Defending Olmos

Protesting protesters at film festival for promotion

By John Estrada
Published on LatinoLA: May 19, 2002

Defending Olmos

Two years ago, my brother Kieron and I had our short movie accepted to the LA Latino Film Festival. Needless to say, it was a great experience, one made possible by the efforts of the festival staff and directors. It was at that time however, that I first witnessed the Chicano demonstrators and their signs, united in protest against festival founder and organizer Edward James Olmos.

Last year, my brother and I decided to return to the festival, but not as moviemakers. Rather, we made up our own signs which shamelessly promoted our newest project, 'SPACE BANDA', and which supported the festival and Mr. Olmos. Our signs read "IRISH MEXICANS SUPPORT MR. OLMOS", "ESTRADA BROTHERS SUPPORT THE FESTIVAL", and "WANT MORE CHIPS N' SALSA???"

Opening night, about 5:30 pm, I arrived to find the twenty or so Chicano protesters out in front of the Egyptian Theater, chanting and holding huge signs. Fifteen minutes later, my brother arrived with our own bright green signs. Our plan of attack was simple. Promote our movie and support the festival.

Our Irish Mexican gang of three was ready. It included myself, my brother, and Jojo Henrickson, writer/director of "Barrio Murders". We gathered our signs and jumped right into the circle of Chicano protesters. At that very moment, I boldly say we caught the protesters completely off guard. There was several seconds of silence, as the Chicano protesters sized us up and wondered where the hell did we just come from. The three of us continued to march in the circle, proclaiming who we were and why we were there.

From that point forward, I, my brother, and Jojo were subjected to foul language, accused of being racists, accused of being stoolies for the festival, and my personal favorite, accused of not being Mexican. For what seemed like a long hour and a half, the three of us verbally battled these energetic and unfortunately tunnel-minded young Chicanos and Chicanas, who refused to acknowledge our constitutional right to protest, and who satisfied their own insecurities by ridiculing us with abusive language. Within an hour, our gang grew to four, as we were joined by Alex Marshall, who brought some added muscle to our group. We were four deep in a sea of Chicano protesters.

Now, I admit I was just as brutal in my responses, and nearly got into a fight with one protester. But my reaction was due to the ignorance of the protester's message and their mannerisms. I even witnessed the protesters verbally attacking festival goers who engaged them in conversation.

After two hours, the Chicano protesters packed up their sodas, their pillows, their coolers, and gigantic signs and left. Without a doubt, the protesters were sabotaged by our presence. We had cut short their plans. For the four of us, it was a relief. My voice was just about gone, and it had certainly been a long time since I had used such colorful language with rapidity and volume.

Nonetheless, the festival staff acknowledged our presence, inviting us to join in the opening night festivities. Interestingly enough, they also invited us back the next weekend to battle the protesters again, for us being Irish Mexicans matched the festival's honoring of Anthony Quinn, himself a member of the brother/sisterhood of Irish Mexicans. But that is part two of this story...

It was later on that opening night, when most of the crowd had dispersed, that Mr. Olmos was reacquainted with the Estrada Brothers and their accomplices, Jojo and Alex. He warmly greeted us and thanked us, and told us about an experience he had earlier that evening.

He was inside the festival, speaking with various staff members and guests while the Chicano protesters were in full protest swing. Suddenly, one of the festival assistants ran up to him, shouting, "Mr. Olmos! Mr. Olmos! The Irish are backing you up! The Irish are here and their supporting you and the festival!"

The Estrada Brothers will see you at the LA Latino Film Festival this year, taking place July 18 through 28, Egyptian Theatre, Hollywood. http://www.latinofilm.org

About John Estrada:
John F. Estrada is with Vivendi Universal.

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