|English | Español||May 22, 2015 | Issue #42|
Oaxaca’s State TV Station Under Popular Control
Women March to the Zocalo Against Governor and Take Over Channel 9 Studios
By Nancy Davies
Women March through the Oaxaca zocalo August 1
Photo: D.R. 2006 Nancy Davies
When they gathered in the zocalo the drumming sound was like a tropical downpour – rain on a tin roof. Then the bells of the ex-government building, made over as a museum by URO, began to ring. The movement has attached ropes from the bell towers to the pavilion in the center of the zocalo, and over the sound of the tapping of thousands of spoons on pots, the bells peeled out.
No tropical rain: the sun at mid-day glared, and many women, some of whom carried children, also carried sun-umbrellas. The females present ranged in age from babes in arms to tough old grannies. As many women wore the traditional aprons –a trademark of street and market vendors in Oaxaca– as wore jeans. Before the march dispersed at 12:30, somebody announced from the pavilion, “Women are going to Channel 9.” The location of the state television facilities is a bus-ride outside the downtown area, across from the Alvaro Carillo Theater.
Women have played a strong part from the beginning of the movement, as they comprise half of the teachers’ union and/or are mothers of students affected. As parents they have expressed rage against lack of decent schools and classrooms, and most recently against paying enrollment fees for public schools. Free education is guaranteed by the Mexican Constitution. Fees to register, as well as purchase of uniforms and books, appear to have fronted yet another method of state theft.
First broadcast from occupied Channel 9
Photo: D.R. 2006 Nancy Davies
By early evening some of the occupying force of women had returned to speak in person on Radio Universidad, while most remained at the television station.
“We are not afraid,” the spokeswoman said. “Whatever happens, happens. We are fed up with this situation. We are fighting for our children. We women cannot stay home.”
On the previous day, Monday July 31, the government sponsored a second “Guelaguetza” tourist event organized by the state’s Department of Culture in the newly paved Llano Park, another renovated piece of cultural patrimony. Although Radio Universidad – yesterday the only source of public communication for the social movement – had suggested that people let it go, stay away and not provoke trouble, the students (I’m guessing by the youthful voices) rushed right down to Llano where the event was starting, screaming “ya cayó!” However, they stationed themselves at the opposite side of the park from the event.
According reporting in the local newspaper Las Noticias, a near-confrontation was provoked when one youth climbed the park’s monument to Benito Juárez. The boy who climbed the monument was literally lowered off the pedestal among a rain of peanuts, empty bottles of water and some stones. A movement contingent went to his defense. The shouts, insults and physical aggression multiplied. Then someone began to fire a pistol of the type, according to reports from APPO, used exclusively by the army. The audience fled and the event was canceled.
The alleged shooter was captured by the APPO representatives. He was, it was reported, handled with care, not mistreated, and verified as healthy by a doctor before being handed over. Representatives of the federal Attorney General’s office went to UABJO to retrieve the prisoner, identified as Isaías Pérez Sánchez. Perez declared his innocence.
The news reports indicated that Pérez was dressed in civilian clothing, but is in fact a member of the police force. As usual for Oaxaca, it is very slow going to burrow down to the truth. However, as an observer I can say that if a shooter, whoever it might have been, wanted to hurt anybody he could have – but he did not.
Therefore, I place the event in the realm of the government policy to create fear, anxiety and threats. Police cars stop in front of the homes of leaders and members of the movement. Reports of armed paramilitaries grow like weeds. The general atmosphere is flooded with confusion and misinformation and outright lies such as attributing to the teachers the unlawful behavior committed by thugs.
From the side of the social movement, the government buildings of all the three branches have been blocked for four days; movement people picketed the various hotels and restaurants where the state delegates and governor have been trying to meet; several major highways are shut; denunciations of various PRI criminals continue on Radio Universidad; as reported above yet another tourist event was cancelled yesterday by protesters; and from outside the city, towns call in to say they have taken back their municipal buildings from the PRI caciques (bosses) who have been draining town resources while the people cowered in fear of repression.
Against this backdrop, at 7:00 this evening Channel 9 went back on the air. Terrible sound, full of static, but there was the APPO. Seated in front of a movement banner, which read “When a woman advances there is no man who stays behind,” Daniela, a lawyer who works both with APPO and the civil rights commission CODEP, introduced half a dozen women (none introduced by name, I simply recognized Daniela). The women took turns with a hand-held microphone to demand that URO resign. “The women organized for a great march,” one said. “We are in the struggle. Thanks to Ulises Ruíz the people have risen up, with marches, and concentrations of citizens. Channel 9 never gave us information, only lies. The APPO is the people. In a peaceful way we have taken the channel which is the public channel.”
Another woman said, “This is a historic moment.” The scene backdrop, handheld, walked with invisible feet to stand behind her. In white letters on red background it read, “Fuera Ulises” – Ulises Out.
After the women’s victory broadcast, Channel 9 briefly broadcast parts of videos by indigenous community members. At 8:30 all was quiet.
UPDATE, WEDNESDAY MORNING, August 2: This morning on Public Television Channel 9 the people are showing all the videos of the June 14 attack with armed police, interviews with the teachers in the hospital, the marches, the rallies, the meetings, etc. All this material was taped as it happened, but never shown on any station. It’s fantastic to watch it now for the first time.
- The Fund for Authentic Journalism