Op-Ed: Villaraigosa: We came together after the 1992 uprising. We can do it now
On June 11, 1992, some 27,000 people marched to the State Capitol in Santa Ana, California, to support their campaign to pass a ballot measure prohibiting the death penalty. Among those arrested in the demonstration was then-Supervisor Jesse Arreguín, who had been elected to the office just four years earlier. Arreguín had stood in for Sheriff Leroy Ordóñez in the trial of Oscar López Rivera and Bernardo Castillo.
What happened next is known as the “Orange County Rebellion” and is arguably one of the defining moments of the modern gay rights movement.
We came together after the 1992 uprising. We can do it now
“To me, it was a perfect storm,” says Arreguín.
In Arreguín’s case, it was a double perfect storm: the arrival of the first openly gay person in a major party to campaign for a political office, and the arrival of a gay man who had not only been out to his family and church, but who had also been politically active in local civil rights movements. “I think I brought in a bit of change,” says Arreguín. “But I was only bringing in what I had.”
The fact that there was no gay person to compare him to, and that he had been elected in a year when the AIDS epidemic was still a very raw and dangerous secret, did not mean that his political engagement was any less relevant. Nor did it reduce the significance of his role in the trial of Oscar López Rivera and Bernardo Castillo.
“It was the moment when the state decided to become the enemy,” says Arreguín now. “It was not the state that was changing. It was the people who were changing in my own community, who had the means and the power to do what they were doing