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(en) Mexico, Two Days in the Life of Oaxaca's Revolution by By James Daria - The Ricardo Flores Magón Brigade*

Date Fri, 01 Sep 2006 12:01:02 +0300

Monday, around four o’clock in the morning, the antennas and transmitter of
the Oaxacan Radio and Television Corporation were attacked by police and hired
thugs known as porros. A few weeks earlier, Oaxacan women took the offices of
Channel 9 and the radio station at 96.9 FM, creating an audio and visual outlet
for the demands of the social movement that is currently shaking the foundations
of Oaxacan society. In the attacks, armed forces supposedly linked to the state
government fired upon peaceful protesters occupying the facilities on top of
Fortin Hill. One person was wounded and the equipment was destroyed, striking
a strategic blow against the free expression of the popular movement and
turning up the already tense climate in the city.

Oaxaca awoke to a flurry of activity as streets were blocked
throughout the city completely paralyzing transportation. Upon
hearing of the attack against Channel 9, the popular forces
remobilized and occupied 15 corporate radio stations throughout the
city, according to the report in the local daily Las Noticias. It was as
if the response was, “if you take two of ours; we will take fifteen
of yours” as they further increasing the un-governability of
Oaxaca. The protesters had spontaneously and simultaneously
organized the most massive media takeover ever seen in Oaxaca.

Waking up in the morning and trying to go to work, this reporter ran
into a road blockade in his own neighborhood, a largely residential
subdivision with cheap government housing and insufficient basic
services. City buses were put into strategic places completely cutting
off access to the neighborhood and to the Regional University of the
South East located in the entrance. The neighborhood, El Rosario, is
tucked into the southeast pocket of Oaxaca City and is surrounded
by hills. Normally the residents of this neighborhood have stayed
relatively neutral as to the current course of events but, finding
themselves in the midst of the struggle to guard the antenna of one
of the radio stations taken by the popular forces, the
neighborhood’s consciousness began to rise and be put into
action. From early on local residents brought food and coffee to the
small numbers of teachers that were camped out in front of the

At night, wandering through the blockade, this reporter was able to
witness the birth of not simply just another roadblock but the birth of
social and community consciousness among neighbors, friends and
family. The small numbers of teachers were aided by local residents
who joined the encampment, making up the majority of the people.
Women brought food and drink to the protesters and children ran
throughout the occupied streets free of traffic. The atmosphere was
one of a radical block party and an excuse to socialize with one
another. Walking further I bumped into my two of my neighbors
who brought hot coffee. We walked through the encampment and
met up with other neighbors, friends and family.

Walking back to the house to make more coffee, the first reports of
police attacks against encampments at other antennas began to be
heard on the many radios. Fireworks began to sound throughout the
city. One bang means alert, two bangs mean we are being attacked.
We returned to our block together for security. Leaving the pots and
pans in the house, the neighbors grabbed sticks, broom handles and
metal rods. As they armed themselves with homemade weapons of
self defense, they hatched a plan to ring the church bell.

The ragged group of instant revolutionaries roamed the streets of the
neighborhood as we discussed why resistance to the state
government was so important. My neighbor, a housewife who is
originally from the coast and is raising four children alone while
husband is away working in the United States, talked as she walked
towards the church with stick in hand. “All of us here have been
fucked over in one way or another by the government,” the
mother explained. The other family, made up of parents and two
daughters-one of whom was eight months pregnant but armed with
a stick and a shopping bag filled with rocks, reiterated their
commitment to defend their neighborhood. “We are poor. We
are the people,” was the common sentiment. “We poor
people have nothing to lose, the rich do.”

Arriving at the church, we found other people who had the same
idea. One youth climbed on the roof of the locked building and
began to ring the bell to sound the alarm. The neighborhood was
aroused as people gathered in the church yard to discuss what was
happening. The latest news of police violence was discussed as well
as the reasons for the blockade. One woman, the caretaker of the
church building, exclaimed that ringing the church bell in such a
manner was against church law. My neighbor cried out that the
people paid for the church bell through donations and therefore it
belongs to the people. The whole church belongs to the people and
should be used in an emergency such as this, she said. Whether it be
radio stations, television channels or church bells, the movement
that is forming in Oaxaca has been challenging on a concrete level
the normal notions of private property and pointing towards a
communal concept of social property so much part of the fabric of
Oaxacan society.

