• An Open Conversation with Francisco Castro-Metro Editor at La Opinion

AMENDED By Javier Rodriguez 25 April 2017

Maestro Francisco, you were totally wrong when you published that superficial and subjective investigation against me, as leader of the March 25 Coalition in 2006. And yes, today, is not the same. Then you worked for the newspaper Hoy, owned by the Los Angeles Times, today for La Opinion, property of the right wing Argentinian conglomerate La Nacion, unfortunately, however your vision has stagnated. Your conception of the value of popular mobilizations and their traditional tactical kick offs for the 1st of May- Mega Marches, should be reported only at the end of their campaigns, in bunches, indicates a contemptuous lack of knowledge and sensitivity towards this phenomenon, a political weapon of the Immigrant Rights Movement, of all the social classes, the women and minority blocs that make up the 99%. And to justify it you lied.


Mega-marches in America and throughout the world are dialectically initiated, constructed and promoted. The initiators, who are those with the panoramic vision, the directors and organizers who implement that vision, plus the strategic building of coalitions and alliances, do so through political, organizational, media and financial strategies. Most important, ideally, they all collectively analyze the political momentum, the objective and subjective conditions and the correlation of forces at play, at each stage of the process.


In this era, the start or campaign kickoff, of necessity, carries a press conference. Of course, through this giant megaphone made up of TV Networks, Radio, the print media, news services and social networks, the leaders and media wonks  attempt to reach millions of citizens with their message, which in many occasions puts the population and sectors of power on alert.


For this year’s May 1st campaigns in L.A. and vicinity there are several in the making by a divided progressive web of organizations and leaders, including immigration reform. So far there have been several press conferences in all of California. A few to kick off the organizing and others to educate, motivate, agitate and mobilize the targeted sectors of the population.  With exceptions, all of them are convening “mega marches and a general strike or a boycott on May 1”. I can honestly say the majority did not transcend, except the one held about two months ago by a host Coalition of stated 56 organizations, headed by CHIRLA and labor. They summoned the media to introduce their message and their forces and announced their goal of a May 1st with thousands in the streets. The hope I have, is that, with a semi unified national movement and a truly growing momentum, the organizing could move many more in hundreds of cities across the country, similar to what we did in 2006 and what happened on January 21 with the new Women’s March against the Trump government. With the observation and condition that the unity of a majority of forces is vital.

I also emphasize that the vast majority of the potential participants will be those who strike, not just the marchers, especially in the eastern states. In the overall count in 2006 this was a major error primarily pushed by the police brass and the media executives, which focused much of the coverage on the marches. In fact, if you recall Francisco, in LA there were two mega marches on that May Day and a spectacular and tremendously successful Great American Boycott -a general strike. However, the political establishment, guided by Mayor Villaraigosa, Republicans Gov. Schwarzenegger and President George W. Bush, Cardinal Mahoney, the corporate media, with CHIRLA, the County Federation of Labor, SEIU, COFEM CARECEN, etc. in the streets, attempted to stop it, but they failed. We stopped 20 major industries and two hundred plus cities nationwide, including Los Angeles and New York.

Here, it is important to clarify that in your brief counterattack to the critical observation I sent you the day before, noting that no La Opinion reporter attended the press conference of the San Gabriel Valley Sanctuary Coalition where we announced “A Day of Resistance and the first ever May 1st Mega March and Economic Boycott in this region of LA”, chauvinistically you emphasized that, “La Opinion will cover the marches of the 1st of May only in the last days before the 1st”.

By that time however, specifically on Wednesday March 22, 2017, the Metro section of La Opinion that you lead, gave the CHIRLA led kickoff event, 2 ½ pages with sizable photos throughout the  pages, and highlighting the message better than bullet points. It was a good report. Essentially you gave that coalition 400,000 copies of the newspaper with everything including distribution. I would add one more point, the media event did not start or end on its own. The previous Sunday, March 19, national columnist Michael Myerson, published an extensive interview/column in the LA Times, of CHIRLA’s leader Angelica Salas. Also highlighted were the upcoming  call for this year’s May 1 March and  a surprising first for this block, “ a general strike consisting of No work, No School, No Sales, No Buying”. Additionally here, Angelica stated, “I hope to repeat the feats of 2006,” referring to the Immigrant Spring 2006”, with millions on the streets. Additionally, on March 26, in the editorial section of La Opinion, our friend Henrik Rhebinder followed up/remato with  an editorial supporting a strong and well-coordinated event on the 1st. Francisco, compulsively like President Trump, you lied.

