By H. Nelson Goodson
February 8, 2014
Milwaukee, WI - The Wisconsin Hispanic Scholarship Foundation (WHSF) who sponsors the late August three-day Mexican Fiesta is facing a boycott for 2014. The boycott campaign by members of the community and local Facebook users was sparked after it was learned that the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD), the local Latino Peace Officers Association (LPOA) and Fiesta officials engaged in discrimination by targeting certain Hispanics at the festival for the purpose to expel them or prevent them from attending the three-day event for having undesirable tattoos, believed to be in a gang, associated with a gang, or considered future gang members. The discriminatory practice mentioned had been used for more than two years, but it was finally exposed during the last festival.
Multiple people attending Fiesta were stopped and expelled without due process or any proof that they were at the event to cause problems or break the law. They were simply kicked-out because they were considered gang members or their tattoos were not in good taste for Fiesta standards and its family environment.
Those expelled from Fiesta were not even given a refund nor a refund was offered. In other words, Mexican Fiesta ripped-off the victims.
Hispanic News Network U.S.A. (HNNUSA) discovered that the current LPOA president, Milwaukee Police Officer Alexander Ayala was using the MPD Intelligence Center to identify or label individuals as potential gang members without confimed proof of any affiliation. Police officers along with the volunteer security force from LPOA escorted victims out of the Fiesta. Other official ID carrying Fiesta volunteers reported that they were even stopped by security and police inside the grounds, who checked their tattoos to decide whether they should remain or be expelled from Fiesta.
In September after HNNUSA broke the story of the blatant discrimination policies used by Fiesta security, former LPOA president Ruben Burgos, a retired Lieutenant of Detectives barred HNNUSA from attending a press conference confirming their practice to kick-out suspected gang members. HNNUSA received a copy of their statement, but it failed to mention, if people with tattoos would be welcome at Fiesta in 2014.
A lot of Latinos and non-Latinos have body art on their arms and other places accessible for public view. But, it doesn't mean that they are associated with a criminal group or gang.
HNNUSA also exposed that for years WHSF, Mexican Fiesta along with LULAC Councils of Wisconsin 319 and 322, including the LULAC National organization deny DREAMers or DACA students from applying for scholarships, even though the three-day festival attracts more than 80,000 festivalgoers, which a large percentage are undocumented immigrants. Mexican Fiesta and WHSF depend on the attendance and sponsorships by local businesses to generate funds for scholarships and yet the son's and daughter's of those undocumented immigrants attending Fiesta and business owners are being denied scholarships (becas).
The origins of the festival began in the early 1970's to generate funds for local Hispanics to apply for scholarships to attend a college or state university after the discrimination barrier for higher education that prevented Hispanics from registering and getting admitted fell.
Today, a large percentage of the Hispanic population in Wisconsin is highly educated due to the efforts of the 1970 educational community activists that struggled and managed to succeed by reforming policies and state legislation to pave the road to higher education for generations of Latinos to come.
The WHSP, Mexican Fiesta, LULAC, LPOA and the Milwaukee Police Department must stop discriminating Hispanics during the three-day festival at the Henry Mier Festival Park also known a Summerfest, especially when Fiesta rents the grounds from World Festival, Inc. who in turn rents the grounds from the City of Milwaukee.
In June 1992, Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge William D. Gardner ruled that the Summerfest grounds are a "public forum" where there is a First Amendment right to freedom of expression, even when the grounds are occupied by an ethnic festival.
Gardner said, "City government created the grounds to be a place where the public could gather and experience the ethnic and cultural diversity of the community." The Mexican Fiesta attorney had argued that the organization was private and by leasing the grounds, it had discretion to decide what would be allowed on the grounds. Judge Gardner disagreed.
The Summerfest grounds are public in nature and are owned by the City of Milwaukee, indicating Mexican Fiesta shouldn't engage in alleged discrimination. Clean up your act Mexican Fiesta, WHSF, LULAC by opening up your scholarships to include DREAMers. LPOA and MPD for 2014 should also stop engaging what some have come to call, "the profiling of Hispanics" on how they are dressed or body art.
One thing for sure, the mentioned groups and MPD have tainted their reputations for engaging in alleged discrimination against certain people they depend for economic survival.
Added note: DREAMers or DACA students have faced discrimination by most major Hispanic national organizations and funding business corporation sources for decades, until a few years ago when a few have broken rank and began allowing for DREAMers to apply for scholarships.
DREAMers Denied Access To Scholarships By Major U.S. Hispanic Non-profit Organizations Endorsing Immigration Reform http://alturl.com/snpa9