Community members gathered June 29 in front of the Chicano Art Gallery on Logan Avenue, a block from Chicano Park. Speaking on behalf of Chicano Art Gallery, Cesar Castañeda addressed the public, stating that they have been forced to shut its doors after six years due to lack of funds needed to satisfy their landlord, who has embraced soaring property values.
The announcement was especially upsetting considering the function of the gallery as the only establishment left on the block not operating as a for-profit business, instead serving as an ungentrified, uncensored space for resistance and Chicano culture.
Police harassment no coincidence
A few evenings prior, the art gallery had been the host of a workshop on gentrification. In a chilling fashion, at the same time community members were discussing the brutality of displacement and cultural genocide, officers of the San Diego Police Department were arresting Georgina Mercado for filming an interaction with the police and later violently detained Eddie Alvarez for filming her arrest. (Liberation News)
Community members highlighted the role of a violent police force in enforcing gentrification, that this was not a coincidence.
The arrests and shuttering of the gallery come on the heels of other aggressive police interactions and what many see as intimidation as a result of community members defending their neighborhood and park. In addition, the community has also contended with other forces such as the Proud Boys who on May Day targeted Chicano Park and its murals.
Community members remain resilient
The group swelled to around 80 people who denounced this attack on Chicano culture. “If anything, I want this to serve as a beacon to the people out there, those that value our neighborhoods, those that carry our communities in their hearts, to come and take action now,” said Castañeda.
His sense of urgency is rooted in a truth that many of the poor and working class in the area know and experience. There are over 50,000 people in Barrio Logan, a majority Latino and Chicano, whose close proximity to environmental hazards forces them to bear the brunt of the health effects. As a result of pollution caused by freeways, shipyards and military activity, Barrio Logan has an incidence of asthma higher than 92.9 percent of California zip codes. This is environmental racism at work.
After taking to the streets, demonstrators convened in Chicano Park, surrounding a statue of Emiliano Zapata, revolutionary hero of the Mexican Revolution, and held a moment of silence.
“We talk about being seeds … Where’s the fruit?” remarked a community member.