Immigration battle new US anti-war movement
Since the start of the Afghanistan War, a growing number of Americans are frustrated and angry that US forces are still in the battlefield.
While recent demonstrations are filled with emotion, today's anti-war crowds can't compare to the mobilizations we saw during the Vietnam War.
40 years ago this week, a coalition of activists organized the National Chicano Moratorium. Several demonstrations were held throughout the US; the largest one in Los Angeles, where some 30 thousand people took to the streets.
“The main demand was stopping the war in Vietnam… protesting the high casualty rate of Chicanos in Vietnam and also protesting the racist conditions in the neighborhood, police brutality, racist education, inferior housing and jobs,” said Caros Montes, one of the original Brown Berets, a militant activist from the Mexican American community.
He recalls a peaceful demonstration, which included families. It stayed peaceful until the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department declared an unlawful assembly.
“We were brutally attacked by the LAPD and the sheriff, repression. They killed Ruben Salazar, Lyn Ward a brown beret,” said Montes.
In the end, hundreds were arrested; hundreds more were hurt and three people were killed including journalist Ruben Salazar.
40 years after his death, the Sheriff's department has refused to release the records surrounding the death of the Los Angeles Times writer.
“We’re the victims of repression. The system sees us as a threat so someone like him tells the truth on TV and the media, they take him out,” said Montes.
There's no question in Montes' mind, Salazar was assassinated. He believes history is repeating itself.
“Another example is May 1st 2007 McArthur Park. A peaceful rally, attacked by the LAPD, so the next year when we went out to get people out they were like hey, I don’t want to go out and march, the cops beat the shit out of us,” said Montes.
Parallels have been drawn between the Afghan and Vietnam wars, but there are two major differences.
“The difference is the amount of Chicanos who were killed in Vietnam at that particular time, the amount of people that were being drafted from the community was a real strong thing,” said Rene Rodriguez, a Vietnam War Veteran who was drafted.
When Rodriguez returned from the war, he created a play surrounding the events of the Chicano Moratorium. His fictional story highlights the movement that is grossly ignored in American history books.
He also talked about the 58 thousand American lives lost in Vietnam.
“Sad to say, it takes a lot of that to get people involved. The anti-war movement is definitely not what it was in Vietnam, but we’re still in the beginning stages of the Afghan war,” he said.
While we haven't seen the massive anti-war demonstrations from generations past, activist and actor Ricardo Lopez sees trouble in a different war created right here at home.
“The issue of immigration and the war are going to coalesce, they’re going to come together and I really see the anti-war movement growing out of the immigration issue, I feel strongly about that," said Lopez.
Legendary activist Dolores Huerta, a veteran of the America labor, civil rights, immigration, and feminist movements is hoping to pull together the efforts of a number of today’s activist movements, including the modern peace movement.
“I think the difference that we see now is that you don’t have a lot of the young Chicano students involved in the peace movement against the wars and I believe one of the reasons why is number one, you don’t have the draft, number two it’s so institutionalized now,” said Huerta.
There are many however marching for immigration reform, immigrant rights, and the DREAM Act, among other issues instead of the peace movement. Huerta explained, while there is an active peace movement other issues seems to be taking priority.
Radio host and Iraq war veteran Adam Kokesh argued that the anti-war movement is working hard to make a strong statement.
“The main difference between now and Vietnam in term of anti-war activity is that people don’t care, and you have to ask why. People only protest about things they care about, it’s really simple. The people behind the wars have learned the lessons for Vietnam and they’ve found out how to conduct massive wars with huge expenditures and keep them isolated from the American public,” said Kokesh.