Revolution #201, May 16, 2010

Todos Somos Arizona–We Are All Arizona

Arizona has passed a law that requires police to demand proof of legal residency of anyone who they suspect could be an undocumented immigrant. It means if you’re brown-skinned you can expect to be stopped in the streets of Arizona, and subjected to verbal abuse, or brutalized, even thrown into jail. This law is a major reassertion and heightening of white supremacy and ugly Anglo chauvinism in America. And there’s no reason to believe it will stop here. A student protester at Arizona State University said, “This is ground zero. Arizona is the guinea pig. If it [SB 1070] survives it’s going to spread throughout the nation.”

Protests broke out immediately. In Tucson 2,500 high school students walked out, and others chained themselves to the entrance to the capitol in Phoenix, which saw daily protests. A fifth grade student at a rally in front of the capitol in Phoenix, wearing a “We are humans” t-shirt, told Revolution that his parents are undocumented and are afraid to leave their home. He said his father has to drive to work every morning without a license and runs the risk of getting caught and deported.

All over Arizona, in major cities and small desert towns, a new generation is fighting to take responsibility for the future in the face of an extremely vicious anti-immigrant climate. In the face of hypocritical claims by reactionaries that walkouts undermine education, a student organizer from the small desert town of Mariposa, AZ, responded that being in the streets and trying to change society is education!

The passage of this law has triggered a sense of outrage and urgency among people from all walks of life. Musicians, actors and entertainers have spoken out against this law. City councils in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland, and elsewhere around the country have voted to boycott Arizona; the city of Boston voted to divest; and Phoenix, Flagstaff and Tucson are considering legal action to block the law. The Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team faced pickets and a small plane flying overhead with a protest banner when they played in Chicago’s Wrigley Field, and the 2011 All-Star Game scheduled for Phoenix may be canceled. On May 3, about 25 students at UC Berkeley started a hunger strike against SB1070. “This is life-threatening to our community, so we are putting our lives on the line,” student activist Myra Gonzalez said. On May 4, students at Kent State University organized a protest march of many different nationalities against the Arizona law after a commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the U.S. government’s massacre.

Very significantly, Black organizations like the NAACP, the National Urban League, Black churches, and major Black press have spoken out against the law. In New York City, the Black newspaper Amsterdam News ran an article with a headline that captured the essence of the new law: “Apartheid, Arizona.”

Todos Somos Arizona—We Are All Arizona

On May First feelings of both fear and outrage poured into the streets, where hundreds of thousands marched in protest in 70 cities throughout the country. Estimates were over 100,000 and possibly twice that many in Los Angeles; 50,000 to 100,000 in Chicago; 65,000 in Milwaukee; thousands in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City, etc.

“Todos Somos Arizona”—“We Are All Arizona”—became the unofficial theme. Handmade signs were everywhere, condemning Arizona and declaring people’s humanity. A young woman’s sign said, “My father was deported but I’m here to fight for his rights.” In L.A. a popular chant was “Arizona, aguanta, Los Angeles se levanta!” “Hold on Arizona, Los Angeles is rising up!” A young woman and her father carried a jail-like grating with a sign that read “SB1070.” They were chained by the wrists to the bars. Many spoke to the Nazi character of the law by carrying swastikas with pictures of Governor Jan Brewer and the reactionary Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio.

In San Jose, California, the defiant mood of the people was shown when cops tried to push the march off the street onto the sidewalk with their motorcycles. But the march of thousands refused to obey, stayed in the streets and the cops backed off. The people carried a long banner against the Arizona law that stretched for half a block, signed by thousands of people and carried by dozens, horizontally over the heads of the marchers.

“The Revolution We Need… The Leadership We Have”

On May 1 revolutionary communists were amidst the people, firmly supporting them while distributing the RCP’s Message and Call, “The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have.” Thousands of Revolution newspapers were distributed in the SF Bay Area. In Cleveland, high school and junior high youth jumped to the forefront, boldly debating with the masses, challenging them to recognize another world is possible and inspiring them with their energy and vision.

In Chicago, a huge banner, “WE ARE HUMAN BEINGS!! WE WILL NOT ACCEPT SLAVERY IN ANY FORM!! IMMIGRANTS MUST HAVE FULL AND FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS!!!” and a loudspeaker playing the Message and Call in Spanish impacted tens of thousands who were gathering for the march. Revolutionaries snaked out through the crowd distributing Revolution newspapers and the Message and Call, chanting “No hay un problema de inmigración! Si hay un problema del capitalismo.” “There is no immigration problem! What there is is a capitalism problem!” Armbands and stickers with the slogan “We are all illegals! Todos Somos ilegales!” made a visible impact on the crowd, including being worn by some of the speakers on stage. In L.A. a sound truck followed by a youth drum corps challenged people to break out of the dead-end framework of electoral politics, put down the blood-soaked U.S. flag, and take up a revolutionary communist future.

Channeling the Anger

Politicians and public officials, the Catholic Church hierarchy and the leadership of unions like SEIU worked overtime to channel the energy of the people within acceptable, electoral confines.

A group of 35 immigration reform leaders including Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez were arrested in front of the White House. They are seeking to rope resistance into supporting proposals for immigration reform like the one written by Democratic Senators Schumer, Reid and Menendez, and blessed by Obama. This proposal focuses almost entirely on enforcement, including a further crackdown on the border and throughout the country; and the establishment of a mandatory national biometric ID card for everyone employed in the country, increasing the repression and control of the entire population. It offers an eight-year-long, costly road to “legalization” that most undocumented will find impossible to achieve, with a plan to replace them with an imported temporary work force that will be controlled under apartheid-like conditions while here and sent back whenever they’re not needed.

L.A.’s mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, called for people to march on May First, wear white, and carry American flags. From the stage he led a chant of “USA, USA” that copied the reactionary gatherings. It must be said that this is not about being good citizens or hard workers and hoping to be accepted by the racists—THEY WON’T. It’s about standing up for fundamental rights and for the humanity of those who have been driven here, often in a desperate search for work.

Raising the American flag—a symbol of conquest, terror, and empire all over the world for centuries and down to the current occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan—is sheer poison. Immigrants have a unique ability to let people born here know the real truth about this flag—not cooperate in whitewashing it.

Support and Spread the Outpourings

With the passage of this reactionary law, a sudden, new wave of protest is washing over the country.

As we wrote last week, “[T]he main thing now is this: support and spread the outpourings against this bill, support and strengthen the spirit of defiance against this immoral and unconstitutional law, and assist and inspire people to cast their eyes to the horizon of revolution, when such outrages will be done away with, as part of emancipating all of humanity.” 

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