With the amount of Latino and American media – including La Opinion, who attended that press event, I estimate that one to two million people listened, read and watched the call for TV and Cable, radio and social networks. Why? I believe the press speculated this was the next round of big protests was maybe coming against Trump and his ultra-right-wing administration. That is before the large earth day and Science Day and other national street mobilizations entered the scene.   The New Social Makeup of the Street Movements since the Election of the Neo-Fascist In Southern CA this May 1st it won’t be just Latinos and immigrants marching or striking, there will also be great waves of Anglo activists and other ethnicities as seen in L.A. after Trump’s election. Brace yourselves, they maybe a majority on the streets and they are more militant. Allow me to explicate.  After the election, enrage took center stage in the main cities of America, including L.A. For two weeks straight there were daily evening take overs and blockage of downtown streets and the freeways nearby, with minimal rioting. The LAPD and Highway Patrol were on full alert and zealously parked by the dozens inside the freeways and streets. Probably close to 1,500 youth were arrested, but you didn’t see any of the local immigration leaders in sight.  Union del Barrio, one of the grass roots organizations in L.A. and co-founder of the SoCal Immigration Coalition, captured the moment and called for a march on the first or second Saturday apparently allied with white youth leaders of that rising movement. The event began at McArthur Park. And ended at the Federal Building.  I caught up with many white and Latino youth on Alvarado St. walking south towards the assembly point. Trust me 80% were white. Then I waited on Wilshire three blocks west of the 110 Fry. North for the parade to arrive and sure enough, again I estimated an 80% plus white crowd from wall to wall. The cops at that corner attempted to block the marchers and guide them south, I assume to follow the agreed permit route.  Not surprising however, the protesters walked right through the police and their motorcycles. With the disciplined white leaders urging on, the crowd followed suit and continued. There was no police violent confrontation. The blues were taken aback and moved to point B to set up at the next intersection. Then I spotted Ron Gochez and a band of Latino youth followers with a large tall banner, running to the front where again, the cops were waiting. Incredibly, but not surprising, the Union del Barrio leader ironically joined the police, in an attempt to get the march back on track. Again, the people, including Latinos and blacks and a couple of families, ran through them and the police, and from there on until the end at the Federal Building, there were several unauthorized curves joyfully violated. Weirdly this reveals Gochez is a law and order man at heart. To emphasize, since Trump’s election the protests have had a huge bloc of white activists and lesser entrants from other ethnic groups and by far this was the case for the Jan 21 women’s march. To be more incisive, from November 2016 to the present in the marches seen in LA, the waves of whole families and the youth that in the past carpeted the streets of downtown Broadway from Olympic to City Hall/Pershing Square/McArthur Pk. to the Federal Buildings, were replaced by a majority of White youth and middle age citizens. If you walked in any of those marches you observed that the shouts of slogans in Spanish were isolated acts that did not resonate. In this intense media era, the online press, social media, and local and national Latino media have far surpassed their power of reach and influence among the 57 million Latino population but at this moment, el miedo/fear is the word in the community. The participation of La Opinion has always been valuable and historical, although today, with exceptions, the very limited staff do their work by telephone and at home, losing important personal contact to identify the feeling among the masses. Also with La Opinion’s change to a tabloid format and the cutbacks, we have lost a whole generation of experienced sympathetic social conscious and immigrant journalists to marginalization.  All this being said Francisco, I think that your position must be examined to reflect a better understanding of  how the street political movement- who some are totally independent with no pay, some function with foundation and Democratic Party funds and command a large  staff; others are staff labor organizers and representatives and rank and filers- which at certain stages, we all have achieved local or national unity and thus has been able to enter and influence the local and national conversation, as was done in the Immigrant Spring with a media strategy that I designed and directed and reached important goals like: momentarily defeating the ultra-right and their pestilent xenophobia and effectively placed the big prize, “immigration reform in the national conversation with two bills on the table in 2006 and 2007; more important, the monumental marches and the Great American Boycotts ensured dignity and respect from the American people, the media, the political and economic powers in America and the world; the same thing with other insurgent leaders in the 2010 defeat of Arizona’s SB2010.  