|English | Español||May 23, 2017 | Issue #43|
Radio Universidad in Oaxaca Still Broadcasting, A Miracle of People's Resistance
After Seven Hours of Pitched Battle, the Federal Police Forced to Retreat
By George Salzman
Photos: D.R. 2006 John Gibler
This morning we heard that the PFP was going to invade the university on the grounds that there were reported to be firearms there. That’s a typical pretext the police use. It’s easy enough to get some corrupt state official or PRI-affiliated thug (PRI is the Institutional Revolutionary Party, in its Spanish initials) to file a denunciation that firearms or other illegal possessions are in a particular location. Radio Universidad was calling for citizens to come to protect the university, with a great sense of urgency. A friend dropped me off a few blocks from the Cinco Senores intersection, which was blocked on all sides by the PFP. As usual, I was able to circle the blocked intersection on a few side streets and soon was “inside” University Avenue in a mass of people, most facing north towards the lines of shield-equipped PFP troops.
Many in the dense crowd were busy photographing and videotaping the then-still-peaceful confrontation, several of them perched atop a burned-out VW-bug. Some people on a raised platform with a loudspeaker were telling the troops that they were the same as the protesters and shouldn’t have been sent to Oaxaca. The PFP lines stood inert, as trained. Several older women in the crowd, right at the front, not more than a foot or two from the plastic shields facing them, forcefully told the troops right in front of them that they are citizens, without arms, capable of running their own lives, and the PFP should leave Oaxaca.
When one of the projectiles hit the ground and burst into flame in front of the first line of troops a wave of adrenaline swept the protesters, many of whom ran forward and hurled rocks at the police. I’ve written a lot about the teachers and APPO maintaining a militant but non-violent struggle, which I remain convinced is correct. But this was a different matter: this was people trying to protect their own turf from being invaded by lethally-armed forces, and there’s no way the attempted defense could be described as non-violent. Had the police been ordered to shoot, it could have been a massacre. All that can be said is that the imbalance of power was incomparably in favor of the police; had it been used, it would have been overwhelming.
Most of the defenders were younger men. But not all. Their major weapon was a stream of rocks. I think that in addition to their homemade incendiary rockets they may also have had some molotov cocktails. As the police shot tear gas canisters and began a slow step-by-step advance, I headed back a ways and entered the university athletic fields, located on the west side of the avenue behind a fence, and then came forward again, close to but separated from the exchange. Not, however, separated from the tear gas. People were taking large rocks and smashing them against other rocks on the ground to break them up into sizes suitable for hurling a considerable distance. Their courage and determination not to yield to the PFP was incredible. I’ve never seen anything close to it before.
Walking north along the periferal highway I saw many people both observing and putting up further barricades to block access to the intersection at Cinco Senores. Ten or a dozen men shoved a big heavy car from where it was parked to blockade the Periferico at the corner of Rayon, and then they practically lifted a VW-Bug that had been parked behind the first car and carried it around the corner to block the entry of Rayon into the Periferico. I thought about private property. There’s lots of destroyed property, and weighing against it in their minds, I know, lots of destroyed lives, which is why these valiant people are facing up to the ruling power structure.
It’s 8:40 pm and Radio Universidad is still alive. I don’t know what will happen later tonight or tomorrow. It appears that the PFP were driven back. The Oaxaquenos really believe that “Los pueblos unidos, jamas sera vencidos” (The people united will never be defeated). I hope to hell they’re right.
- The Fund for Authentic Journalism