This Day in Resistance History: 1968 Chicano students walk out in protest of racist policies
According to one source, ”two thousand students walked out of Garfield High. They were met by policemen and an angry administration. The next day 2700 students walked out carrying leaflets on education reform.” They continued to walk out for several days after that.
Institutional discrimination was being displayed by the school system against the Chicano students and several incidents finally pushed them to take action in the form of a walk out or what the students called “Blowouts.”
After the first walk out, 10-15 thousand students from the main five East LA schools, adding Lincoln and Jefferson, held a 9 AM rally one day at Hazard Park. They carried signs reading “Chicano Power” and “Viva la Raza.”
1,200 people attended a community meeting held at Lincoln High on March 28. The Educational Issues Coordinating Committee, made up of parents, presented the original 36 demands. Although the Board claimed to agree with the needed changes, they cited a lack of funds to follow through. This prompted the students to walk out of the meeting.
Some of the demands that the students were pushing for were Bilingual bicultural education; more Latino teachers and administrators; smaller class sizes; better facilities; and the revision of text books to include Mexican American history.
On March 31, thirteen of the walkout organizers were arrested for conspiracy to disturb schools and the peace, a felony charge. Included in the LA 13 were Sal Castro and Moctezuma Esparza. Sympathizers began demonstrations to release the LA 13 immediately. Students and community members held picket lines in front of the Hall of Justice downtown. They were supported by Black nationalists, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), Senator Robert Kennedy, and Cesar Chavez. Legal defense was provided by the Chicano Legal Defense Committee and the American Civil Liberties Union. During this time, focus shifted to the LA 13 and direct action in the schools ceased.
On June 2, over 2,000 supporters rallied at the Central Police station as Sal Castro was released on bail. However, he could not resume teaching until cleared of the charges. Activists demanded that the Board reinstate him. They began sit-ins at the Board office. 35 supporters sat there for eight days until they were arrested on October 2. On October 3, Castro was reinstated.
The Chicano student walkouts did not just happen in Los Angeles, but all across the country. These student walkouts were part of a larger student movement based on revolutionary principles that was reflected in all the insurgent movements of the day, both in the US and across the globe.
The Chicano student movement is powerfully documented in the book Blowout!, by Mario T. Garcia and Sal Castro, published just 2 years ago. In addition, PBS produced a solid documentary on the Chicano Movement, which includes a section on the student walkout movement.
Today, we honor the courage of these students, to stand up and fight for justice and liberation. Let us learn from this history and utilize the same passion and tactics to fight for justice today. It is our duty to share this information with young people, so they know what possibilities there are in the struggle for liberation.