By Ulrike Salazar
UPDATE: At approximately 1 p.m. yesterday, Yudis Leonel Cruz was confirmed as being safe at home. Supporters are still investigating matters. It is unknown at the moment if he was apprehended or arrested and then released. What is known, however, is that witnesses saw California Highway Patrol officers single out Leonel as a militant leader. Witnesses last saw Leonel running away with his paletero cart while law enforcement – without giving any order of arrest or to disperse – belligerently chased after him. More updates will follow.
A street vendor leader with the People’s Revolutionary Defense Units, or as they are known in Spanish las Unidades de Defensa Populares Revolucionarias (UDPR), a new group under the leadership of Serve the People – Los Angeles, was disappeared this past Sunday after law enforcement brutalized vendors, their families and the revolutionaries.
Yudis Leonel Cruz, known simply as Leonel, a Salvadoran immigrant, is an ice-cream street vendor, or more popularly known as a paletero, who has been a committed and courageous supporter of the UDPR.
He was targeted precisely for his outspoken support and leadership, a tactic used by all repressive states against revolutionary movements in an attempt to crush them.
Several witnesses heard law enforcement specifically mention Leonel by name and pursued him on foot.
At the moment, supporters are tirelessly trying to track him down and reaching out to family and friends as well as local jails and detention centers.
Working-class immigrant street vendors have been gathering at Exposition Park in South Central Los Angeles for decades, across the street from the bourgeois-gentrifying University of Southern California.
They have been fighting back against law enforcement throughout Los Angeles after years of torment and assault – despite California Governor Jerry Brown’s bourgeois reformist bill supposedly legalizing street vending, SB946.
But the bill only applies, minimally, to street vendors on public sidewalks and not at parks.
South Central Los Angeles as a whole has been the site of vast urban redevelopment, evictions, rent increases and investment by parasitic comprador private investors and developers with the aid of city officials.
With the addition of the new Banc of California stadium hosting the Los Angeles Football Club, and the newly-renovated Los Angeles Coliseum (home for the 2028 Olympics), the gentrification in the area has accelerated.
The neighborhood is under the threat of mass displacement of working-class and other oppressed groups from the area in exchange for white petite bourgeois and bourgeois yuppy students and artists.
With the recent abduction and detention of undocumented immigrants hot dog vendor Gladis Hernandez from the park on July 7 by California State Police and ICE, the UDPR has mobilized regularly at Exposition Park, especially during big soccer or football games. These are times when law enforcement repression is particularly acute.
Vendors and the UDPR have confronted California Highway Patrol, State Police, the Los Angeles Police Department, as well as lowly class-traitors of the Department of Health for the County of Los Angeles.
“We were once afraid,” said a street vendor with the UDPR. “But after confronting them, we are no longer afraid. We’re angry. Our fear is gone.”
Serve the People – Los Angeles talks about the need to militarize the masses they serve, as well as militarize themselves, through political action.
This is evident in the bravery displayed by the vendors through video evidence. They are courageous, even as their daughters are viciously treated and handcuffed by law enforcement.
“Why did they handcuff my daughter, I asked,” said another street vendor with UDPR. “Is it because she had the red [UDPR] bandanna on?”
These are tactics used all over the world where revolutionaries, especially Maoist guerrillas, are waging revolutionary movements and People’s Wars.
The capitalist state will purposefully try to label all supporters –especially the poor and working class – as Communists. They paint them as savages or even “ignorant, taken-advantage-of indians” like in Peru against the indigenous members and supporters of the Communist Party of Peru and the People’s Liberation Army.
The state, perpetually in crisis, will spread lies and try to confuse the masses through their bourgeois media, hoping to cause them to fear organizing and fighting back.
But despite arrests, detainment, and now the disappearance of a UDPR street vendor leader, the movement will not be stopped.
The masses and allies online have already given nearly $2,000 in donations to the legal fees to the #UDPR2, the two UDPR masked supporters taken away under false charges of assault on a peace officer –contrary to video evidence of them standing relatively still when CHP arresting officers, K. Cardoza, ordered the arrest.
The pre-Party principally Maoist formation, Red Guards – Los Angeles, have sent a brief message of support to Incendiary News in solidarity with the UDPR.
“We enthusiastically stand with the masses of South Central Los Angeles, the toiling working undocumented immigrant masses, the UDPR and STPLA, who shine the way forward in advancing the class struggle in our city. Long live the vendors! Long live UDPR! Long live STPLA!”
This author calls on all revolutionary, radical and progressive people and organizations to share this important moment in time. Bring back Leonel Cruz! #FreeLeonel ! It is right to rebel! The masses, once organized and militarized, are unstoppable.
To keep updated with news and developments, follow Serve thePeople – Los Angeles on Twitter @STP_LA, on Facebook @Facebook.com/ServirAlPuebloLA and on Instagram@STP_LA and Incendiary News on Twitter@IncendiaryNews.