More than three hundred Crenshaw District residents joined two hundred migrant rights' supporters and linked arms to keep the minutemen out of Leimert Park, the heart of Black Los Angeles.
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Anti-minutemen protestors, called by the Mayday Defense Committee and Unión del
Barrio, linked arms across the 43rd Place entrance to Leimert Park three
lines deep to defend the park against the minutemen. Across the street, Choose Black America, a front group for the anti-immigrant march sponsors, Federation for
American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and Save Our
State, a minuteman spin-off, fretted and stewed. The LAPD, obviously sensing the determination of the people and
reeling from the public outcry against their violence in MacArthur Park last month, kept the groups apart, eventually
moving cruisers in front of the entrance to prevent a minuteman incursion, and
rescinded the minuteman permit to enter the park.
Choose Black America had called the demonstration as the kickoff to a
nationwide campaign to force an apology from the Mexican government for the
booing of Miss America at the Miss Universe conference. Another CBA
announcement told African-Americans, "Don't be fooled by the 'Black-Brown"
Coalitions" and claimed co-sponsorship by Millennium Panthers and West Side
Illegal Immigration Control.
By 1:00 p.m. CBA had mustered its marchers and stepped onto the street at
Crenshaw and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevards to begin their parade down this
major artery through the historically African-American neighborhood to Leimert Park,
the public platform for Los Angles Black voices and the center of Black Los
Angeles culture. They put together a showing of about eighty-five,
sixty-five or so anti-immigrant African-Americans, twenty white minutemen, and one or
two Mexican-Americans. Save Our State has undergone serious internal
upheavals and splits because of its support of former homeless activist Ted
Hayes, now the chair of CBA.
As the minutemen assembled on the southwest corner, the counterprotestors, on
the southeast corner, shouted at them, "Minutemen, KKK, racists out of
South LA!" An RCP member bullhorned, "We don't have an immigration
problem--we have a capitalism problem!" Another protestor was
overheard explaining to a white protestor, "They try to pit Blacks against
Latinos. The system is the problem--that's what it is." YLP, a
Puerto Rican, found the historical parallel: "My people, the people [the
minutemen] are persecuting, they're just like the Jews were in Nazi
Germany. And the minutemen are the Nazis."
The LAPD allowed the swelling crowd of counterprotestors, a mixed Brown,
Black, and white group led down Crenshaw by the Black Riders Liberation Party,
to spill into the street as they marched fifteen feet away from CBA. CBA and the
minuteman rode and walked beside a flatbed float representing a slavers' ship
decked out with signs calling for reparations, under the banner of the Church
for Reparations Now! CBA supporters held signs for another FAIR front
group, NumbersUSA. The white minutemen brought up the rear, saying nothing
as the group up front chanted, "Choose--choose--choose Black
America." They were drowned out, even across the street, by the
counterprotestors calling out "Asesinos!" and "Down with the
Klan, down with the minutemen."
One Black activist explained, "They're trying to separate and
divide. Ted Hayes is brainwashed. The minutemen will turn their back
on him when they're finished with him."
Residents along the march route were heard complaining that the Klan had shut
down the buses on Crenshaw, as they drifted off to find alternate routes.
As we reached the park, the cops announced that we were to be penned on the
east side of the park.
The anger had mounted as we marched, and the call went out when we found
ourselves between the park and the minutemen: don't let them in the park.
The first arrivals took international flags into the park and stood at the
gates, but the police had stopped CBA and the minutemen on the west side of the
Crenshaw. The counterprotestors repositioned themselves across the east
sidewalk entrance between the cop cruisers . People from the community, grandmotherly types,
young men, shop owners, employees, with quiet and clear fierceness, were pouring through the park and coming north
across 43rd Street to the sidewalk . Then the call was "lock
down!" Three lines of people joined arms across the thirty-foot open
space between the cop cars at the entrance, discussed how to handle police
batons, and determined that the minutemen would not cross. The Aztec
danzantes protected the people with ritual dances and guarded the southeast
corner of 43rd Street and Crenshaw. The Black Riders alternated between
patrolling the other entrances to the park and standing at the front of the defense line. The
International Socialist Organization ran off a minuteman truck circling around
the looking for a back entrance.
A participant murmured, "They're using Black Nationalism. I didn't
know Black Nationalism sided with the Klan." Then the triumphant
cry: "Whose streets? Our streets! People united will
never be divided!"
The police stretched their yellow tape around the CBA and the minutemen,
penning them in across the street, and told them that they wouldn't be going
into the park today. The counterprotestors roared, "Leimert,
MacArthur, New Orleans: Smash the racist war machine!" and Black and Brown
allies called out, "We are not the minority--we are the
majority!" One counterprotestor had a special message for Hayes:
"You came to the community to stir up trouble!"
Two cop cars were moved in front of the line, effectively ending any hope the
CBA had of charging the park. At 2:40, the cops put their riot helmets
on. The defense line, which had relaxed after an hour of the stand off,
snapped to. The riot gear came off.
At 3:00, the cops forced the CBA and SOS onto the west sidewalk,
surrounded them, and offered them the choice of leaving or arrest. Hayes
and five of his followers stepped into the street in a last-ditch, staged arrest so Hayes,
as one observer put it, would "earn his pay." And the media ran
to film Hayes being escorted into a police van. They were taken to a
substation and released.
In a protest in some ways reminiscent of Baldwin Park's first encounter with the minutemen, the Leimert Park defenders had turned hate and divisiveness out of their public space. Some of the Crenshaw residents expressed
concerns about the effects of immigration on employment; others responded that Black unemployment had a long history that preceded today's anti-immigrant backlash. Whatever their position on the causes of unemployment, they were united in
denouncing the rhetoric and tactics of the minutemen. Hayes and his crew had failed, and the Black-Brown
Before the day began, Muffy told me that, "There's nothing like the
Nazis to bring people together." Besides the groups mentioned, Mexica
Movement, ANSWER-LA, Radical Women, the Sons of Jacob, Base Collective, the
People's Liberation Party, and the Brown Berets were among those on Crenshaw Boulevard.
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