Jorge Rivas, Fusion, May 6, 2016
An eight-piece mariachi band warmed up the crowd before Hillary Clinton took the stage inside the gym filled to capacity at East Los Angeles College. The former first lady picked the historically Mexican-American corner of Los Angeles County to host an event on Cinco de Mayo.
A young Latina student who said she grew up with an emergency list of contacts because she feared U.S. officials would one day deport her mother welcomed Clinton to the stage. The two women hugged and then Clinton went on to deliver a speech focused on immigration and the leading GOP candidate Donald Trump. Clinton did not mention Bernie Sanders in her 13-minute speech. It was all immigration-related or Trump.
Clinton’s Cinco de Mayo visit to East L.A. also brought dozens and dozens of police officers in riot gear, officers on horses, a police helicopter, and an estimated 1,000 protesters.
“The line has been drawn between the progressive Latino community and the conservative Hispanics,” said Herbert Siguenza, who was demonstrating outside and is one of three members of the Latino/Chicano comedy troupe Culture Class.
“Latinos were protesting outside, and Hispanics were inside [with Hillary Clinton],” said Siguenza, who said the label Hispanic was a more conservative “government establishment term” assigned to people of Spanish-speaking countries.
Siguenza said he attended the protest because he “couldn’t believe Clinton was in East L.A. on Cinco de Mayo. The Hispanic pandering is obvious,” he said.
The protesters highlighted comments Clinton has made in the past that appear to be more conservative positions on immigration than her more inclusive stances now.
Two minutes after Clinton took the stage, a 23-year-old woman began yelling and unveiled a handwritten sign highlighting a quote in which Clinton said unaccompanied minors should not be allowed to stay in the U.S. Clinton made those comments in June 2014. Today, the candidate says those minors need legal representation that would help the majority of them (73%) stay in the U.S.
“I was nervous, but then I saw the mariachis and it made me angrier. She was pandering,” said Jasmin Pacheco, the first demonstrator who attempted to interrupt Clinton’s speech. Pacheco was removed from the building, but moments later her brother unveiled another sign and also tried to interrupt Clinton.
Many of the demonstrators outside carried handwritten signs declaring Clinton was not welcome in the community. One sign read “We only matter when it’s Cinco de Mayo.” There were several signs connecting Clinton’s policy decisions to the assassination of Berta Cáceres, an Honduran indigenous and environmental rights activist. And then more signs questioning Clinton’s intent visiting East L.A. on Cinco de Mayo.
“We’re not going to let her come pander to our community to try to get the vote for us when we know that she is not going to work for our best interests,” Ron Gochez, one of the organizers of the protest told local radio station KPCC.