Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Eastside 13 and the East L.A. “Blowouts” (walkouts)

They faced 66 years in prison. The‘Eastside 13’ and how they helped plan the East L.A. walkouts,” Los Angeles Times (March 8, 2018)

By Louis Sahagun

“As Los Angeles schools and others this week observe the 50th anniversary of the East L.A. walkouts, when thousands of Mexican American students marched to demand a better education, much attention has focused on those who became known as the Eastside 13. But who were the Eastside 13? They were 13 men secretly indicted by a grand jury June 1, 1968, on conspiracy charges stemming from the East L.A. ‘blowouts.’ The walkouts kicked off March 5, 1968, when students began protesting at Garfield High School, and spread to other campuses to decry the shortcomings of public schools in Los Angeles’ barrios. The walkouts are viewed as a turning point in the political development of the nation’s Mexican American community.
Some local leaders at the time, including Mayor Sam Yorty, denounced the walkouts as a communist plot, and in the months that followed, law enforcement responded with undercover operations, raids and arrests.

In returning the indictments, the grand jurors found there was sufficient evidence to show that the protests staged at Garfield, Lincoln, Roosevelt and Belmont high schools were not spontaneous, but rather the result of careful off-campus planning by non-students. Defense attorneys would later argue, successfully, that the protest organizers were merely exercising their 1st Amendment rights. But when the indictments were handed down, each defendant faced 66 years in prison.

Among the 13 arrested was Carlos Muñoz Jr., who recalled how the police arrived at his apartment at dawn with guns drawn. Muñoz, then a 20-year-old college student, had been writing a paper for a graduate seminar on the ‘international communist movement’ when the officers broke in. One of the officers noticed a stack of books on the kitchen table where Muñoz had been typing. He scanned the names of the authors — Leon Trotsky, Vladimir Lenin and Karl Marx — and yelled out, ‘We’ve got the goods on this damn communist agitator!’

Also indicted on multiple charges of conspiracy to disturb public schools and conspiracy to disturb the peace were Sal Castro, 34, a teacher at Lincoln High, and Eliezer Risco, 31, a Cuban-born editor of La Raza, a newspaper circulated in the Mexican American community. Indicted members of the militant Brown Berets, who often took the title of ‘minister,’ were David Sanchez, 19, chairman; Ralph Ramirez, 18, minister of discipline; Fred Lopez, 19, minister of communication; and Carlos Montes, 20, minister of public relations and holy grace. Others indicted were Gilberto Olmeda, 23; Richard Vigil, 27; Joe Razo, 29; Henry Gomez, 20; Moctesuma Esparza, 19; and Juan Sanchez, 41. [….]

The indictments were struck down in 1970 by an appeals court in a case that became a cause celebre to Chicanos. ‘The No. 1 thing that the walkouts achieved is that it gave our own community a voice — that we didn’t have to rely on what other people thought we should be doing or who we should be,’ said Esparza, who went on to become an award-winning filmmaker, producing movies such as ‘Gettysburg,’ ‘Selena’ and ‘Walkout,’ a dramatization of the 1968 Chicano student protests. ‘I never gave up my identity as a Chicano,’ Esparza said. ‘The struggle never ends.’” The entire article is here.

See too:

The Chicano Movement & the 1960s:
  • Acuña, Rodolfo. Occupied America: The Chicano’s Struggle Toward Liberation. San Francisco, CA: Canfield Press, 1972.
  • Castro, Tony. Chicano Power: The Emergence of Mexican America. New York: Saturday Review Press, 1974.
  • Chávez, Ernesto. “¡Mi Raza Primero!”— Nationalism, Identity, and Insurgency in the Chicano Movement in Los Angeles, 1966-1978. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002.
  • Donato, Rubén. The Other Struggle for Equal Schools: Mexican Americans during the Civil Rights Era. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1997.
  • García, Alma M., ed. Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basic Historical Writings. New York: Routledge, 1997.
  • García, Ignacio M. United We Win: The Rise and Fall of La Raza Unida Party. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 1989.
  • García, Mario T. Memories of Chicano History: The Life and Narrative of Bert Corona. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1994.
  • García, Mario T. and Sal Castro. Blowout! Sal Castro and the Chicano Struggle for Educational Justice. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2011.
  • Marin, Marguerite V. Social Protest in an Urban Barrio: A Study of the Chicano Movement, 1966-1974. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1991.
  • Mariscal, George. Brown-Eyed Children of the Sun: Lessons from the Chicano Movement, 1965-1975. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 2005.
  • Mariscal, George, ed. Aztlán and Vietnam: Chicano and Chicana Experiences of the War. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1999.
  • Montejano, David. Quixote’s Soldiers: A Local History of the Chicano Movement, 1966–1981. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2010.
  • Muñoz, Carlos, Jr. Youth, Identity, Power: The Chicano Movement. London: Verso, 1989.
  • Navarro, Armando. Mexican American Youth Organization: Avant-Garde of the Chicano Movement in Texas. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1995.
  • Navarro, Armando. The Cristal Experiment: A Chicano Struggle for Community Control. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1998.
  • Navarro, Armando. La Raza Unida Party: A Chicano Challenge to the U.S. Two-Party Dictatorship. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2000.
  • Oropeza, Lorena. ¡Raza Si! ¡Guerra No!: Chicano Protest and Patriotism during the Viet Nam War Era. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2005.
  • Rendon, Armando B. Chicano Manifesto: The History and Aspirations of the Second Largest Minority in America. New York: Macmillan, 1971.
  • Rosales, Francisco Arturo. CHICANO! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement. Houston, TX: Arte Público Press, University of Houston, 2nd ed., 1997.
  • Vigil, Ernesto B. The Crusade for Justice: Chicano Militancy and the Government’s War on Dissent. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1999.

Images (from top to bottom):
  • John Ortiz addresses fellow students at Garfield High on March 7. (H.O. McCarthy/Herald-Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public Library)
  • Sheriff’s deputies form a line near Garfield High on March 5, the first day of the student “blowouts.” (Joe Kennedy/Los Angeles Times)
  • Freddie Resendez rallies students at Lincoln High School. (Herald-Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public Library; Los Angeles Times)
  • Members of the Brown Berets, above, listen to a speaker on June 9, 1968. (Herald-Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public Library; Los Angeles Times)


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