By Ulrike Salazar
Dozens of protestors swelled in numbers in South Central Los Angeles yesterday as members and supporters of Serve the People – Los Angeles (STPLA) rallied the masses in support of the release of Gladis Hernandez, an undocumented immigrant mother and street vendor, held at the Adelanto immigration detention center.
Protestors wore red bandanas and carried STPLA flags, banners and a Trump piñata-effigy alongside the city’s new Bank of California Stadium in front of the Los Angeles Coliseum, where Gladis was arrested and then handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
On July 7, Gladis and her son were selling hot dogs near the new stadium as they usually do when she was stopped by California State Police in an all-white police cruiser. They interrogated her and lied that there was a warrant out for her arrest. They, then, handed her over to ICE.
“She has nothing on her record. It’s clean,” Ernesto, her husband said, furnishing a copy of her clean docket.
Her husband, Ernesto, who was nearby, immediately came over only to see his handcuffed wife being put into the backseat of the police car.
As luck would have it in all of this, Ernesto’s in-laws had worked with STPLA in the recent past on two separate campaigns for Saul Cervantes and Luis Estrada – both who now are free. His family were the ones who recommended he call STPLA for help. The Boyle Heights-based organization is quickly becoming something bigger and more confrontational, both in its bold politics and in its actual campaigns, than ever before.
Protestors moved their way from the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard and Figueroa Street up north on Figueroa Street chanting, “La migra, la policia, la misma porqueria!” (“ICE, the police, the same shit!”) and “Fuck ICE! Fuck the pigs!”
They set up in front of the main entrance to the Bank of California Stadium to continue some chants, address the swarming crowds eagerly walking into the stadium for the evening’s soccer game and to pass out flyers about Gladis’ detention and a link for them to donate.
From brief to prolonged moments, the group and the mass supporters were almost indistinguishable with their uniformed red bandanas but also in their calls for militant escalations and defense of their undocumented working-class immigrant communities by any means necessary.
One brazen street vendor in the group yelled: “Sheriffs y la ciudad, que se vayan a la verga!” (Sheriffs and the city, go to hell!)
Gladis’ street vendor comrades showed up in full force and petitioned the organizers of the protest to direct more anger against the City and County of Los Angeles who constantly harass and even confiscate and destroy their food carts.
Organizers and the masses lit road flares and delivered speeches to news cameras and onlookers calling on the release of Gladis, calling an end to all attacks on undocumented working-class immigrants, calling on organizing Unidades de Defensa Populares Revolucionarias (the People’s Revolutionary Defense Units) and using revolutionary violence against the enemies of the people.
Sheriffs, California Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies quickly began descending on the protestors and told them to extinguish their flares and stay on the sidewalk. But organizers countered their demands, told the masses they don’t have to do anything they say. Shortly thereafter, the street vendors among the masses demanded they enter the stadium and focus their rage on the County trucks who confiscate street vendor carts.
As protestors swarmed around the truck, a white lady inside laughed and taunted them. She laughed, it appeared, out of nervousness – perhaps forgetting that her picture had been taken and would subsequently be circulated online, and with only a question of time her real identity would be made public.
STPLA says the masses want revolutionary vengeance, and it appears to be true especially in the deepest and most profound section of the masses, in the scapegoated and attacked undocumented immigrant neighborhoods who now speak more openly about arming themselves and defending their families and way of life at all costs.
The burning questions for readers, for the masses and revolutionaries, are: What will it take to stop the raids and deportations? What will it take to end the brutality against street vendors and others pushed to the margins of capitalist society? What are we prepared and preparing to do?
STPLA and their supporters are bold and honest enough to say that rallies or even militant and illegal protests alone won’t do anything. What is needed, they say, is a “sea of armed masses” organized to defend ourselves but most importantly organized to take power.