Sunday, February 7, 2010

Battlin' Phoenix: OSABC statement on the January 16 Day of Action

Fellow O'odham, Dine, Indigenous, Migrant, Non-indigenous brothers and sisters and concerned people of Maricopa County...

After days of reflection, O'odham Solidarity Across Borders Collective (OSABC) would like to give our thoughts and analysis on what occurred on the January 16th National Day of Action Against Sheriff Joe: March for Human Rights. As we all saw, heard and read, the march turned violent due to calculated moves by Phoenix Police to unfairly, and unjustifiably remove a contingent of marchers that expressed a voice and message that was foreign to them and national organizers, but all too familiar to the original people of the very land they walk on. OSABC called for what we dubbed the “Dine'-O'odham-Anarchist/Anti-Authoritarian” (DOA) contingent, in order to voice what we recognize to be an unending historical condition of forced removal here in the Southwestern so-called United States.

From the murdering of our O'odham Peoples, the stealing of our lands for the development of what is now known as the metropolitan Phoenix area, to the current relocation attempts against our O'odham along “their” border, and along the west-end of Gila River for a freeway. Or with the ongoing forced relocation of more than 14,000 Diné who have been uprooted for the extraction of natural resources just hours north of here, we recognize that this is not a condition that we must accept. This is a system that will continue to attack us unless we act.

OSABC and our Diné comrades viewed the National Day of Action against this one particular agent of forced removal, Maricopa county sheriff Arpaio, as an opportunity to express our opposition to the extension of this oppressive system towards our immigrant brothers and sisters. DOA felt the best way to show solidarity was to express this broader message and felt that if we started from our voice -- the O'odham voice – it would greatly help to undermine and defeat the white supremacist/colonial positions that Sheriff Joe and his many supporters uphold. In the past, when OSABC engaged other movements – even reactionary ones – with our broader perspective, on immigration and the border, we found we made progress, and that possibilities present themselves that are not included under the generally accepted terms of the discussion.

The national immigration organizers “call for action” seemed to express their willingness to expand the debate because of the many other outside factions that formed that day on the streets, such as National Day Laborer Organizing Network, No More Deaths, Border Action, and Mexica Movement to name a few. Local, regional and national solidarity was called for, and that's why we came, to stand together against forced relocation of all peoples, both immigrant and Indigenous. National immigration organizers appeared to also express that willingness by giving O'odham and Diné members of DOA the opportunity to address the crowd, to express the “Native American Voice” in this struggle. We even gave the blessing of offering a song in the O'odham way, so we could bless the people and the march before we departed. The “acknowledgment” of indigenous peoples of the Phoenix area by the organizers seemed to be a breakthrough, given the national movement's tendency to marginalize local indigenous voices in the many different communities in which they organize, but this acknowledgment was soon erased when the police attacked.

The police oppression that occurred after this great start gives us an idea of what we are up against. The police decision to attack was the State's way of showing who has control. Their attack also shows how the national immigration movement still doesn't get it. That the national immigration movement chooses to work side by side with the same institutions and politicians that oppress and attack our communities throughout the country shows how inconsistent this movement is. The Phoenix organizers' politically convenient decision to not denounce the actions of police, but instead fellow marchers with our bigger message of no more forced relocations and displacement, this reflects the same disconnect that afflicts the overall national movement. If national organizers are for the rights of migrants and overall human rights, most would naturally conclude that they take the same overall position against forced removals and relocations for ALL people and that likewise, they certainly take a line against police brutality.

But as the overall national movement has shown, their decision to work with that State will only yield reformist policies that may benefit some, and hurt many. Remember, the national immigration movement's push for immigration reform and call for the Obama administration to take action includes the militarization of the southern border with a wall surpassing the notorious Berlin Wall. Such a barrier would cause the forced relocation of our people, the Tohono O'odham, and the many other indigenous nations that “their” borders would displace. If the national immigration movement's objectives of reform will hurt our people, then how can their agenda be for human rights? We can't help but see contradiction and hypocrisy when the national movement defends Phoenix as the front line in the struggle against attacks on the rights of migrants, while at the same time it supports politicians that advocate other plans and policies that whose logical conclusions necessarily mean the forced removal and relocation of our fellow Akimel O'odham/Pi'Posh and desecration of our sacred sites (as in the case of the proposed Loop 202 Freeway expansion through Gila River). The State sees in this division the opportunity to further divide and conquer our communities and lands, and to pit immigrant and indigenous against each other, historically, the State has used their non-governmental bodies as the means to accomplish this. If the struggle is in fact for human rights, as the national immigration movement states, how is it that the first people of land, that is now deemed the front line, not even considered into their analysis?

