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News ::
Report from Oaxaca, March 22, 2003 (english)
23 Mar 2003
Students involved in organizing opposition to the U.S. attack on Iraq, which they see as unequivocally an imperialist war (article 3)

Report from Oaxaca, March 22, 2003

Report from Oaxaca, March 22, 2003

First of all, I haven’t met any Mexicans who support the war against Iraq, not a single one so far.

Here in the city several groups have been actively organizing in opposition to the U.S. assault for at least some weeks. The first demonstration I know of was on March 6, when mainly young people, including many students, gathered at a secondary school, Preparatoria 7, and marched from there to the main civic square, the zócalo. After some speeches at the zócalo the group continued north up to the office of the American Consulate, where they had an open mike and whoever wished to say something got a chance.

Protesters gathering on Calle 20 de Noviembre in front of the school

A larger demonstration was organized for Saturday, March 15, starting from a large central park, el Parque Llano, from where the marchers walked south to the zócalo and then proceeded up to the American Consulate office.

Beginning of march from Llano Park. The acronym MPR stands
for Movimiento Popular Revolucionario. The banner
says Stop the imperialist war!

A substantial number of gringos took part in this protest, the first time, for many Oaxaqueños, that they saw any gringos who were clearly opposed to Bush’s war. A fair number of them expressed surprise. They had thought we all were for the war.

I would estimate that about 200 people made up the group at the start, the number swelling to maybe 300-350 in the zócalo, and then dropping to between 150-200 in front of the Consulate office.

The organizing groups seem to be deliberate about unifying around their opposition to U.S. imperialism and the war against Iraq, and avoiding, so far as I see, any sectarian efforts to dominate the demonstrations or to exclude those with differing political positions. It’s been explained to me several times by a self-identified Maoist that she welcomes everyone: liberals, socialists, anarchsts, animal rights advocates, feminists, and so on.

Despite the fact that Ricardo Flores Magon, the principal anarchist theoretician-activist of the Mexican Revolution (who died in Fort Leavenworth Penitentary, where Leonard Peltier is now incarcerated) was a native Oaxaqueño, the young self-defined anarchists I’ve talked with seem to me more punk than anarchist. But at least they’re in rebellion, even if some of them aren’t very clear against what.

In front of the American Consulate office on March 15. The placard
says Gringos don’t want war. The banners say, No more Yankee
invasion in the world, and For a Resistance Movement of
the anti-imperialist peoples of the world.

Part of the ritual is the concluding torching of an “American” flag with stars replaced by skulls or swastikas. This photo was taken on Mar 6.

In front of the American Consulate office. Despite the visualviolence suggested by the act of torching -- it's like asmall flame thrower -- and the angry graffiti, in factthe actions have involved no violence at all.

Most of the citizenry do not, of course, take part in the demonstrations, but they are quite receptive to the literature that the activists distribute, and I haven’t seen any negative feelings expressed towards the (mostly young student) demonstrators. Except once when a well-dressed lady near the Consulate office was put off by the graffiti being liberally paint-sprayed on the walls, and said so to one of the activists. He shot back that they (meaning manual laborers) had built these walls and they could paint them. I ought to remark that many students also work at a variety of jobs, so this young man may have been both a student and a laborer.

To me it’s fascinating how much more laid-back this culture is than in the states. I have never seen any police interference with demonstrations. The marches proceed simply by the people with the banners stepping off the sidewalk into the avenue and the cars and buses just accept it. Sometimes a traffic policeman on a motorcycle assists by blocking traffic at crossings so that the marchers can continue unimpeded. But their right to use the streets to express themselves politically is never challenged. An ongoing spectacle. We have a lot to learn.

-- George, March 22, 2003
e-mail: George Salzman <george.salzman (at)>

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