LOS ANGELES – Fifty years ago, thousands of peaceful protesters took to the streets of East Los Angeles to draw attention to the disproportionately high number of Mexican Americans drafted and killed in the Vietnam War and the fight for Latino civil rights. The rally turned violent after police arrived. Those killed included journalist Ruben Salazar, who was covering the struggles facing the Latino community across the Southwest.
Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) issued the following statement marking the 50th anniversary of the Chicano Moratorium:
“The 50th anniversary of the Chicano Moratorium and the police killing of Ruben Salazar remind us of the long history of Latino activism in the United States, and of the equally long history of police violence in response to Latino activism. Half a century later, the Latino community cannot accept the continued relegation of its influence and activism to afterthought. For the first time in decades, Latinos, the largest minority group in the country, have no representation in the Cabinet. For the first time in decades, there is no Latino judge on the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is dominated by the heavily Latino state of Texas. Other ongoing examples of Latino exclusion from leadership continue with no effort to address them.
“Half a century ago, the Chicano Moratorium was in significant part about Latino overrepresentation among those killed in Vietnam, an unprecedented war; today we face Latino overrepresentation among those families harmed irrevocably by an unprecedented pandemic, exacerbated by conscious exclusion of immigrants from relief provided too late and too meager because of failed national leadership.
“Overrepresentation among those killed, underrepresentation in corridors of leadership. This cannot continue. In respect and remembrance of fifty years ago, the Latino march of today is a figurative march to the polls, a literal march to the mailbox or the drop-box, or to vote safely in person. Latinos will demand elected leadership that respects our history, our present, and our future.”