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7th Day in Oaxaca - A Report

by Xochitl Tuesday, Dec. 05, 2006 at 3:30 PM

At 9 am i arrived at Radio Universidad, ready to give another 1st aid class. Everyone was very enthusiastic about the class last night, and 9 am was the only time we could meet because of the women's march at noon.

No one was there. I was sad, but not surprised. People here are up very late, and work so hard, that I couldn't begrudge them a little sleep, But I admit, I was a little frustrated that absolutely no one showed up.

I swept up outside the 1st aid station, then wandered over to the kitchen area. There was a group of people sitting there, and when I arrived they said, "Let's do the class!". I had been in the wrong place. That'll teach me to assume things.

"I want to learn about how to pull out bullets." one companero said. "And give injections," another said.

There is a bit of a romantic/dramatic component to the movement here that I don't really know what to think of. It is there, I think it probably sometimes gets in the way of some good decisions..... don't know. Just something I have observed.

Well,, rather than bullets and injection. Instead, we started with the basics, and they were very willing to wait until I had covered a whole bunch of stuff until we got to these questions. Though we will talk about them, mostly what not to do, and when to get help.

And that is, in fact, exactly what we started with.... do no harm, know you limits, wear gloves...and then we covered initial assessment and more.They were excited, energetic, curious, engaged. Thank god, since I did forget some things and like most good people in a workshop, they asked questions and made comments that magically filled in the gaps. Once again, adult learning theory proves itself.

We were just finishing with cuts when B and T came up, "Let's go! We're leaving for the march." They climbed into the ambulance, an actual ambulance that they procured from the medical school, which is affiliated with the university. I followed in another car. When we got there, I checked out the supplies. And let me tell you, they have got their shit together.

They have supplies for all kinds of injuries, and though I haven't had to see them in action, I'd bet they know how to use them, in a second, while tear gas is billowing around them.

Today's action was expected to be low key and non-provocative, though you never know.... Women had gathered at Santo Domingo for a march and demonstration denouncing the PFP for many sexual assaults of Oaxaqueno women. During a 1 1/2 hour meeting the day before, a group of about 30 women had planned everything -- from flyers to spray painting messages on the street, to street theater to raising money for supplies. As women arrived first aid workers handed out vinegar soaked cloths and masks to cover the mouth to anyone who wanted them, just in case the police used tear gas or pepper spray.

I saw women ranging age from about 15 to 85, in all kinds of dress. Many carried pots, pans and other noise makers. Others had signs saying "No a la violacion" (no to the rape) and "Fuera URO" (URO leave, the state's governor) and "Fuera PFP" (Leave PFP, the federal preventive police). As they marched towards the zocalo, women ran ahead and painted arrows in the street. With changing, singing and great noise, we arrived at the first group of PFP officers blocking the entrance to the zocalo (where the PFP are stationed, and the only place they seem to be in the city, except for regular night forays to nab APPO leaders and others, taking them from their houses.) The street painters wrote "Violadores" and other words on the street, with more arrows towards the line of police on either side of the enormous trash dumpster that also blocked the entrance. Women went around the sides of the dumpster and held up mirrors to the police, which were inscribed with "Traidores" (traitors) and "Violadores" (literally, violators, meaning rapists) and other words. The police would have to look into the mirrors, see themselves, decorated with these descriptions.

One person started spray painting words on the PFP shields, then stepped back, possibly because he was hit over the head with a police baton (this is unconfirmed). About a minute later, according to a friend/witness, the police moved forward and one man held up a hose from behind the first line officers. The hose looked like one you might use to fumigate, and it emerged from a bright orange canister and ended up above the police's heads. He started to spray pepper spray at the group of mostly journalists in front of them. My dear friend C, who didn't step back quickly enough, was sprayed directly in the face. Why? Who knows? Because he and others were taking pictures and filming video? Because they were just there? Because the police wanted to move, and didn't feel like telling anyone before letting loose with the pepper spray? It is hard not to be outraged, but people have been here are relatively resigned to these, and other police actions. Though when people are killed, they are not resigned at all.

C was okay (though quite stubborn) about getting treated for pepper spray. He kept on filming video throughout, even with his eyes stinging and clenched shut from the pepper spray.

At the next zocalo entrance the women stopped and presented a play to the PFPs. The play started as a family scene -- a PFP father was saying goodbye to his wife and daughter who were going to the zocalo to do some shopping. As the women entered the zocalo, they were sexually assaulted by federal police,

One journalist commented that, when he came up close to the federal police, he saw some trying not to cry.

After the play, much more chanting and noise making, we walked back to Santo Domingo, where C finally accepted full treatment for his pepper spray injuries. The red/orange stains on his cloths and skin smelled like paprika, and he said it tasted like tabasco. Maybe that's what it is! (street medics in the states are currently working to find out what is in the water sprayed at protestors here, to figure out how best to treat it. Anyone who has more information about this liquid, please contact me.)

I then headed back to Radio Universidad, where I made up an herbal remedy for a young man with a prolonged cough after being tear gassed 2 weeks ago. I had an amazing meal at the Radio kitchen, where I talked with a young man who was grabbed and beaten up by the PFP 6 weeks ago. He is okay now. In fact, he seems completely fine, if not too nonchalant about it all.

Tomorrow is a gigantic march, to mark November 20, the anniversary of the Mexican Revolution, and a national strike called by the Zapatistas. It may be bad, since the protesters plan to take over the Governor's Palace. We shall see...

So please keep the people of Oaxaca, and those in struggles for justice and dignity throughout the world, in your hearts tomorrow, or whenever you read this.



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