal was a man of coalition who came out for well organized events and issues for progressive issues. As a left wing and communist activist there were many issues I worked on that Roybal did not speak out on, but I was always working in his district and never recall his “machine” trying to silence or punish me.
It is important to remember that in the 9th Council District where Roybal made his breakthrough in 1949 the largest voting group was African American and that his coalition went beyond Mexican Americans, Jewish and labor activists as is usually recounted. When Roybal finally moved on to Congress he did not insist that a Mexican American replace him as the biggest group in the district was African American. Roybal did however put energy and clout behind the formation of the Mexican American Political Association that fought for Mexican American (Chicano and Latino) representation as an independent progressive political group.
Ed Roybal went to UCLA in the thirties, a later alumnus, former L. A Controller Rick Tuttle tells me Roybal lived in student Coop housing there with Tom Bradley (later L.A. Mayor) and George Brown (a leading peace advocate in Congress). In the mid sixties Brown (who then represented part of East L.A.) was among the first two to vote against the Vietnam War, the next vote Roybal and a few others joined in. Roybal also was key in winning Latino Votes for Bradley’s successful mayoral campaign in 1973.
At one time I did organize a picket of Roybal. In a bill that added rights for immigrant workers he included provisions to use the Social Security card for I.D. purposes. A few of us in an immigration coalition protested. He responded with a meeting with us including broader forces. He also invited pioneer African American Congressman Augustus Hawkins to join in. In effect Roybal explained that immigration was one of the more racist federal departments and to get even small positive action took compromise, and that often usually perfunctory request for cooperation from him were ignored. Hawkins corroborated the discrimination. I still objected to the provision but recognized the context of his action.
Roybal was a very dignified person, “buen educado” (well educated)” socially as we say in the community, always impeccably dressed and very civil, his style helped win people over and when he showed emotion his emphasis stood out. I could see in his approach his background as a new deal social worker winning over a community theretofore denied and outcast to use new public programs. When he got into a fight his style became more that of an organizer in the style of Alinskyite Fred Ross who helped Royal in developing the Community Services Organization. Cesar Chavez, who also had Fred Ross as a mentor, had that seemingly low key approach as well.
Roybal had a sense of irony. In one of the Congressional sessions in the early eighties when House Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill was pushing hard for the passage of employer sanctions Roybal led a heroic successful blocking action with the passion of an organizer, despite the important committee assignments O’Neill had apportioned him. The next session Roybal put his name on a bill with moderate sanctions in it but did nothing to move it. It died early on and Roybal called press conference to point out that he had put out the bill at the request of “leadership” (ie Tip O’Neill, to make the point that it was community opposition not his personality that gave force to the anti sanctions. His sober demeanor at the CSPAN covered press conference was belied by a faint grin as he announced the defeat of the measure.
In these days when we face the vicious far right politics of Bush and Schwarzeneggar we need to keep in mind the correlation of the organization grassroots based coalition and the ability of progressive politicians to make principled stands. Ed Roybals career in politics is an important model of one style of such correlation. Latino and progressive activists and politicians have much to learn from his contributions.
Report this post as:
Segregation in the City of Angels: A 1939 Map of Housing Inequality in L.A.
Justice Dept. seeking info, IDs on 1.3M visitors to protest website DisruptJ20.org
San Francisco Rally Protests Hate Crimes in Charlottesville
New Google algorithm restricts access to left-wing, progressive web sites
Tracking Twenty Years of Stockton Killings by Law Enforcement
Garcetti Cronyism - Why and How to Ignore Your LA Dog License
Nation's Worst Meltdown Was In LA
As RV towing resumes in LA, officials say program won't 'target homeless'
Class War on the Waterfront: Longshore Workers Under Attack
Limits to Growth Published Forty Years Ago
KPFK's Indy Media on Air Now on Wednesdays
More Local News...
Ni patrie, ni frontière, ni nation, ni région
Statement on the Trump Visit to the Philippines
Capitalisation de l'egogestion egogérée
Three reading samples on George Orwell's "1984"
The Shortwave Report 11/17/17 Listen Globally!
Paraphysique de la collaboration
October 2017 Honduras Coup Update
National US Gov as wellas EPA slow to act on Abandoned uranium Mines Cleanup in Southwest
OUR HOUSE Grief Support Center Hosts 9th Annual Comedy Fundraiser
Republicans against the Poor and the Sick
Paraphysique du conformisme
Global Warming / Climate Change has Become a New Religion - What's it all About?
Crétinisme et jobarderie psychophysiologiques
Crétinisme et jobarderie psychophysiologiques
"The Public Trust Doctrine," Wealth Inequality, and Iraq
Anthologie de la subversion carabinée
US Executions Violate The 14th, 8th, and 1st Amendments To The Constitution
BUSTED: Watch LAPD cops plant drugs in black suspect’s wallet – unaware body cams were on
FBI suppressed exculpatory evidence in Leonard Peltier's trial
The Shortwave Report 11/10/17 Listen Globally!
Slavery as a Human Right
Fbi are human monsters who must be put out of business
Entropie ou l'anarchie inversée
“Animaniacs in Concert!” with Voice Artist Rob Paulsen, Fri., Dec. 8 at The Tower Theatre
Free Updates on Hurricane Help and Recovery Efforts 1 800 665 2843
Benjamin Tucker American Mutualist: Mutual Banking Part 3 and Final Conclusion Part 4
lapd shootings 1998 - 2015
More Breaking News...