Police Brutality and The Legacy of the Moratorium Today

Fifty years after the events of the Chicano Moratorium, many of the injustices that were fought against still persist. While the Vietnam War has ended, many members of our community are continuously targeted as recruits by the armed forces who often go after our most at-risk youth. Chicanx communities in East Los Angeles are still heavily over policed and under resourced; The Los Angeles sheriff’s department (LASD) is the largest county police agency in the US, with 9,000 officers who patrol nearly 200 different southern California cities and towns. The LASD has a 3.3 billion dollar budget (one of the largest portions of the LA City budget) and operates the largest jail system in the world. Many LASD deputies have been ousted as white supremacists and gang members, though there remains to be any major institutional changes. Los Angeles Sheriff's Deputies have killed over 300 people since 2000, among them Andres Guardado, Ryan Twyman, Anthony Vargas, and Paul Rea, all four in their late teens or early twenties and murdered within the last two years. Community members live in constant fear of the police and have grown desensitized to police killings. 

Amidst racial tensions growing throughout the United States as a response to the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd at the hands of state police, tear gas has been continuously used to disrupt crowds across the nation. Just as they did during the Chicano National Moratorium, federal, state, and local law enforcement have utilized tear gas during the Black Lives Matters protests against peaceful protesters, children and pregnant women, at times piling on excessive amounts of gas and without providing an escape routes. In the 50 years since the excessive use of tear gas during the Chicano Moratorium, there still remains no government oversite over the development, production or use of tear gas. Tear gas was developed during the 1910's and is banned in warfare by the Chemical Weapons Convention; however, the Convention allows chemicals classified as riot-control agents, which includes tear gas, to be used for law enforcement. Tear gas is incredibly harmful to the human eyes, mouth, throat, lungs, and skin, especially when fired directly at protesors or released in small confined spaces; this is especially troubling during an airborne global pandemic that has already killed over 180,000 in the US with 235,000 confirmed cases occuring in Los Angeles.

Rioting police do little to deescalate situations and while rioting protesters can be held to account for destruction and violence, rioting police have immunity through their support by the state. These recent developments have shown that not much has changed in the fifty years since the Chicano Moratorium: Law Enforcement does not exist to protect the community but rather serve as a form of social control. 

Thousands gather to march for National Chicano Moratorium, Boyle Heights, 1970.

Many Chicanx Organizers view the Moratorium as an event of duality; it marked the loss of innocence for many and was equally disheartening as it was emboldening. While many are disappointed with the violence that has tainted the legacy of the Moratorium, it was also a source of radicalization for many young organizers.  

On Saturday August 29th, 2020, community organizers and families will gather to commemorate the Moratorium with the support and direction of some of the original organizers of the event. Though the circumstances surrounding the global pandemic have limited the size and scope of the event due to necessary safety procautions, the convictions and goals of the 50th Chicano Moratorium remain the same: 


We will correctly use the original demands of the first moratoriums, and expand our demands based on current ones. These demands include: self-determination; the liberation of women; ending Chicano military drafting into wars like Vietnam; pro-peace; stopping U.S. military intervention; cutting the military budget, ending racism; ending police killings/crimes; proper access to bilingual and quality public education; good jobs; equality for all; access to health care; benefits for veterans and the elderly; housing; political representation; legalization for all; fair and humane immigration;  environmental justice (Exide); supporting the New Green Deal, solidarity with all oppressed nations of the world; stopping Trump’s administration/policies, ending white supremacy, privatization of public, and social services.“

Police Brutality and The Legacy of the Moratorium Today