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(en) US, Modesto Anarcho #1 - Cracks in the Border of Capital: May 1st and Beyond in Modesto

Date Mon, 23 Oct 2006 07:56:20 +0200


Starting around March and April, students in Modesto city schools,
as well as Paterson, Ceres, and other local areas began walking out
of their respected factories of social capital. They were protesting the
newly proposed HR 4437 bill, which was being debated in the halls
of American political power. What the bill proposes:
* Increased security forces and surveillance along the border.
* Give power to immigration officials within 100 miles of the border to expel
without a hearing anyone believed to be a recently arrived illegal immigrant.
* Expand mandatory detention to apply to all non-citizens arriving at
a port of entry or "along" the border.
* Limit the basic rights of immigrants to judicial review, even by the
constitutionally guaranteed writ of habeas corpus.
* Criminalize all violations of immigration law, even if the violation
was unintentional or the result of processing delays
* Give additional powers to detain non-citizens indefinitely without
judicial review, potentially placing many non-citizens in a legal black
hole that subjects them to a life sentence after having served a
criminal sentence, or, in some cases, without ever having been
convicted of a crime.
In Section 203 of the bill, it calls for the creation of a new federal
crime of “illegal presence”. As defined in the bill it includes
any violation, even technical, of any immigration law or regulation.
Even if the immigrant was to fall “out of status”
unintentionally, or do to paperwork delays. In essence, the bill
makes every immigration violation, however minor, into a federal
crime. As drafted, the bill also makes the new crime of “illegal
presence” an “aggravated felony” for immigration
purposes. This classification would have the further effect of
restricting ordinary undocumented immigrants, (including those
with pending applications), from many forms of administrative or
judicial review. Those convicted of an, "aggravated felony", would be
subject to indefinite detention and/or expedited removal. The bill
also makes it a felony to HELP, anyone who is known to be
“illegal”. This could include anything from teachers helping
students, to doctors helping patients in hospitals. In essence, it
criminalizes mutual aid.
In late March, the first major protests in the local area began
happening against HR 4437. Self-organized protests by students
began occurring in Ceres, and then in Modesto and elsewhere, (in
the context of the local area). In Ceres, students circulated flyers and
myspace messages, and one morning staged a wildcat walkout.
School officials attempted to lock down the school, and locals pigs
were called to the scene to keep the students from getting out of the
schools, and going to join other students and community members.
According to D.A.A.A. Collective members that participated in the
Ceres High School walkouts, or viewed the events in Ceres, groups
of roving protestors marched around the city unopposed, chanting,
holding signs, and reclaiming the streets for hours.
It appears that anarchist affinity groups also made a statement that
night. Banners were dropped from the freeway, were placed up in the
farm worker labor camp, and also on the front of the school. Reading
in Spanish and in English, the banners had slogans and messages
such as, “The Border, the Pigs, Capitalism, the State - Fuck
them All”, and “From Chiapas to Ceres - Smash the
Border”.
On April 1st, students in the local area grew even more bold, and
started to co-ordinate their activities between each other, and also
across age boundaries, (high schoolers working with middle
schoolers, etc). These walkouts started in the morning, and groups
of kids hopped fences and ran out of school, to join roving bands of
other kids, who then in turn marched to other schools. The kids
marched close to 10 miles, all the way to the other side of town, and
eventually ended up going to rest, and hold a rally at a community
center when police began to become a large presence behind their
march. D.A.A.A. Collective members missed the march, but got to
the rally at the community center in time to talk with students.
With all of this activity going on, we of course had high hopes for
May Day in Modesto. While in the beginning we were hoping for
simply a nice turnout of a few hundred, the reality was 10,000 people
or more coming out, (according to the Modesto Police). Protests
were called by various organizations, but largely the grunt work was
done by the radical group, Aztlan Rising, (who has since worked
with the D.A.A.A. Collective on various projects), and the group
developed a radical critique of US capitalism and imperialism, that
went beyond the general flag waving that most of the left were
promoting. The protest plan that was created and put forth by Aztlan
Rising, was largely based out of working with students who already
had experience with walkouts in the months before. The plan was
simple. Kids walkout of school, which would hit the schools in the
pocket, (schools get paid to have kids come), and then people would
rally on Crows Landing road, (which was largely a working class
Chicano area of town). The schools and the police reacted by putting
out statements asking parents to not have their children walk out of
school on May 1st, and instead asked them to go to an event
happening at the community college. It was clear that the social
order was willing and quite fine with people demonstrating, but if
they disrupted “business as usual”, then they were in
trouble.
Interestingly enough, the newspapers picked up on this story, and
reported that the rallies called on Crows Landing would include
marches, (which were not planned on by the organizers). When
10,000 people showed up to march in Modesto however, even the
massive amount of police there were not enough to stop people from
taking to the streets. Close to 10 members of the D.A.A.A. Collective
were in the march, and made up a contingent. Lots of
anarchist/radical literature in English and in Spanish was distributed,
as well as bilingual posters for people to hold, (we ran out of those
fast)! Marching behind a banner reading, “Working Class
Solidarity - No Human is Illegal”, (in English and in Spanish),
we chanted with the crowd and also drummed on bucket drums.
Police did little to contain the march, although there was obviously a
large police presence in the area. When our contingent marched
passed the police outpost area, (pig SUV’s, horses, cars, etc),
we chanted, “Tell me what a police state looks like - this is what
a police state looks like!”, the pigs of course were not happy.
Realizing that those at the front of the march wanted to stop the now
unpermitted march back at the original rally point, we made our way
up to the front. After taking with people, and also encouraging the
group in front to continue, the large mass then decided to head
towards city hall. The long march into downtown began, although
police made numerous attempts to stop marchers and create
barricades, the large mass continued on. Eventually the march went
into the downtown area, and a rally happened outside of city hall.
Police guarded the entrance to city hall, but made no attempt to
break up the demonstration. Speeches by people were made, and
eventually the march then headed back to Crows Landing road.
Mutual aid was practiced frequently throughout the march, with
people stopping and handing out large amounts of water to those in
the crowd. Generally a very festive feeling was all around, that the
large mass of people were holding the streets, taking care of each
other - and there wasn’t a thing that anyone in power could do
about it.
While the walkouts showed the power of working class
self-organization, the protests also made an impression on
xenophobic anti-immigration activists. In June 2006, a new chapter
of “Save Our State”, (SOS), formed in Modesto, and
declared that it would be holding a protest in Modesto against illegal
immigration. Quickly D.A.A.A. Collective and Aztlan Rising started
working together to organize a counter protest. After initial
meetings, and long nights flyer designing work, several outreach
texts were made in Spanish and in English and we got to work
getting them out to the community.
Soon Save Our State got wind of this new development, and we also
got wind that white nationalist members of the online Stormfront
community would be attending the rally in support of Save Our
State. Save Our State members/supporters also made a barrage of
racist and stupid comments on their online forums, some of them
equating all Chicanos and Mexicanos with being gang members,
and also stating that all parents who had allowed their children to
skip out of school on May 1st were genetically stupid, among other
things.
The arguments from Save Our State were the standard fare.
“They are taking our jobs”, “they are a burden on the tax
payer”, and that “their culture is polluting ours”, etc.
Immigrants have always been a huge part of the American economy,
because the American economy has always been based largely on
the exploitation of cheap immigrant labor; whether it has been Irish,
Chinese, African American, or Mexican immigrants. Immigrants
contribute millions of dollars into the tax system, and often can’t
get back the benefits they pay into. Despite the millions that they pay
into, according to a study by Chapman University:

