The Militant(logo) 
    Vol.60/No.16           April 22, 1996 
Los Angeles: 6,000 Blast Cop Beating Of Mexicans  


LOS ANGELES - Six thousand people poured through the streets of downtown Los Angeles April 6 to demand prosecution of the cops who clubbed several Mexican workers near Riverside, California, southeast of here. The April 1 beating, videotaped by a TV crew flying in a helicopter overhead and shown on television throughout the United States and Mexico, has caused widespread outrage. Chants of "Raza Sí, Migra No!" and "We didn't cross the border, the border crossed us!" rang out from the predominately youthful demonstrators.

Many carried home-made signs and banners that were written after individuals heard about the demonstration on the radio. "No More Latin Blood!" read one placard. "Wilson, Buchanan, Salinas, Zedillo - the blame is yours!" referred to California governor Peter Wilson, ultrarightist politician Patrick Buchanan, and the former and current presidents of Mexico Carlos Salinas de Gortari and Ernesto Zedillo. "Full Citizenship for All Immigrants!" and "I am not a Piñata!" read other signs.

Another woman carrying a sign saying "The real illegals are the police - Jail the cops who beat us!" said in an interview, "I'm here because there should be justice. They should punish the police, they should kick them off their job. They're racists and don't belong in a place with authority. Instead of giving them vacations we should be giving them convictions."

At 5:30 a.m. that morning before the march, border patrol agents followed a truck they claimed was stolen, which overturned on a rural road near Riverside killing seven men and injuring 18. The police said they suspected the vehicle was carrying undocumented immigrants and claimed they did not chase the truck, they just followed it. The victims are between 20 and 30 years old.

"This is not exceptional; cop beatings and killings of immigrant workers happen every day," said Verónica Poses, another demonstrator who came here from Miami. "What was exceptional in the April 1 incident was the TV camera. We've got to fight to stop racist police violence." Poses, a leader of the Young Socialists, joined the march along with several YS members and hundreds of other youth.

Around 300 demonstrators also marched at the same time from City Hall to the county jail in the city of Riverside.

Prominent in the march were contingents of students from the University of California Riverside, Chafee College, and Riverside Community College.

"It's wrong for the cops to beat anyone who comes to this country just to work," said Malcolm Johnson, a young worker who is African-American. "Blacks, Latinos, and whites should struggle together. We should be united."

A well-attended news conference preceding the rally was held at the headquarters of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. Union officials who condemned the police violence at the news conference included Bill Robertson, acting secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County AFL-CIO; David Sickler, regional director of the AFL-CIO; and Steve Nutter, regional director of the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees.

"This is not an isolated incident," Nutter told the press. "What was their crime?" he asked. "The woman beaten was a garment worker. It could have been me or our members. Her crime was making our clothes."

Nutter was referring to Leticia González, 32, one of the passengers in the pickup truck that stopped on the side of the highway after being chased by the police April 1. As she got out one of the cops beat her on the back with his baton, slammed her face into the pickup's hood, yanked her by the hair, and pulled her to the ground.

González was released after being treated for injuries. Another Mexican worker, Flores Martínez, 26, suffered bruises and a hairline fracture of an elbow; he was jailed after being briefly treated at a hospital.

Similar protests took place in several other cities. Some 75 people turned out at the Federal Building in downtown Seattle April 5. The picket line was called by El Centro de La Raza. Bernie Whitebear, executive director of the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation, called on U.S. attorney general Janet Reno to bring federal civil rights charges against the cops involved in the April 1 beating.

NEW YORK CITY - Chanting "Aquí estamos y aquí nos quedamos!" (We are here and we are here to stay) and "Immigrants Yes, La Migra No," about 350 demonstrators marched from the Federal Building here to Thompkins Square Park on the Lower East Side on April 6. Along the way the marchers stopped for rallies in immigrant communities in Chinatown and on Delancey Street.

"We are here to protest the beating of Mexican workers by the cops in California," announced Miguel Maldonado, an organizer of the demonstration and leader of the Immigrant Workers Association. "This is a fight not just for Latinos, not just for Asians, not just for immigrants, but for all people who believe in justice."

The march was part of a series of activities being planned by the local organizers of the Coordinadora/Campaign '96 in the months of April and May. According to the publicity for the march, Campaign '96 is a "nationwide effort to create an immigrant grassroots movement." The group is planning a national demonstration in Washington, D.C., on October 12.

In addition to protesting the police beatings of Mexican workers in Los Angeles, the April 6 action was a protest against a number of other anti-immigrant measures being considered by the U.S. Congress (see article above).

A group of teachers and their family members from Public School 169 came to the demonstration to protest this law. They carried homemade signs demanding education for all children. Danny Stone, a young teacher, expressed his outrage at "the scapegoating of immigrants, people that have fewer rights to defend themselves."

The majority of the demonstrators were Spanish-speaking workers and youth, including a large contingent of Mexicans carrying a big Mexican flag. Many found out about the march in an editorial in El Diario/La Prensa, the main Spanish- language daily in the city. The editorial denounced the police violence in Los Angeles and encouraged people to join the protest.  
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