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Terror Hangs in the Air of San Marcos Aviles: Zapatistas

Nearly 200 Zapatista support bases members in San Marcos Aviles need help, who are fighting for freedom, justice, democracy in Chiapas, Mexico

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By Jessica Davies

SAN MARCOS AVILÉS, Chiapas, México.- “It is not only the task of the independent/alternative media to circulate the truth, but rather it is the responsibility of us all to do so.”

“Our compas from San Marcos Avilés are suffering this violence because they are indigenous, because they are Zapatistas, and because they have opened their own autonomous school.»

Terror hangs in the air of San Marcos Avilés, a small indigenous Tzeltal-speaking community located in the highland region of the state of Chiapas, in southeastern Mexico. The women, men and children from the community have sent out an urgent call to the world for support, a call that echoes in our very heartbeat and demands our solidarity, “as if it were said in the very language of our being”.

This urgent message comes from the nearly 200 Zapatista support bases members (BAZ) in San Marcos Avilés, who are fighting to live according to their own indigenous culture and struggling for freedom, justice, democracy and a dignified life for all. But they are faced with men with firearms and other weapons who intend to eradicate all that the Zapatistas represent and believe in.

Background

The nightmare of terror began in August 2010, when the BAZ constructed a small wooden building to house their new autonomous school, named ‘Emiliano Zapata’. The Zapatista Autonomous Rebel Education System is, along with their other autonomous systems of health and collective work, one of the most well-known achievements of the organisation, and of crucial importance as the BAZ work towards the construction of their own autonomy. Not only can the children learn according to their own culture, knowledge, and traditions; wear their customary clothing, speak their own languages and eat their traditional foods; but they can also learn the truth about their own history and situation. Learning is a shared experience, enjoyed together, without competition, judgement, or hierarchy.

“We attach great importance to the autonomous school”, say the BAZ of San Marcos Avilés. “We want a good education for our children, good learning, a good example. We see that the government has its schools, but it is not good education, nor do they teach our children well; they do not provide good learning, and what they teach has nothing to do with us. So we opened our school …”

The attacks on the BAZ began immediately after the construction of the school. Members of the Mexican political parties the PRI, PRD and PVEM, in armed “attack groups”, encouraged by the three levels of government, began to threaten and harass the community, attempting to rape the women, steal their land and possessions, and plunder their crops and livestock.

Within two months the attacks had reached such a level of violence that 170 BAZ, many of them women and children, were forcibly displaced from the community and had to take refuge on a mountain in the area. Here they lived exposed to the elements—under pieces of plastic sheeting, sleeping on the ground in the mud without any basic necessities, “we had no tortillas to eat; we had no pozol to drink”, through 33 days of wet, cold and hunger. During this period two of the women gave birth.

“I speak for all my fellow women: we are suffering a lot with our children. They do not take us into account, they see us like animals, like dogs. So I was told when I had my son in the mountains. That’s what really hurts in my heart. We hope to move the hearts of our fellow women when they see this video”.

When groups from neighbouring communities and the local Human Rights Centre assembled to escort the BAZ back to their homes, the BAZ found that their dwellings, belongings, plantations of corn, beans, bananas, sugar cane and coffee, and their few chickens and cattle, had been destroyed, plundered or stolen. Since that time the Zapatistas of San Marcos Avilés have lived in a state of trauma and terror, enduring constant threats, attacks, violations and insults. The emotional and psychological well being of the women, unable to provide for their children, is one of especially profound concern.

Statement from the Good Government Council (JBG) of Oventic

“We denounce,” they wrote in July, 2011, “the events now occurring in this community. …..Our compañeros and compañeras, the Zapatista support bases of San Marcos Avilés, are living in a very difficult situation, in their own community, caused by people affiliated with different political parties and by the authorities of the same community…… they are facing death threats, harassment, loss of their cultivated lands, and evictions from their own community, purely because they started to set up an autonomous education system for their people.

“The aggressors also put our coffee fields up for sale, at a price of 14,000 pesos per hectare, in order to get money to buy more firearms….. The amount of land our compañeros have now been deprived of is 31¼ hectares and 8,500 coffee trees; all of this is now in the possession of the aggressors from the political parties.

“In this situation of aggression, threats and theft of their land faced by our compas …..they have endured many injustices made against them and have shown great patience in not responding with violence. And neither have we….responded violently in word or deed to these attacks and threats, because the Zapatistas are people of reason and principles and we do not want to fight our own indigenous brothers and sisters. But the bad governors of our State and our country seek at all costs that among the indigenous we see our brothers and sisters as enemies and kill each other.

“The bad government has done absolutely nothing to resolve and prevent the serious problems which could happen in this community; what the state and municipal governments have done is to support and back the attackers so they can continue provoking, threatening and stripping our Zapatista support bases of their belongings. There are no signs of this aggressive and arrogant attitude of the bad governors and their people coming to an end.

“All the aggressions, persecutions and provocations are committed by those people affiliated to the different political parties, and by the paramilitaries supported, advised and paid by the municipal, state and federal governments who are the masterminds of these human rights violations.

