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San Diegans Stand Against Racists at Chicano Park

February 3, 2018

By Mario A. Cortez

San Diego residents gathered at Chicano Park on Saturday, Feb. 3, in order to demonstrate against a group of racist, right-wing provocateurs who believe the park is a place that is “anti-American” and “excludes against non-Latinos.”

The community response came about after the rightist group Bordertown Patriots, Inc. scheduled a “patriot picnic” at Chicano Park. The group is believed to be linked to far-right blogger Roger Ogden, who has a history of instigating racially-driven controversy by targeting people from Latino and Muslim backgrounds.

The community’s presence at the park was also a response to the possible presence of white supremacist extremists who have previously expressed their intent to engage in violence against people of color and deface the park’s murals.

The San Diego Police Department set up barricades on both sides of Logan Avenue in the early morning hours in anticipation of the event and in order to prevent any physical confrontations from occurring on the stretch of Logan Avenue which runs through Chicano Park.

From about 9 a.m., local residents gathered with peaceful intent in order to show their support for Chicano Park and its history as a symbol of self determination for marginalized communities. An estimated 700 people were present in solidarity with the park.

The Chicano Park Steering Committee, a volunteer group responsible for caring for the park, organized a program which featured prayer, Mexican dance ceremonies, music, and speeches from community leaders as part of an “educational tour” event held at the Park’s kiosk.

The Committee also advised against engaging with the picnic attendees on the park site. Through a statement issued in advance, the group asked people to “not come to the park with negative intentions or seeking to provoke any problems.”

At roughly 10:30 a.m., the Patriot Picnic contingent, made up of about 50 individuals, arrived at Chicano Park with a police escort from the downtown area through Logan Avenue. The group set up on a table on the opposite side of the street from those present in support of Chicano Park.

Although the picnic organizers’ goal was to “raise our flags over Atzlan” (sic), attendees did not act in an organized and uniform manner, with many shouting obscenities at park supporters while others held irrelevant signage or simply recorded the event on their phones.

Turano (shirtless with a red cap) and a masked individual flashing the “WP” sign.

Picnic organizers also stated that they were motivated by a pro-American sentiment and not by racist ideology. Despite this, known white supremacists such as John Turano, who goes by the names “Pat Washington” and “Based Trojan” online, was in attendance and aggressively shouting at pro-park ralliers. Others were seen and photographed flashing the “WP” hand sign, a dog whistle interpretation of the “OK” hand gesture which is interpreted as “white power.”

An unidentified “Patriot Picnic” attendee flashing the “WP” gesture.

Despite tensions between both sides, no direct physical altercations occurred between the opposing groups at the park site.

Through Twitter, SDPD reported three arrests coming from confrontations outside of the park, including a man who allegedly punched a police officer in the face. Social media users reported patriot picnic attendee Hanzel Orzame, a pastor at a nondenominational church in West Covina, being cited and released after urinating on a mural.

This is the second time right-wing groups stage a picnic at Chicano Park to stir up controversy and target the park’s murals.

In September of last year, rumors of members of racist and radical right groups holding their own rally at Chicano park lead hundreds of San Diegans to demonstrate against said presences.

Chicano Park was founded in 1970, after residents of Logan Heights staged a 12-day protest in response to a HIghway Patrol being built on land that was previously approved to become a community park.

Chicano Park was designated as a National Historic Landmark in January 2017 by the United States Secretary of the Interior.

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