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Day of the March
Over 25,000 marched on Whittier Boulevard on August 29, 1970, the fruition of over a year and a half of organizing and collaboration. The event began at 10 am in Belvedere Park, near the East Los Angeles Police Department station. Marchers were scheduled to leave at 11 am, and the march route went East on 3rd Street, then went south on Atlantic Boulevard to go West on Whittier Boulevard.
Many groups traveled from across the United States in order to participate in the march including members of La Raza Unida from San Antonio, youth organizers from Denver, and Young Lords from NYC and Chicago. There were also serveral student chapters of UMAS/MEChA and Brown Beret chapters in attendance. Scheduled speakers included Corky Gonzales, a representative from the American Indian occupation of Alcatraz and individuals from Puerto Rico.
Many participants of the National Chicano Moratorium often compare the beauty of the the folklorico dancers and performers at the rally with the chaos that followed. What should have been a beautiful community centered event was dragged into chaos by overzealous police officers and sheriffs deputies who saw the protestors as a nusicance that had to be neutralized. The LA County Sheriff’s Department, who had received reports that there had been attempted petty thefts at the nearby Green Mill Liquor Store, forcefully entered the park in search of the suspects. They soon declared the peaceful and festive rally to be an unlawful assembly and deployed hundreds of officers on those who were in attendance. Personal reports claim that police officers were very violent in their approach, from snatching flags from protestors to launching tear gas canisters directly at families attending the rally.
Sherrifs deputies and police officers launched tear gas missiles into the crowd to cause them to disperse. The set-up of the event did not allow for the crowds to escape and hundreds were injured in the chaos that transpired. People ran into neighboring streets, with marchers running for refuge in strangers’ homes; local residents helped water down protestors who had been tear-gased while several local stores refused to sell water to folks who had been hit by the crossfire. In response to the violence, rioting erupted along Whittier Boulevard, where storefront windows and displaces were destroyed. Buildings and trashcans were set on fire and some demonstrators began to throw rocks and bottles at the Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies and Los Angeles police officers in riot gear who numbered in the thousands.
Two young Brown Berets, Lynn Ward and Angel Diaz were murdered in the chaos that ensued. Lynn was hurt by a rogue explosive that launched her into a torterilla. Ruben Salazar, acclaimed columnist from the LA Times and reporter for Spanish News media KMEX was shot by a tear gas canister through the window of a local bar. Two hundred people were arrested and $1 million in damages was reported