Students rally in support of people in Oaxaca, Mexico

Saturday, November 11, 2006

  • Demonstrators rally outside the Mexican Consulate on Bay Street, Toronto

    Demonstrators rally outside the Mexican Consulate on Bay Street, Toronto

Written by N. Charles Hamilton

Last Friday, University of Guelph students joined over 30 cities around the world to show support for the people of Oaxaca, Mexico. Over 125 people rallied outside the Mexican Consulate on Bay Street, demanding an immediate end to the state-sanctioned violence which has resulted in murder, imprisonment, and disappearances of the people of Oaxaca.

A movement on the streets of Oaxaca started when teachers went on strike for liveable wages. In June 2006, Oaxacan Governor Ulyses Ruiz Ortiz ordered police and paramilitary to forcefully remove the peaceful teachers protest in the Historic Centre of Oaxaca City. Out of solidarity, the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO) was formed, a coalition of over 360 Human Rights Groups, Indigenous Councils and Grassroots Organizations. APPO united people from all over to join the teachers strike in the Centre of Oaxaca City and to demand the resignation of Ruiz Ortiz, accusing him of corruption and human rights abuses.

The Mexican government responded by sending in the Federal Police. During the past week alone, over 20 people have disappeared, 23 have been detained, and five people have been murdered. Brad Will, an American Journalist who worked with IndyMedia, is one of the 5 who lost his life in the streets of Oaxaca.

“Last week my friend and fellow documentary filmmaker Brad Will was killed in service, killed for pointing his camera at injustice, killed with two shots in the stomach in the zocalo of Oaxaca, killed as an act of silencing,” said Velcrow Ripper during a speech in the demonstration. “Killed so we would cry: enough. Enough silence. Enough corruption. Enough brutality. Enough imitation democracy.”

The events in Oaxaca hit particularly close to home for University of Guelph students because Ascuncion and Pedro, members of CIPO (The Popular Indigenous Council of Oaxaca) had been in Guelph telling the stories of their struggle the week earlier.

"The intensified presence of the Federal Police and the violent attacks that they are carrying out are only deepening the roots of the peoples commitment to social justice in Oaxaca and everywhere," says Cailey Campbell, a student at the University of Guelph. "To borrow a principle from our friends with CIPO, the solidarity of others is our own defense as well."

The demonstration went on for two hours and included drumming, speeches, messages of solidarity, and a phone call to the only independent radio station in Oaxaca City that hasn’t been burned to the ground. Demonstrators were initially denied time with the consulate of Mexico, but one of the organizers was eventually allowed to go up to present the signed letters which demanded an immediate end to the violence.

Despite the violence, intimidation and constant threats, APPO has continued to stand firm, demanding the resignation of Ruiz, the removal of federal police, and the suspension of arrest warrants.

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