Columbus Day Protest, Downtown L.A.

by RP Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014 at 4:44 PM

Columbus Day has been suffering setbacks of late. Minneapolis; Berkeley, California; and most recently Seattle now observe Indigenous People's Day instead. San Francisco has Italian Heritage Day; Hawaii, Discoverers Day (i.e., the discovery of the islands by Polynesians); and South Dakota, Native American Day. Venezuela dropped Columbus Day in 2002 in favor of Day of Indigenous Resistance. Mexico, El Salvador, Argentina, and other countries celebrate Dia de la Raza*. While Columbus Day's still recognized here in Southern California, a new annual protest occurs in downtown L.A.

Columbus Day Protest...
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In recent years, Columbus Day has been protested in such places as Santa Barbara and San Juan Capistrano. This year, a new event has occurred for the second time in downtown L.A., encompassing the Columbus statue at Los Angeles Civic Mall, Placita Olvera, and the Cathedral of Los Angeles.

Graywolf, who's been to many of the other Columbus demonstrations, explained the origins. “This was a crazy idea I had one year because I saw this Christopher Columbus statue sitting right in the middle of Los Angeles, and we never protested that. I said, 'Why are we going to San Juan Capistrano, and over here, and over there when we have this ugly monstrosity sitting right here in front of us?' So I got together with a couple of people that I know, and then the Mexica Movement, to their credit, actually ran with the idea. . . . “

Initial demonstrating and outreach occurred at Placita Olvera alongside many vendors and foot and motor traffic. (Cindi Alvitre of The Ti'at Society has stated several times that Olvera Street began as a place for auctioning Tongva slaves. One such mention can be found here:

While en route to the ornate Cathedral of Los Angeles, we got a clear view of it with a homeless camp in the foreground. Well over 30 protesters lined the sidewalk across the street from the church with signs. Several horrific and barbaric deeds of Columbus and other pious Europeans were mentioned via megaphone as patrons, including a large group of teenagers, exited the church and stood in front. One young man made faces at us.

As the speaking went on, it was pointed out how overt and straightforward Europeans were regarding their atrocities. “. . . We have to read only their letters how they explained how they killed us,” one person said. “We're not interpreting history here. All we're doing is researching what had been written by the Europeans themselves. They wrote letters boasting how they killed us, how they enslaved us, how they raped the women. We don't have to scavenge for facts, they wrote it with pride.

“. . . We are here to confront the Cathedral of Los Angeles. This was built on Tongva sacred land. Our brothers and sisters came out and told them this was going to be built on Tongva sacred land. They didn't care, they do not care. What you see in front of us cost $189.7 million. They didn't care about the 100 million of our people killed, they didn't care that this land is our land.”

“The church authorized and approved every theft of our land, every act of genocide—there was always a priest there to bless it.”

Another speaker spoke of psychological difficulty in confronting a church. “I feel somewhat different coming in front of a church,” he said, “because my mom was one of those hardcore Catholics, and I had to fight with her, and I had to struggle with it because they have a grasp on your mind. They control your mind, and to question this is to question everything that you've supposedly been taught, it's to question the foundation of where everything sits--the fact that you are now holding a Spanish last name, the fact that you're speaking Spanish, the fact that I'm speaking to you in English right now. Isn't English my language? No, it's not. Is Spanish my language? [Repeats the question in Spanish.] No. It doesn't make me a Spaniard; it doesn't make me English. We have our own languages.

“. . . This is the beginning of the end of Catholicism. We wake up our people; we wake up our children and tell them about the big lie—the lie that's been perpetrated on our people for 500 years. People challenge that. . . . Some people say these extremely stupid, ignorant comments [like]: 'No, see that was a test. That was what the church was doing to us.' The ignorance is just unbelievable, but counter this with history and facts. History and facts.”

He added that when he gets into debates on this, he emphasizes that the Bible never pertains to Indigenous or even this whole section of the planet but “an area foreign to us, an area that does not belong to us. We got to embrace our indigenous ancestors and learn who we are as a people, and you'll see how easy it is to kick the religion in its ass.”

The next stop was the statue of Columbus at the Los Angeles Civic Center Mall. Various people spoke of a time when this statue will no longer be there. One foresaw descendants wondering how such a thing was ever allowed to stand.

“Look at the Palestinians; they're fighting,” a speaker said. “You think this is hard? People are actually giving their lives in fighting colonialism, and they don't think about it. For us sometimes it's difficult. 'I don't want to go protest, you have to march, and it's hot.' We don't know anything about sacrifice because . . . sometimes we don't have any humility in us. It's so difficult. There should be hundreds of thousands here. Imagine hundreds of thousands of people demanding that this has to be brought down. It's an abomination, but we don't think about that. Would a Jewish person be okay if they put a statue in Tel Aviv of Adolf Hitler? Of course not.

“. . . We are the Indigenous people. And if we talk about being Indigenous people, then you got to question and challenge stuff like this. You've got to question and challenge even the names that the slave masters gave us. And eventually in the future you got to change that.”

After a brief stop on a freeway overpass, where we were well-received by slow-moving traffic below, we occupied four corners of the crowded intersection of Cesar Chavez and Alameda.

“I'm so happy to see so many people that did show up, especially my brothers from AIM Orange County that came a long way. It shows that we need to come together, guys. I'm always questioned about my friendship with the people from Mexica, with AIM, with Idle No More, and I [say], 'If we don't start coming together, then we're never going to get anything done.' Do I agree with everything that everybody says? No, but what I do agree I'm here.

“And that's what we need to do: we need to come together and quit fighting each other and fight the issues. I'm so tired of watching everyone fight each other and not the issues. So if we can put aside our petty differences to come together on the big stuff, that what we need to do.

“This is a small start. Next year I hope there's a thousand of us and the next year ten thousand, until we really get these things taken care of. We can't just sit on Facebook and be behind the board. Somebody called me a cyber warrior. I said, 'Yeah, I'm a cyber warrior, but I'm also out there.' I probably do more protests and rallies in a year than most people do in their lifetimes. We gotta get out there and do these things.”

Some proceeded to Kuruvungna Springs to attend another annual event, Life Before Columbus (more about Kuruvungna Springs here:

*Reported on KPFK's Sojourner Truth on October 14, 2014: (available online for 10 weeks).