Limits on Mobility
This photograph from the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner archives vividly illustrates one of the limits on mobility that protesters faced during the blowouts. Although the demonstrations were generally peaceful, dozens of students were arrested by police, and a some of them were beaten as they were taken into custody (Balchunas 2008). The use of police violence was not only a means of suppressing the civil disobedience as it occurred; it was also meant to intimidate students who had not walked out of school, and discourage them from joining the movement (Castro 2011, 161).
Before the walkouts began, in East L.A. students were angered by school conditions that denied them any freedom of movement, reflecting the distrusting attitude of school administrators."Why do they have a fence guards at the doors, square cars in the streets?" One Garfield student complained. "We’re supposed to be students, not criminals" (Ruiz 1968). Another student expressed similar sentiments: “[Garfield is] a prison in a sense that we are fenced in and locked in" (Garcia). The blowouts can be seen as an act of rebellion against the oppressive atmosphere in East L.A.'s "Chicano Schools." Without permission, the students left school environments designed to restrict their movement, and then moved together en masse through the streets of L.A.
In this image, the faces of the two policemen are entirely hidden beneath their helmets. You can see the face of the person across the street more clearly than theirs. Whether or not this was intentional on the part of the photographer or the Herald-Examiner, this photo dehumanizes the policemen at its center. It makes the Los Angeles Police Department appear as a dehumanized force, a mechanical response to any act of subversive mobility by the city's Mexican-American population. At the same time, it magnifies the defiant courage seen in the faces of the two women being arrested.
The woman in the left is a Brown Beret, exemplifying the sacrifices the members of this organization made to protect students. The woman on the right is likely a photographer for a Chicana/o newspaper, the Free Press. The underground Chicana/o press played a significant role during the blowouts, which is detailed on the next page of this essay.
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