By Rossana Martinez
A peaceful protest gathered in Los Angeles on July 8, calling for justice in the killing of Vanessa Guillén.
Vanessa Guillén, a U.S. Army specialist, went missing from Fort Hood on April 22. Her remains were found in a shallow grave in Central Texas near Fort Hood two months later. Before Guillen went missing, she had confided to her family that another service member had sexually harassed her, according to The Washington Post.
Hundreds congregated on Myers Street in the Aliso Village neighborhood and called for community support and urged stronger measures to protect members of the military against sexual crimes.
Yadira Gubaruvias, an Army veteran, was one of the many protesters who was inspired to be vocal about her own experience as a woman in the military. Gubaruvias argued the military has not been held accountable.
“I want justice,” Gubaruvias said. “There is such toxic masculinity in the military and this idea and concept that women are below men.We need reform.”
The United Brown Coalition, a new organization that aims to unite protesters under a single umbrella, organized the demonstration.
Heron Carrillo, representative of the United Brown Coalition, reported the organization has seen success in bringing people of different backgrounds together, from academics to street vendors. The organization has been active in immigration protests across Southern California in recent weeks.
“I don’t think I’ve seen this before, especially in the hood,” Carrillo said. “I myself have a hood background and we need everybody. We need to unite and stop fighting each other.”
The crowd marched west through the streets of downtown Los Angeles toward City Hall. Protesters carried signs in support of Black Lives Matter, the liberation of migrant children and the abolishment of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Many also called for justice in the police killing of Andres Guardado, who’s autopsy report found he was shot in the back five times by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies June 18.
Black and Latinx demonstrators split up at the intersection of Alameda and 1st streets and eventually marched on City Hall from opposite directions.
Edin Enamorado, another representative of the United Brown Coalition and former regional field director for the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, stood next to Black Lives Matter representatives at City Hall and reaffirmed the unity between the Black and Latinx communities.
Enamorado told the crowd that the Mexican government helped Black slaves who sought freedom in the 1800s and that the mutual aid between the communities would continue.
”We had your back back then and we have your back now,” Enamorado said. “Don’t let the media make you feel like we are supposed to be enemies, that’s what they want. We are in this together.”
Enamorado listed Latin American countries where the United States has intervened and overthrown governments for decades, which he said led to the immigration crisis. He explained that political asylum is legal and that demonstrations are yielding results, referencing a federal judge’s order for ICE to release any migrant children held in detention for more than 20 days by July 17.
“We’re still here fighting and we’re going to continue fighting,” Enamorado said. “Vanessa Guillén is not going to die in vain. We’re going to expose the Army and the military on how they’re abusing women.”
Blair Sebastian Toll, a Los Angeles native, passed out flowers and thanked protesters for using their voice. Toll considers himself an ally and attended the demonstration in support of unity between the Black and Latinx communities.
“We are living in some unsure times,” Toll said. “But at the same time, what a time to be alive. This pandemic really shows where our leaders are at and now people are seeing that and they need to be held accountable. It’s been opening the eyes of people left and right.”