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Indigenous groups, Black Lives Matters join forces to decry historical 'sins' on July Fourth

Andrew J. Campa, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- Members of indigenous groups joined forces with Black Lives Matters organizers and other demonstrators Saturday afternoon near Olvera Street in a peaceful, masked protest and march that called for several actions, such as unity among minorities and an acknowledgment of the nation's many sins on its birthday.

Some burned incense, tobacco and sage, others spoke of the "Farce of July," and many marched to Grant Park and beyond with signs calling for the abolishment of ICE, the "defunding of the police" and justice for Andres Guardado, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and others slain by law enforcement.

Indigenous leader Shannon Rivers of the Akimel O'otham people called on about 400 gatherers to "decolonize" their minds. He said the current coronavirus spread, which has caused more than 125,000 deaths, wasn't the first plague to visit this continent.

The Europeans "brought many pandemics" to the peoples of the Americas, Rivers said, drawing the applause of a largely socially distanced crowd. Instead of celebrating with fireworks, he said, it would be best to understand "the many lies" taught to American youth that prop up white supremacy at the cost of all native peoples and minorities.

One falsehood referenced was the Declaration of Independence, which provided freedom to "white men" at the cost of everyone else, Rivers said. He also noted the American military failed to protect Vanessa Guillen, a Latina soldier killed at Fort Hood, who signed up to defend this country.

Rivers also called on Black Lives Matter to join the indigenous movement before saying forcefully, "Black lives matter."


The first set of people began to congregate near the grassy patch of land adjacent to Father Serra Park, where a statute of the field's namesake was ripped down June 20 by a group of protesters that included many indigenous people.

There were blessings and prayers said before the march, along with chants from indigenous groups, performances by Mejicas dancers, drumming and song from Capoeiristas for Black Lives Matters and speeches from Black Lives Matters members and backers. A young woman claiming to be from the Palestinian Youth Movement called for a "free, free Palestine."

As people gathered, there was little social distancing, though the vast majority of participants were masked. Organizer Jessa Calderon of the Tongva Nation quickly asked for the growing group to maintain 6 feet of distancing, which was generally followed except for sections of the march along Arcadia Street where some corridors were tight.

Marchers momentarily blocked traffic along Alameda and later on Spring Street, causing brief traffic delays. Calderon also spoke passionately about justice for Guillen, saying "my heart extends to her family and everyone who loves her and is marching for answers.


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