Some neighbors protested and complained about the disturbances
inherent in the blockade. Some couldn’t leave the neighborhood
to go to work. Others asked for their understanding, arguing that
what was most important was uniting as a community to physically
confront the government. When some expressed no interest in
taking part, their neighbors accused them of not having any interest
in being part of the community as well. “When we have a
community assembly you are never there. All you care about is your
money.” As many residents of this community come from small
towns outside the city, many have specific notions of what
community means, and not fulfilling the moral and physical
obligations inherent in being a community member is severely
looked down upon. The community has the moral obligation to
defend itself and help in the construction of a more just society,
according to them, and now the residents of this neighborhood were
confronted with fulfilling this obligation.

The ragtag army roamed the streets making noise and alerting
neighbors. Residents came out of their houses and expressed their
solidarity. Arriving at the encampment, my neighbors were delighted
to see that the numbers were doubled. The community had come
together to fight. And this was done spontaneously, without a central
leadership. As explained by a participant in the blockade of Channel
9 ¬– who is neither a teacher nor a member of the Popular
Assembly of the Oaxacan People but simply, as he says, a member
of civil societ – the movement lacks direction as the leadership
has vanished. This is now not a movement of leaders, it is one of
bases. The people are in control, according to him, as the traditional
leadership has backed away. This was clearly evident as my
community, united in self defense, organized surveillance brigades,
handed out vinegar soaked rags for protection against gases,
gathered rocks to be used as ammunition and generally formed
instant bonds of solidarity and understanding as they united in
common cause. The people were ready. They knew what was
coming. They knew the police and the government-hired thugs
would come and would be armed. Together they were physically
ready to confront the bullets of the “bad government.” “If
the police come into the Rosario,” one neighbor exclaimed,
“they will never get out alive.”

Throughout the course of the night, fireworks would burst in the
black sky alerting us to another act of violence by the state. Church
bells rang in the distance. The radio would crack into activity saying
that bullets were fired in one neighborhood, that police activity was
spotted in another, that one teacher was shot in yet another. The
night grew tense as everyone prepared themselves for the hours
between three and five in the morning as it seems the preferred time
for attacks. The Rosario commune prepared itself for confrontation
behind the barricades of city busses. One person remarked that this
must have been what it was like during the Mexican Revolution.
Another person claimed that what was need more than anything else
was another revolution. The city seemed on the verge of exploding.

Dawn broke in our part of the city, however, without incident. Other
parts of the city weren’t as lucky as according to various reports
there were people shot or disappeared by the police. Many people
like me who stayed up the whole night left the barricades to walk to
work and carry about their normal lives.

Returning home later in the day to sleep I found that the residents of
El Rosario had organized collective taxis that charged but a couple
pesos to travel to the major intersection leading to downtown. A
cheap taxi service is severely lacking in our part of town and is not
possible due to the corruption in the taxi business. One driver
remarked that the taxi business is a mafia and the corruption leads
directly to the state government. “Mexico is a mafia,” he
said. Meanwhile, however, while a general state of unrest and
un-governability has paralyzed the city, the people have found the
freedom to autonomously self-organize to meet the needs of their

Writing this, night is falling upon Oaxaca once again and the threat
of violence from fascist forces looms. The people are organizing
themselves to defend their community and their antennas. It is their
community, their streets, their radio station, their voice and united
they will defend them. It is their movement and their time. The
movement in Oaxaca has taken many forms throughout these
seemingly very long 93 days of struggle since the teachers went on
strike. Perhaps the movement is now at its most profound point with
such massive popular participation. It is the peoples’ movement
and united they just might win.
More on the subject at http://auto_sol.tao.ca/node/view/2270
* An antiauthoritarian anticapitalist initiative
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