The national immigration movement's decision in Phoenix to evoke the 1960's Civil Rights Struggle further demonstrates their misguided attempt for true change. The national movement tends to forget that Martin Luther King Jr and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's fight to end segregation in Birmingham were done in opposition to the police and the State. The Birmingham campaign demonstrated the nature of the police and the State when confronted with the threat of true change. They too, were attacked by the police, and still, they took that risk to go against them. Just imagine if they had not? So why does the national movement proudly support the same police oppression not just here in Phoenix, but all around the country? It would be hard to imagine, in the initial years of the Civil Rights movement, if Martin and even Malcolm would ever have worked hand in hand with the police and the State. They stood their ground and their courage lead to the start of change (we are far from being done). Their courage led to the successes that the national organizers now wish to replicate.


The national movement's organizing relationship with the police left them to support the oppression released on the 16th, just as the National Movement did in Los Angeles in 2007, when the LA Police attacked peaceful marchers on May Day. The dynamics are very similar and further show how this national movement of hundreds of thousands in the mid-00's has now declined to the thousands, while simultaneously thousands of migrants are being deported south of the border. A lack of understanding of the police and state infiltration in the immigration movement has lead to a narrow message that prevents this movement from being a true movement of human rights. The national movement determines, with the cooperation of the State, what level of action can be taken, and who and how one can participate in “their” movement, while at the same time calling for a National Day of Solidarity. One example of such “gatekeeping.” is a call for a Pan-American Indigenous voice that in fact marginalizes the local Indigenous voice, in the case of this area, the O'odham. Most would think, the overall indigenous presence would be amplified by the local Indigenous voice being present, and the participants being supported, in this case the DOA contingent . If themes of indigenous liberation are used, it’s should be expected that would include a true solidarity with the indigenous people, and an understanding of this very land they organize on. This inconsistent message the national immigration movement organizes around gives the State the power to divide and conquer all people, and provides an avenue through which the State can attack the overall movement.

The police's brutal use of force on the 16th is a wake up call, not just for what corporate media and national immigration movement leaders deemed “an outside factions of anarchists” but to everyone who marched that day, which is that we are living in a police state in which all forms of resistance that address the root problem will be targeted. What happened here in Phoenix can and has happened in communities throughout the country.

The local and national immigration organizers denounced our project of indigenous/anarchist solidarity. As expressed in the first DOA statement, we welcome diversity of tactics to challenge the violence of the state, and thus welcome diverse groups and communities that are compelled into action. Documented or undocumented, environmentalist or anarchist, whomever so desires it in their hearts to live free from this current existence of the tyranny of the state.

The police attack led to the wrongful arrest of five of our comrades. But as the weeks go by, more evidence is showing the contradictions in the police's account on the 16th. Recently, two of the arrested cases have been scratched, we continue to stand by the three who are still facing charges and ask that national immigration organizers join us in this latest struggle against state repression.

OSABC at this time is asking that the points of the DOA statement be addressed. The 16th showed what happens when fake gestures of solidarity are expressed, the State sees this as a chance to further divide movements and people. OSABC hopes if the points are addressed, then it will lead to a stronger movement that does not do the State's job by dividing us. We understand many are upset by corporate media and politicians’ accounts of what happened, but we would refer that you ask the youth, that the national immigration organizers used as security, for their accounts of what transpired. They also became subjected to the brutality of the Police State unleashed.

The OSABC call for the DOA contingent will hopefully challenge all those who marched, against Joe or for Immigration Reform, to think about the root problem that spawns this system of forced removals.

OSABC is an autonomous collective and no way speaks for anyone but ourselves, families and elders, but will continue to address what appears to be the marginalization of our people and attack on our Him'dag, again. So when these victories for Human Rights happen, it’s not built on our backs. So our hajen can be able to freely travel in our lands, free of Border Patrol sweeps, just as migrant familias should be able to travel freely in Maricopa County, free of Sheriff Joe/MCSO sweeps. We, as young O'odham, along with young Diné, recognized the national climate around the immigration issue and felt this was the best way to support not only our fellow migrant brothers and sisters, but fellow O'odham, and all Indigenous peoples that are all affected by the white supremacist/colonial policies of the forced removals and relocations.

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