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A Second Reportback from Two Members of POG in Oaxaca
by Two Poggers in Oaxaca Thursday, Nov. 02, 2006 at 12:04 AM
November 1, 2006 - A Second Reportback from Two Members of Pittsburgh Organizing Group (POG) in Oaxaca
This part of Santa Lucia is enemy territory. It is near Barricade Three, the Príista attack, and the site of Brad Will's murder. It's also where the CIPO house is located. When the Príistas set up their barricades, some were directly in front of the CIPO house, one using materials that had been propped up against the outside wall. As such, we were unable to return to CIPO following the PRI attack, so we stayed with another compañero's family for the night. It's hard to describe our exact feelings and spirits on Saturday. Partly numb, partly angry, partly sad, partly furious, partly anxious, partly outraged, and partly uncertain about what the day would have in store. As we were inside finishing our account of Friday's attack, gunshots and cohetes could be heard outside. Through the Internet (which we were very lucky to have access to), we heard that President Vincente Fox announced that he was authorizing the Federal Preventive Police (Policía Fedérale Preventiva, PFP, or Fedérales) to "stop the violence", failing to mention that the state had initiated it, as it always does. We weighed our options, trying to decide what would be most appropriate for us to do. Should we go back to Barricade Three? There can never be too many people guarding it, but would we be more in the way than of use? Should we return to CIPO? With the Príistas possibly having information on and pictures of both of us, would we only be increasing the dangers that they face every day? Deciding that one way or another, we had to make a move, we decided to visit CIPO and leave if they needed us to. When we let the family who's home we'd spent the night in know that we were going back to CIPO, they seemed surprised and told us not to go. They described the situation in the city as "feo" (ugly). When we told that we were going and that our minds were made up, the goodbye was very awkward and solemn.
On the way to CIPO, we stopped at Barricade Three. Gone was the festive, often relaxed mood of two days before. What was't lacking, and in fact had grown, was the immense determination and passion to defend what they'd gained in the months of struggle, where everyday was a victory, and they refused to let that go. Barricade Three was repaired, reinforced, and about fifty people were on alert. Leaving the barricade for CIPO house, we took a longer route than usual to go around the most contentious streets, and felt as though we had to be as quiet as possible. It felt like we'd walked into a battlefield and any sound or any mistake, would bring the armed Príistas out of their homes and onto the streets. Even the dogs, usually just an annoyance, barking at any sound, seemed vicious and on the side of the PRI.
When we finally arrived at the CIPO house, we found our comrades safe and many hugs were exchanged. After talking about it, we all decided that it made the most sense for the two of us to go elsewhere for a day or two. A week and a half prior, a compañera from CIPO had been assaulted by Príistas and now CIPO wanted her to be accompanied by at least one international for a little while. There was currently an internationals with her, but that person was going to be leaving Oaxaca soon. Additionally, given that the Príistas were now in possession of some of our information, it made the most sense that we not be in the neighborhood and stay with the compañera.
We took a pickup (basically a taxi truck that puts as many people in as will fit) as far as we could until we reached a large barricade with over a dozen trucks blocking access to a large highway where we had to walk the rest of the way. It turned out that family members of the compañera we were looking for were at the barricade and walked with us to her house. When we arrived, we spent some time talking with her and her family about the previous day, the movement in general, and why we are here. After a lot of talking, we finally went to bed.
The compañera woke us up at 8am Sunday morning tell us that Radio Universidad was saying that the PFP had entered the city and were in the Zócalo. A little later, we went with her to one of the nearby barricades where people were sabotaging trucks so that the only way the PFP could move them was by towing them. Helicopters began circling the area overhead, and people picked up mirrors to create a glare. Looking out at the nearest mountain, others could be seen doing the same.
A march had been planned for that day at 2pm, but the compañera decided not to go to the march, having just had toe surgery. We all sat at the house listening to Radio Universidad as the events unfolded. We heard callers crying and screaming into the phone as they were being tear gassed by the PFP. With another international at the house, everyone agreed that it was no problem for the two of us to go. Two family members feeling equally restless decided to leave as well, so we all walked together to Radio Universidad, where the march had gone after being pushed away from the Zócalo. It was a two hour walk (barricades were up and there was no other way to get there), and we all walked quickly anxious to get to our destination. Halfway there, we reached a barricade that was being hurriedly reinforced amidst anxious talk of Príistas nearby. Some of us ran around the corner to find a man on the ground, shot or stabbed in the chest, paramedics performing CPR. After the ambulance drove away, the crowd that had gathered reluctantly dispersed. Later reports seemed to indicate that this man died, though we hope that is not the case.