“…undocumented immigrants are barred from almost all
government benefits, including food stamps, Temporary Assistance
for Needy Families, Medicaid, federal housing programs,
Supplemental Security Income, Unemployment Insurance, Social
Security, Medicare, and the earned income tax credit (EITC).
Generally, the only benefits federally required for undocumented
immigrants are emergency medical care…”

Save Our State supporters are also largely blind to the fact that illegal
immigration has dramatically increased since the passing of
NAFTA. This largely has been caused by NAFTA prohibiting
agriculture subsidies towards the Mexican agricultural market.
While US farmers continue to get large subsidies, many Mexican
businesses go under, and workers are forced to illegally go across the
border to search for agricultural work. Capital and jobs flow from one
labor market to another, putting out of work thousands, while
workers are stuck in those labor markets, trapped behind borders.
The logic towards illegally crossing then becomes clear. Some
SOSers do admit that corporations, and ‘free trade’, are
somewhat to blame, yet they see the main problem created by it as
illegal immigration. Instead of concentrating their energy at opposing
the system that forces people to come here to support their families,
(something that Save Our State leader Joe Turner in an interview
said he would do in their place), Save Our State focuses on opposing
those most impacted by the realities of capitalist globalization. What
is interesting is that they constantly talk of the state as putting a
“band aid” on the problem of illegal immigration, yet fail to
address the reasons which are causing forced immigration in the first
place. Their solution of a hugely militarized border, (which would
largely only result in more deaths of border crossers), holds the same
logic that harsher drug laws will somehow ‘win’ the
‘war on drugs’. More force and institutional violence
won’t end social and economic realities, they will only make
them worse.
Yet it is the xenophobia, and nativism which seems to be the major
reason for many SOSers for getting involved with anti-immigration
activism. The belief that outside cultures are destroying and
polluting “ours”, (which begs the question that if it’s
‘our’ culture, how can people tell us what it has to be)? This
is the reason that groups like Save Our State are such a breeding
ground for white nationalist groups, and it came as no surprise to us
that one person identified themselves to us in person as a neo-Nazi,
and another as a poster on Stormfront.
The protest against Save Our State went well, with both sides having
around 30 or so people. D.A.A.A. Collective made a large banner
reading, “Solidarity Knows No Borders -
www.modanarcho.tk”, and made lots of signs and posters. We
also made large amounts of flyers detailing the connections between
neo-Nazi groups and Save Our State. At first, both groups stayed on
opposite sides of the street during the protest, but after about 30
minutes, we crossed over, and took over the Save Our State corner.
This resulted in several shouting matches, and heated discussions,
as excited onlookers took our flyers, and the SOSers just held their
flags.
In the end, Save Our State received rather poor media coverage,
thanks to the laughable quotes of James Glenn from Fremont. He
was quoted in the Modesto Bee several times saying, "You're illegal.
Your mama's illegal; your daddy is illegal. Go home!" At this point,
the chapter now seems defunct, and they appear to be infighting
online. They had one smaller rally afterwards, (according to friends,
only about 5-7 were there), but did not publicize it on the internet,
probably because they feared a counter protest.
Our eyes remained open towards the ongoing struggles over the
immigration issue. Recently we lead a workshop on immigration and
resistance from an anarchist perspective, and have also been
showing a new DVD produced by Aztlan Rising featuring footage
from May Day and the SOS protest. We are still willing to take to the
streets in solidarity with other workers - or fight the fascists who
would defend the systems of capital, state, and white supremacy.
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