LOS ANGELES, 6 November 2006--Two hundred and fifty people marched Saturday through the streets
of Los Angeles in unity with the people of Oaxaca, Mexico.
Here in El Norte I tried to make sense of what was happening a
thousand miles away as I walked the winding route through Pico-Union and
Westlake from St. Thomas Church on Pico to the Mexican consulate on 8th and Park
View. I imagined the American Federation of Teachers going on strike in
California. What would happen if Arnold Schwarzenegger sent the national
guard into Los Angeles to force the teachers back to work, and fifteen, maybe
eighteen people were killed? And what if there emerged a movement, let's
call it the Los Angeles Popular Assembly, that raised barricades around the city
to keep the crazy governor's troops at bay? Now, imagine that George Bush
sent the military into Los Angeles to put down the movement, attacking the radio
station that had become the voice of the movement, and the federal troops were
held off with flaming school busses, slingshots, and Molotov cocktails.
Three more people die from their government's gunfire, dozens are imprisoned,
and dozens more disappear.
Sunday, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in Oaxaca in
response to the Fox government's 4000-troop incursion into the city of half a
At Saturday's Los Angeles march, word was that the march was unpermitted--a
"sidewalk only" march, but that the police showed up and offered an
"escort" through the streets. With a PA system blaring
liberation music, the march was on. Behind the lead banner announcing APPO-LA
(the Los Angeles group of Asamblea
popular de Oaxaca) were the Aztec dancers, in traditional embroidered
dresses. With cries of ¡Oaxaca unido jamás será vencida!, the
demonstration headed down Ardmore. Three drummers brought up the rear,
beating out the rhythm of "Somos un pueblo sin fronteras!"
Residents stood in doorways cheering on the demonstration, and marchers stopped
to explain the the plight of the Oaxacans to pedestrians as we skirted the edge
of Koreatown. "The government is killing our brothers and sisters in
Oaxaco!" they shouted.
The marchers slowed on 8th Street outside of Guelaquetza Restaurante,
shouting and shaking their fists at the Oaxacan dining establishment that
supports the Mexican government.
The rally in the plaza across from the apparently-empty Mexican consulate
began with a long, heartfelt singing of the Chilean socialist hymn "Venceremos."
The speakers demanded a return to negotiations, broken off by Fox with the
invasion of the city last Sunday, and the withdraw of the troops from the
city. One of the protestors compared the takeover of Oaxaca to the
invasions in Chiapas, El Salvador, and Guatemala. I asked what needed to
happen, and he responded, "The governor of Mexico needs to listen to the
people of Oaxaca! People are getting killed and
disappeared." Would the people win? "I'm very optimistic
about the movement," he replied. "The people aren't going to
back off. The police are throwing [the protestors'] rocks back at
Another marcher outlined the demands of Oaxaca movement:
"The government must go," he said with ferocity. "All the
oppressive forces need to get out of Oaxaca. All the presos politicos
must be released. Jail those that killed. The federal police must
leave the city, also the army and the marines." He took a breath.
"The government must dialogue in a serious manner." Again, would
the people win? "Yes, the people are going to win. The proof is
La Otra Campaña, blocking the roads. They've called for a regional strike
on November 20th, in seven states." What can U.S. citizens do?
"Push the U.S. government to stop supporting, training, advising the
Mexican government. They [the Mexican military] went in the day after Brad
Will was killed. Until then, they were still in discussions. It was
U.S. pressure." He paused, then added hopefully, "There will be
mobilizations every day in front of the consulate."
He added, "They shut down the bridge." He was referring to
action occurring as we rallied between Ciudad Juárez and El Paso, where members of La Otra
Campaña and the Other Campaign on the Other Side were shutting down the Lerdo de Tejada
International Bridge, denouncing walls the divide the Mexican people at the
border and celebrating the barricades the people of Oaxaca have raised against
the Mexican military. Around the bridge, ICE agents materialized and their
circled ominously overhead.
Before I left, I spoke to one more person, a Oaxacan resident. "I
talked to my father," she reported. "There have been marches
with a million people!" Would the people win. She
hesitated. Finally, she shook her head, "No, the government can not
let the people win. They can not let the people make decisions for the
Saturday's march was supported by FIOB-ORO, Union del Barrio, La otra en el
otro lado, Mexicanos Unidos en Defensa del Pueblo, Comité pro Democracia en México,
Padres unidos de Maywood, Nueva Antequera, Comunidad Católica de Oaxaca,
Comunidades Zapotecos, Mixtecos, Chatinos, Yalaag, SP Cajonos y SF Cajonos,
Macuiltianguis, A.N.S.W.E.R., and Danza Cuauhtemoc.