A couple of blocks further, at another barricade, riot cops were lined up, shooting canister after canister of tear gas into the huge crowd of people that had filled the street to push them back. The battle against the cops was fought with everything at the people's disposal: rock, Molotov cocktails, slingshots, and cohetes (large bottle rocket fireworks). As quickly as the tear gas was launched, people ran to throw them away from the crowd of people, and just as quickly, compañeros were ready to guide the individual out of the gas and wash out their eyes and mouth. At one point, a cohete exploded right by a cop and the crowd cheered in excitement. As day gave way to night, the PFP was forced to retreat. On the last push, almost everyone moved forward, the roughly 300 foot street nearly emptying into the intersection the cops abandoned.
We decided to press on and try to get to Barricade Three or CIPO. On our way, we passed through the Zócalo. The encampments empty and quiet. The only people seemed to be the PFP and a handful of reporters there for a photo-op. The tents and banners were still mostly in place, not taken down yet to serve as blankets for the invaders. We continued on. As we were walking along Santa Lucía's main road, we suddenly realized the road ahead of us was dark. The only light was the occasional building with a generator and the crescent moon. Before going to CIPO, we visited Barricade Three to find out what we could before approaching the most dangerous part of the neighborhood. There, we learned that no one had heard from anyone at CIPO for hours and that a compañero from CIPO missing.
We left the barricade and headed the long way once more to CIPO. As we entered PRI territory, the moon seemed to disappear as though it refused to glow on the PRI. At the house, we knocked lightly and tried to whisper to anyone inside. Soon the neighborhood dog began barking furiously. There was no answer at the door. Thinking that CIPO folks must be fearful enough, we slipped a note under their door and waited another minute before leaving. We went back to Barricade Three for the night.
Barricade Three was more alert than we had ever seen it. We recognized no one. After sitting down, a compañero introduced himself. As we explained our day and that CIPO wasn't answering the door, his generosity poured out. When everyone left the barricade, be brought us back to his house, fed us, and gave us a bed to sleep on. In the morning, he walked us back to CIPO.
When we arrived, we were told that there was a march at 11am starting nearby. Since CIPO preferred for one international to stay at the house, one of us stayed in case anything were to happen. Before the other headed off to the march, some preparations were made for the tear gas that we were sure would also be coming, today. Wet bandannas, wet rags, antacid solutions, vinegar, and anything else we could think of was prepared, knowing that it would be more than those going who would need it.
At the march, thousands of people blocked off a main road on their way toward the Zócalo and as they got closer fill the streets. The Zócalo and the 3,500 PFP in riot gear inside were soon surrounded by the crowd of marchers. The PFP were surprisingly calm, however. They responded to hardly anything. Water trucks and riot shields were spray painted, fires were built, the PFP was jeered, and a lying reporter from corporate Mexican news was chased off, but the PFP wouldn't budge, at times even looking relaxed. At one point hours later, they even had cohetes shot and rocks thrown at them by youths, who apparently didn't realize that by that time the crowd had dwindled and its numbers were matched if not exceeded by the PFP or that few remaining in the crowd supported them and were willing to back them up against such odds.
Back at CIPO that night, everyone at the house figured out shifts to stay awake and watch the street below. Several key people in the organization remain underground. For CIPO, the danger is still ever present.
Walking through Santa Lucia, a banner now hangs that reads "Santa Lucia Odia a APPO" (Santa Lucia hates APPO). Closer to the Zocalo, graffiti is being covered up by teams of painters roaming the streets in the center of the city. A quick effort by a few people to set a bulldozer ablaze that the cops were using to plow barricades was soon put out by a large group of riot cops who then held the intersection, while about ten cops pushed a burnt car off to the side so they could drive the bulldozer back to the Zócalo. This incident was reported by Associated Press "reporter" Mark Stevenson, who apparently lives in an alternate dimension. The local news shows barricades being moved and streets being cleared of debris. But there are signs of resistance, too. We passed a school, which had barricades surrounding it, and people filling the schoolyard. Other barricades are still up, including Barricade Three, recently renamed Barricade Brad Will.
Cops are very calm, likely in part because of the huge outpouring of solidarity in the form of amazing actions around the world. However, this might also be because of President Fox's declaration of victory ("the return to peace") in Oaxaca. Indeed, it seems they think they've won. It's hard to say what the coming days will bring, as they've gone from festive to bloody to eerily normal in a matter of days. One thing is certain, one way or another, the struggle will continue.
protesters beat off police
by hotsauce Friday, Nov. 03, 2006 at 5:46 PM
apparently, these guys beat off a police attempt to take over their university. and they're getting support across mexico. great jobs guys, stay safe.