Los Siete de la Raza

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Los Siete de la Raza was the label given to seven young Latinos from the Mission District of San Francisco, California who were involved in an altercation with the police that resulted in the death of an officer in 1969. The incident and the subsequent trial became a cause célèbre of the Latin-American community and the New Left. All seven were acquitted.

Incident[edit]

The young men were approached by Joe Brodnik and Paul McGoran, two plainclothes San Francisco Police Department officers, while moving a stereo or TV into a house at 429-433 Alvarado Street on May 1, 1969 at around 10:30 a.m. A struggle ensued and Brodnik was fatally shot with McGoran's gun.[1] When police descended on the crime scene, they entered the house and assumed the suspects were hiding in the attic after which they flooded the building with tear gas as a helicopter hovered overhead; they sent a fire truck ladder up to the roof to facilitate the search while officer Brodnik's corpse lay untended on the sidewalk.[citation needed]

Three days later six of the youths were arrested for murder of Brodnik and the attempted murder of McGoran, and burglary. The seventh defendant, George Lopez, was never apprehended.[2] They were defended by the activist lawyers Charles Garry and Richard Hodge, lauded by left entities like Ramparts magazine.[1] The young Latinos included four Salvadorans, one Nicaraguan, and one Honduran, some of whom had been involved in the youth group, the Mission Rebels (founded in 1965), and later in pan-Latino organizations such as COBRA (Confederation of Brown Race for Action) at the College of San Mateo, and the Brown Berets.

Trial[edit]

The trial began in late June 1970[3] and the court sessions were widely attended by young radicals including Black Panther Huey P. Newton and two of the Chicago Seven.[4]

The prosecution maintained that one of the youths had wrested McGoran's gun from him and shot Brodnik. Officer McGoran testified that they approached the youths and lined them up, then he struck one in the face and was jumped by "more than one assailant". The last thing he remembered hearing was Brodnik shouting, "look out Paul, he's got your gun". The defense said McGoran had pulled his gun and shot Brodnik during the struggle. They brought forth witnesses to testify to his (and Brodnik's) excessive use of force in previous incidents. McGoran denied ever having pulled out his gun. The defense tried to paint McGoran as a racist and a drunk who tended to pull his gun during arrests. His estranged wife gave testimony during the trial that her husband would carry marijuana and other drugs on him that he would plant on suspects to ensure their conviction.[5] After the trial the seven — Gary Lescallett, Rodolfo Antonio (Tony) Martinez, Mario Martinez, Jose Rios, Nelson Rodriguez, and Danilo Melendez — were acquitted.

The "Los Siete" Defense Committee was housed near 24th and South Van Ness. The Defense Committee raised support for the seven Mission District youths accused of shooting officer Brodnik and found assistance from the Black Panther Party. The La Raza Information Center began operating in the summer of 1970 in the vacant storefront next to "Los Siete." The latter was running many programs, including Centro de Salud, a free breakfast program, a community newspaper, and the main program, the "Los Siete" Defense Committee.[citation needed]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Heins, Marjorie (March 1971). "Los Siete de la Raza" (PDF). Ramparts.
  2. ^ "6 Cleared in Death of Coast Policeman". The New York Times. November 8, 1970.
  3. ^ "Los Siete Trial Faces Still Another Delay". The Palm Beach Post. June 18, 1970.
  4. ^ Caldwell, Earl (October 11, 1970). "Coast Radicals Rally Behind 6 Latin Youths on Trial in Slaying of Policeman". The New York Times.
  5. ^ "2 Los Siete Youths Face Drug Charges". The Modesto Bee. December 8, 1970.

References[edit]

  • Heins, Marjorie. Strictly Ghetto Property: The Story of Los Siete de la Raza (Berkeley: Ramparts, 1972). ISBN 978-0-87867-010-9
  • Ferreira, Jason. Venceremos!: Los Siete de La Raza and Third World Radicalism in San Francisco, 1969-1975. Department of Ethnic Studies, University of California, Berkeley

External links[edit]

  • [1] Los Siete de La Raza film