Today in this 2017 campaign, I can point to the one characteristic we all have is that, with exceptions, the political media strategies are geared to wrest from the monstrous   global capitalist corporations, “social responsibility and free media coverage,” because like the neo-fascist Trump, we also sell news and make them a lot of money. So he  was not the first.   Back to the Kick OffsThe kick offs are important tactical starting points in many sectors and industries such as marketing in private industry, sports, universities, government and election campaigns, particularly the last presidential campaign between Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The latter captured the attention of the media and the extreme right of the country and the world for its savage attack on Mexico, Mexicans and immigrants, accusing them of rapists, criminals and Narco traffickers and the building of a wall on the border. The kick off was a resounding success that Trump managed to repeat hundreds of times, at the close of his campaign and even today. Bro, do you also say that this presidential campaign “should have been given media coverage only at the end?”. If by now you have read our press releases, do you think the San Gabriel Valley Sanctuary Coalition deserves an extensive report in La Opinion as the favorites? Finally, I want to briefly address the issue that the entire press never addresses and that most of the leaders and organizations inside the Immigration Reform Movement avoid like the plague: THE POLITICAL DIVISIONS.  It is imperative that after May 1, the Latino and/or English media, develop a serious and objective investigation, that is, without the journalistic sectarianism that I have observed, and draw conclusions to understand this cancer that has existed since I have political memory. I began to detect it since the Amnesty victory of 1986 in which I also directed the street mass events; again in the battle against Prop. 187 in 1993-94; and the worst in 2009, when Obama had just taken office. Then, on behalf of the March 25 Coalition we knocked on every door and meetings, calling for a unified massive event to place the new president against the wall and wrest the promised reform. Of all the opportunities since 2006, this was the best moment.  However, our illustrious chieftains and usual suspects, several who had marched with us the previous years, feeling rehabilitated, instead of defying the cancer and creating an unstoppable force to meet the historical challenge of the time, “they opted to stage seven comical, diminutive demonstrations, averaging 2,000 people each”. So the President, fully advised by his then Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, now Chicago Mayor, easily placed immigration reform in the back burner for four more years, until his second term and here we are.  Have you Francisco Castro, La Opinion, the media, Jorge’s Al Punto, Radio Pacifica, etc., ever researched, analyzed or discussed these facts and point of view objectively.  Today, with the neo-fascist American government in power, it is crystal clear the leadership is on the same path of defeat unless there is a 180 degree shift in direction. It can be done. We did it in 2010 after a major betrayal in the first two weeks of the May 1st Campaign against SB1070, by CHIRLA, the County Labor Federation, SEIU, the Full Rights Coalition and Hermandad Mexicanas. We broke them and with only two weeks left, we staged a ¼ million march and with many similar events nationally, the infamous bill was defeated.        The principal, but partial questions are: what are the Political and ideological differences of these organizations; the personal; the egos of the leaders; the jealousy; are there secret or open funds to sustain the divisions; which are the games of power before and during the mobilizations; how do certain leaders try to control the exchanges and conversation?; Who are the favorites at Univision, Telemundo, La Opinion and the rest of the media, who then skews the judgment and objectivity of the journalists and the coverage against this movement in general.  Having said all this, to me, it’s highly questionable that we have seldom seen the Latino members of the Spanish or English press marching and protesting with us, or for that matter, respect the call to not work on May Day as is done all over the world, Mexico included. ZAZ

Javier Rodriguez is a media and political strategist and co-founded and directed the March 25 Coalition 2006-2011