Revolution #203, June 13, 2010
Protest in Phoenix, Arizona:
On May 29 tens of thousands from across the country poured into the streets of Phoenix for a national day of action against SB 1070, the Jim-Crow-like Arizona law that requires police to demand papers from anyone they suspect is undocumented. Busloads and carloads came from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, from Tucson and Chicago, Mississippi and Maryland. Some people came all the way from Australia, joining the many thousands from Phoenix.
There was a sense of urgency: something must be done and we ourselves are the ones to do it. This came together with a broad sentiment that standing up now, here, in response to this law, is standing for basic humanity. The anger was sharp. Anger that people are being persecuted for just trying to work and feed their families. Anger that parents are being ripped away from their children. Anger that the state of Arizona is now officially sanctioning the criminalization of anyone with brown skin. There was a special hatred for the sheriff of Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio, who is known for hunting immigrants and putting them in concentration-camp-like jails in the desert. Signs called him a Nazi and youth sang chants that he's a terrorist.
A man from Mexico who grew up in Phoenix expressed a basic sentiment of many: "It's unfair, trying to go to school, go to work, have a quality life. People come with these ideas, racist, fascist, so that's what brought me here, to fight for ourselves, fight for our lives, our future. … [It's] sad looking at these people that have families, kids here, their parents get deported, sent back to Mexico, the little kids have to stay here. That's my anger."
Young people spoke out about the racial profiling that already goes on. One person described how twice he's been stopped, his car searched, and he's been put in jail for no reason. He said about the new law, "They'll have that as an excuse, 'Oh, I thought he was an illegal immigrant. So I had the right to check because that's the new law.'" The outrage against this was expressed very broadly, with many people wearing buttons and T-shirts that said, "Do I look illegal?" and variations of the message, "Being brown is not a crime." A youth from Los Angeles said, "What looks illegal? What is that? I can't fathom that thought, to look illegal."
Two popular posters encapsulated themes expressed by lots of people: "We Can't Wait," and "Undocumented UNAFRAID." People from Arizona spoke to the climate of fear that this march was breaking through—a situation where people are afraid to leave the house to go to church or to the grocery store and where white racists have been unleashed. Young people described having had guns pulled on them, or in other ways being threatened by racists. During the march, a few of these kinds of reactionaries stood on the sidewalk as the march passed by, yelling things like, "Go back to Mexico!" and in some cases marchers stopped and rallied and chanted until these racists were forced to back down. That evening after the day-long march and rally, the fascistic Tea Party movement held a Nazi-style rally in the baseball stadium in Tempe, just outside Phoenix, with Joe Arpaio as a featured speaker.
All this anger and defiance twirled around in the midst of deep outrage over the basic human rights being denied to Latino people. One student organizer said: "I'm an American citizen, not a second-class citizen. If I travel abroad I'm going to be an American, but if I'm here in Arizona, because I have dark skin, because I'm brown, somehow I'm not worthy. That's not right. So I'm going to fight for my rights and the rights of all people and against the injustices occurring in this state."
The demands of the march were for Obama to stop the Arizona law, and people chanted, "Obama, listen, we are in the struggle," and carried posters with his picture stenciled on. The reality that Obama is sending 1,200 troops to the border pierced through some of this. One young Black woman said, "Screw Obama, he can kiss my ass… he's just making stuff worse."
American flags dotted the crowd, and speakers talked about immigrants working hard to help build a better America. But this is not about immigrants proving they can be "good Americans" and hoping that racists will accept them. THEY WILL NOT. It is about standing up for fundamental rights and for the humanity of those who have been driven here, often in a desperate search for work. As for raising the American flag, this is sheer poison. This flag represents and has presided over terrible crimes committed in the name of "freedom and democracy" in this country and all over the world for more than a century. Immigrants have a unique ability to let people born here know the real truth about this flag—and should not go along with calls to cooperate in whitewashing that truth in the name of relating to the mainstream.
A small team of revolutionary communists came to Phoenix from Los Angeles with the orientation of fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution. At one point during the march, things got tense between those upholding America on one side and the revolutionary communists who were exposing the nature of this country that was founded on the enslavement of Black people, theft of Mexican land, slaughter of Native Americans, and has carried out wars of plunder and domination all over the planet—including the current one in Iraq with U.S. soldiers raping young girls and torturing prisoners. A woman who said America is a great country was so angry that she was in tears and yelled for the revolutionaries to "go back where you came from."
At the same time, the agitation that this system can't solve the problems of humanity but the revolution CAN, was captivating for many others. Some people took up the chant started by the communists, "No tenemos que vivir así. Otro mundo es posible" ("We don't have to live this way. Another world is possible"), especially when the anti-immigrant reactionaries came out. And those who were more revolutionary-minded were drawn to the banner that said, "No hay un problema de inmigración, sí hay un problema del capitalismo, la revolución es la solución" ("There is no immigration problem, there is a capitalism problem, revolution is the solution") and the Message and Call from the RCP, USA: "The Revolution We Need… The Leadership We Have." Several college students spoke to the great disparities in the world and how resources exist which could meet the needs of the people, but are instead being used for profit while masses of people are forced to try to find ways to survive. After the rally, several people who were seriously looking for a way out of all this got together to watch Bob Avakian's talk, Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, and stayed up talking into the night about historic questions of changing the world.
The organizers of the national day of action, who have come together in a coalition called Alto Arizona, had put a call out for the creation of art against SB 1070 and many artists responded, with poster designs filling the website, a Human Rights Festival Friday night featuring Los Jornaleros del Norte, Outernational, and Olmeca, and works of art at the march itself (including a beautiful four-panel wall depicting skulls on the border and the U.S. flag intertwined with barbed wire). Mexican banda pop star Jenni Rivera performed at the rally on Saturday as did Outernational, who performed their haunting and powerful version of Woody Guthrie's song "Deportees" and called out for a world where we are all treated as human beings, but until then: WE ARE ALL ILLEGALS!
As we wrote in "Arizona Goddamn!! Oppose the Attack on Immigrants" (Revolution #200, May 1, 2010), "the 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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