White supremacists who threatened to destroy murals in Chicano Park were met by a turnout that rivaled the 1970 uprising that created the iconic national landmark.
More than 1,000 people of many races and ethnicities came to the park to protect its world-famous murals, the largest collection of outdoor artwork in the nation. Counter-demonstrators linked arms to form human shields around the towering murals in a multicultural show of solidarity with the region’s Latinos. No murals were damaged.
Meanwhile, police formed a protective circle around the small group of white nationalists. A member of the group who would not give his name said they were supporters of Donald Trump who were “just having a little picnic.” White supremacists from the American Nazi Party and the Minuteman Project took to right wing websites to urge local politicians to take down the murals, claiming the artwork was “un-American and endorsed human sacrifice.”
Some said they were acting in retribution to the removal of a plaque honoring Confederate president Jefferson Davis from Horton Plaza. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulkner ordered the plaque to be removed early one morning without fanfare.
Border Angels founder Enrique Morones said the counter-protesters were successful in their goal.
“We stand here united against hate, against racism,” he said to a cheering throng. “You can feel the love here.”
A series of Chicano activists took the stage and addressed the crowd, encouraging strength and community as “Chicano Park Samba” rumbled from loudspeakers. The voice of the late Chunky Sanchez rekindled memories of the 1970 uprising when members of the Logan Heights community blocked construction of a California Highway Patrol station on the land beneath the Coronado Bridge. The land had been promised in 1967 by the state to the community as parkland.
Music and the smell of burning sage anointed the air as the crowd collected underneath Coronado Bridge. The counter-protesters turned from defensive to celebratory as police escorted the white supremacists away from the park.
Legendary Chicano painter and activist Salvador Barajas smiled as he stood beside “The Historical Mural,” a piece he helped paint in 1972 and restored in 2012.
“Following the displacement of 1,500 families in the neighborhood due to the freeway and bridge construction, the area was lifeless,” Barajas said. “Each of these pillars were just grey. There was nothing to show our culture.”
Barajas painted the park’s newest mural, a salute to the humanitarian work of the Border Angels. He was recently commissioned to paint a new mural that he hopes to start soon. The septuagenarian linked arms with friends and family to protect his Border Angels mural.
Chicano supporters poured into the I-5 onramp as they walked around the circle of police, chanting “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA.” Cheers erupted among the crowd as officers escorted the nationalists away from Chicano Park.
Chicano political cartoonist Joaquin Junco Jr. said he came to protect the park.
“This place represents my hopes and dreams,” he said. “It’s documenting history of where we came from and what struggles we’ve been through. Today was a win for us.”