The Chicano Moratorium held on August 29, 1970 was to date the largest antiwar demonstration ever organized by people of Mexican descent. Demonstrators showed up at Laguna Park in East Los Angeles by the thousands - the cause was serious but the atmosphere was festive. But the peaceful protest turned violent when helmeted officers of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department fired tear-gas and proceeded to roust the demonstrators. The violence spilled onto the streets of East Los Angeles and the planned fiesta turned into mayhem. In the aftermath, Ruben Salazar, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, sat nursing a beer in the Silver Dollar Bar on Whittier Boulevard when he was hit in the head by a tear gas canister. Before his death, Salazar's progressive writings in the Los Angeles Times were read avidly by many in the community. He spoke out fearlessly against racism, prejudice, and segregation.
Tank treads flatten papier-mâché
There will be no fiesta today.
On a tear-gas-emptied street
With feigned expressions of grief
In large-screen living rooms
A Del Taco wrapper floats
We pull the shades closed
Shamelessly, we exchange masa for flour.