By Javier Rodriguez from La Plaza del Mariachi 29 October 2013
On the hills of formal accusations of sexual harassment by a city employee and not far from the last LA municipal elections where next to “La Wendy Gruel,” Eastside Councilman Jose Huizar was the city’s biggest loser, in the midst of the scandal, the wounded politico has just announced his candidacy for reelection for a third term council seat. Having had a not very positive or productive relationship with him or his aloof staff during his first two terms, I have some observations on Jose’s character, courage and loyalties to politically represent and assist all his constituents equally and be present when a Latino elected leader is most needed. To begin with, let’s address the violence on the First St. Arts District Corridor in the last twelve months.
On October 8 of this year, early Tuesday morning, a desperate mother approached her son on the sidewalk of La Plaza del Mariachi and begged him to “come home” to no avail. By 6:05 that evening, the 25 year old young Mexican male was shot to death inside the cultural and popular Boyle Heights tourist attraction. The senseless, cold blooded and brutal assassination took place even though he was unarmed and dozens of people present.
Minutes before the shooting, witnesses say, the victim was embroiled in a loud discussion with two young members of the 1st Street Gang who consider The Plaza and a three block radius, their territory. The young man began to walk away east, saying again and again “I am not armed,” but he was followed closely. As he reached the back of the Metro Station elevator, he turned and pulled his shirt up as to prove he had no weapon. By then, there were two other armed 1St St. members on top of the roof above the Celaya sign pointing their weapons and below the two gangsters on the ground were exactly in front of the AA Center. At that moment, one of them had pulled out a large automatic gun and pointed it sideways and immediately shot the unarmed rival on the upper left side of his chest and as he spun back, he clashed with a mariachi that was talking on a cell phone. Another shot ensued and the mariachi rolled on the floor several times and in totally in shock, sat up and with his hands, began to pat his body, in search of the none existing wound.
Meantime, the victim landed on the floor and the shooter, same poise, shot him two more times, jerking his body upward above the ground each time and then they both ran north inside the gate, past the Santa Cecilia Restaurant and the lending Bookstore, unto the large parking lot toward their hideout at the old apartment building on N. Boyle Ave. between 1st and Pennsylvania Streets.
By this time all the people inside the Plaza, around the old Mexican built Kiosk and in front of the businesses, as well as across the street, were understandably in shock and in collective fear. The victim’s body was still alive and jerking and the blood was gushing out from his chest and gesturing to get up. Then in a scene reminiscing the Robert Kennedy murder of 1968 in LA, a mariachi nicknamed “La Rana” went to the aid of the dying man and as he pulled his head up and placed a back pack under, he saw the blood at close range, his eyes turning and fading, and then clearly heard him gasping his last words, “momma, momma, momma.”
Moments later as the young man laid dead in the Plaza, a crowd of young women and men arrived rushing through the same parking lot the killers used, to observe the dead body and murmur amongst themselves, which for their clan, it was probably another trophy in their violent history in the Eastside neighborhood.
It was October 8th and at that time so I was watching the evening Spanish language national news at the Old Billiards Hall on 1st and State Streets about the Tigres del Norte Concert for Immigration Reform in D.C., when the tragic news arrived. About 7:00 I passed by the Metro Plaza and saw the usual murder investigation scene: the area was cordoned off, the body had been taken away and the cops were milling around “making some easy money.”
What I didn’t see was our Councilman Jose Huizar at the scene getting pertinent information on the murder, nor assisting the police, or talking to the people in the immediate vicinity and provides them with some needed confidence, as the previous District 14 Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa used to do. During his tenure Antonio gave instructions to the LAPD to be called immediately when a homicide happened in his district and he would then arrive promptly at the scenes. Then as Mayor of Los Angeles he attended the religious mass for the 2 year old that was accidentally killed along with her father in South LA. Regardless of the circumstances of that high profile incident, Antonio courageously appeared at the church and consoled the mother and the family of the child. This was one of his first public appearances in the first days as the newly elected Latino Mayor of the 2nd largest city in the country with a long history of police-community conflict. His presence had the effect of simmering the swelling tensions. Huizar is now up for reelection for his third term and so far, we have never witnessed anything similar to Villaraigosa’s actions and style.
It is important to note that within the last year there have been other senseless murders in this immediate area. Another killing took place four months ago, in the alley behind the popular Corazon del Pueblo Community Arts Center just two blocks away from the Metro Station and only half a block from the Hollembeck Police Station. This time it was a 17 year old youth and immediately after the tragic incident happened, the poetry activists ran to the scene and in a similar scene to the previous drama at the Mariachi Plaza, while still alive, my nephew Francisco Paco also took the young man in his arms.
Another shooting took place in front of the popular “Eastside Luv and Las Palomas Bars,” both located across the street from the Subway Station and it was also a daytime job. At around the same time, but 3 blocks west of Boyle Ave., a young 16 year old student was just passing by on the corner of Clarence and 1st Sts. when the local gang members asked him, “Where are you from?” He responded “nowhere” but scared, he ran and immediately “the judgment of capital punishment in the barrio was made, and therefore he was shot and killed.” The latter victim had no gang affiliation and I got these details from the family operated restaurant located directly across the Plaza. The kid was halfway to his life dream of going to college and a career.
From living in this neighborhood since I migrated to LA in the late 50s and my experiences with the Councilman, I can venture to speculate, Jose Huizar nor anyone of his staff, never made it to the four murders to console the mothers or families of the victims, or for that matter, the community. Most puzzling, on each case the fear and psychosis ran in the neighborhood for more than a week but strangely neither Huizar nor the Hollembeck Commander did not designate the area as top priority, including assigning a foot patrol. And this is their watch.
*Javier Rodriguez is a journalist, a blogger and a media and political strategist. His son Jesus, his nephew Jaramillo and his brother Jesus all fell victim to similar neighborhood violence between 1987 and 1996. A long time social activist, he is presently a co founder of the Millions of Voices Coalition in LA that on Sept. 22 moved thousands of people in Downtown LA for Immigration Reform. He was also the initiator and directed the making of the 1.7 million historical immigration march in Los Angeles on March 25, 2006, as well as the May 1st 2006 Great American Boycott. Back in 1982-86, he directed the mass street mobilizations in LA that led up to the Amnesty Law IRCA of 1986; He recently traveled for 5 ½ months thru Mexico in 2012, observing and writing about the country’s political process, the aftermath of a highly questioned presidential election, the drug war and migrants. His blog is Larayueladejavier.wordpress.com and his email email@example.com