“Our support base compas of the community of San Marcos Aviles …….have the right be in their own community and to work the land which belongs to them…….They should not think that they will stop the struggle of the Zapatistas for the construction of our autonomy and for national liberation with provocation, threats, assaults and persecution, because whatever the cost, and whatever happens, we will continue to go forward, as is our right…..And we demand that they [the BAZ] be respected and that their stolen belongings be returned to them”.

What are the Issues Here?

The words of the newly released Call to Action leave no room for doubt:

“We stress here that these attacks are not isolated incidents, but rather are integral components of the prolonged war of extermination that the bad government of Mexico, together with capitalist interests, has carried out for the past 18 years to wipe out the Zapatista movement and all it has given to the world.

“The objectives of this war have been and remain to continue the colonial project and destroy at any cost indigenous autonomy and resistance, and take over their ancestral lands, and in this way, exploit for the exclusive benefit of those from above the natural resources with which our Mother Earth provides us.

“Repression, violence, and death are meted out by the bad government of Mexico to those who resist this, who defend their lands, their identities, their cultures, and autonomy – their very existence.

“Our compas from San Marcos Avilés are suffering this violence because they are indigenous, because they are Zapatistas, and because they have opened their own autonomous school.”

There is also the issue of land, the most basic and essential resource, vital to people’s sense of history and identity, home of their ancestors, source of their culture, and means of their survival. In this case, the BAZ of San Marcos Avilés bought the land twelve years ago and have the title deeds to prove it. As throughout Zapatista territory, however, this does not stop the governments from giving the land to others in return for driving out what the powerful most fear: the threat of a good example.

«We want there to be happiness in our lives and in the lives of our children. We want to have corn that is no longer stolen. We want tranquillity to be able to grow our pumpkins on our land. We want to find peace again in our hearts, and we want to eat with love what we have.»

The Current Crisis

In recent weeks, the situation of threats and aggressions has intensified to the point where a repetition of the events of 2010, or worse, is feared at any time. The lives of the BAZ of San Marcos Avilés are seriously at risk, along with their dignified struggle for a better world.

Their urgent call for solidarity has been taken up by one of the most effective, experienced, admired and inspiring campaigning organisations struggling for justice at a grassroots level, the Movement for Justice in El Barrio (MJB), of the Other Campaign New York.

“Particularly in the past few days, more threats against the Zapatista support base members have taken place in San Marcos Avilés. The culprits remain an attack group of political party members, who have stated that they will kidnap authorities of the Zapatista community, and in this way, forcefully displace the support base members from the ejido. They have also made threats against those who denounce these acts of aggression and harassment, claiming that they will incarcerate them. It is feared that another wide-scale displacement of the community, similar to the one that took place in 2010, will occur”.

The MJB first released a powerfully moving and shocking video, in Tzeltal with Spanish and English subtitles, in which the compas of San Marcos Avilés tell their own story.

“They think we are worthless. They treat us badly, like animals. They do what they want with us. That is still happening now. When we sow our maize, we cannot take it home. They come to steal our beans, cane … bananas, they steal everything. All we do is sow and work and there is nothing….

“We cannot enjoy the fruits of our labour with our children, because…members of the political parties PRI, PRD, and PAN are eating it ….on the orders of bad government.

“The parties do not want the Zapatista organization in the ejido San Marcos. According to them, we set a bad example. They showed they want the organization to disappear. We will continue our struggle, there is no choice, because we are not committing any crime … because we have the right to struggle to be taken into account. Freedom, justice and peace is what we are asking for. But we are not afraid because we know quite clearly what we are looking for and how we want to live”.

This story evoked a response from all corners of the world. The MJB followed it up on July 27th, 2012, with the launch of a worldwide campaign: “Worldwide Echo in Support of the Zapatistas: Freedom and Justice for San Marcos Avilés and Sántiz López”

The campaign will be in two phases. The first, an intense period of education, dubbed “Walking the True Word,” of which this article is part, is to be followed by a phase of direct action.

The call also symbolically includes all Zapatista support bases, especially those from other communities which are also under attack. For this reason the MJB also calls for freedom and justice for the Zapatista prisoner of conscience Francisco Sántiz López, who has been imprisoned since December 2011 for crimes it has been proved he did not commit. Francisco comes from the community of Banavil, Tenejapa. In the video message, the BAZ of San Marcos Avilés call for the liberation of all political prisoners.

In true Zapatista fashion, the MJB call on the people of the world to set up Committees of the True Word, in whatever ways they can, in order to inform, educate and help raise awareness of the current situation of crisis in San Marcos Avilés. The Movement also undertakes to “share all reports we receive with the community of San Marcos, so that they know they are not alone”.

“We believe that the true word and knowledge are very important for the struggles of those from below—it is not only the task of the independent/alternative media to circulate truth, but rather it is the responsibility of us all to do so…..Education and knowledge are also tools and weapons in the struggle for justice, dignity, and democracy—they are nothing less than the forms in which we will construct this new world we seek.”

And in the words of the BAZ of San Marcos, «perhaps one day, together, we may attain what we are fighting for – that there be a dignified justice.»

WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW:

– Watch the video

Show it to everyone you know. Organise a screening. Circulate it widely.

– Inform yourselves. Look at the website http://sanmarcosavilesen.wordpress.com/

Circulate the Call for Action to all your contacts and social networks.

– Set up a Committee of the True Word

Let the MJB know you have done so on

laotranuevayork(at)yahoo.com

 

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Conditions at Mississippi’s Most Notorious Prison Violate the Constitution, DOJ Says

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by Jerry Mitchell, Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting/ProPublica

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Locked Down

An Investigation of Mississippi’s Prisons

Conditions at Mississippi’s notorious Parchman state prison violate the Constitution, the U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday.

“Our investigation uncovered evidence of systemic violations that have generated a violent and unsafe environment for people incarcerated at Parchman,” Kristen Clarke, the U.S. assistant attorney general for civil rights, said at a press conference. “We are committed to taking action that will ensure the safety of all people held at Parchman and other state prison facilities.”

The department began investigating Parchman in February 2020 after the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting and ProPublica reported on increases in grisly violence, gang control and substandard living conditions. The news organizations found that state lawmakers had known about these problems for years and had done little to fix them.

In one example, a cellphone video appeared to show a fight at Parchman. Prisoners can be heard egging on the violence. Prison officials declined to authenticate the video, but several inmates said it matched details of the facility. Prison authorities later reported that a man was killed around the same time the video was circulating on social media.

“I’ve got him in a chokehold,” one inmate boasts.

Another inmate cheers him on: “Oh, yeah, oh, yeah. Dead. Oh, yeah. Dead. Deaaaaad.”

After the report, U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and others called on the DOJ to investigate.

U.S. Attorney Clay Joyner of Oxford said: “Prisons have a constitutional obligation to keep safe the incarcerated persons who depend on them for their basic needs. Mississippi violated the rights of persons incarcerated at Parchman by failing to keep them safe from physical violence and for failing to provide constitutionally adequate mental health care.”

In a 59-page report, the DOJ said the prison had failed to protect inmates from violence at the hands of others, provide adequate mental health treatment or take sufficient suicide prevention measures. The report said penitentiary officials had subjected prisoners to “prolonged isolation in solitary confinement in egregious conditions that place their physical and mental health at substantial risk of serious harm.”

DOJ officials say they are committed to working with the state to ensure that prisoners’ civil rights are protected. Joyner told reporters that Corrections Commissioner Burl Cain, who was appointed in 2020, has already implemented some changes.

Responding to the department’s allegations, Gov. Tate Reeves said, “We have made significant strides at Parchman in the last two years, everything from significantly reducing the number of inmates at Parchman all the way to working with the Legislature this year to get funding to increase the number of officers we have.”

Parchman has a long history of being one of the nation’s worst prisons, but by 2011, it had turned a corner. After ‌nearly four decades‌ ‌of‌ ‌court‌ ‌monitoring‌ ‌and‌ ‌an‌ ‌infusion‌ ‌of‌ ‌taxpayer‌ ‌dollars,‌ ‌new‌ ‌facilities‌ ‌had‌ ‌been‌ ‌built.‌ ‌Prisoner‌ ‌abuse‌ ‌had‌ ‌declined.‌ ‌A‌ ‌judge‌ ‌ended‌ ‌federal‌ ‌oversight‌,‌‌ ‌and‌ ‌Mississippi‌ ‌was‌ ‌once‌ ‌again‌ ‌entrusted‌ ‌with‌ ‌the‌ ‌care‌ ‌of‌ ‌its‌ ‌inmates.‌

In the years that followed, conditions at Parchman began to deteriorate. By 2017, accreditation for the prison had lapsed. Ron Welch, a Jackson lawyer who represented the state’s inmates until the monitoring ended, called the prison’s conditions an “unbelievable nightmare.”

The DOJ report said that Parchman inmates have been subjected to “an unreasonable risk of violence due to inadequate staffing, cursory investigative practices and deficient contraband controls,” adding that “these systemic failures result in an environment rife with weapons, drugs, gang activity, extortion and violence, including 10 homicides in 2019.”

Six homicides took place in 2020, three of them in a single week in January, when one inmate was stabbed 89 times, another 75 times and a third strangled to death, according to the report.

Another killing took place in October 2020, when several individuals stabbed an inmate 12 times in Unit 30’s shower. “The sole correctional officer assigned to watch the approximately 180 incarcerated persons in that area did not observe any signs of disturbance from her position in a tower removed from the floor,” the DOJ report said. “Approximately three hours after the stabbing, an incarcerated person alerted the officer that another incarcerated person needed help, and she called for backup. When help arrived, they found the victim unresponsive, and he was pronounced dead a few minutes later.”

An inmate told an investigator with the Mississippi Department of Corrections, or MDOC, that the killing was gang related. The DOJ report said state investigators blamed the death on a staff shortage but did not “investigate the alleged gang cause or take any interest in what happened to the apparently unrecovered weapon.”

The DOJ said this homicide illustrates how Parchman inmates are “on their own. It further demonstrates how MDOC’s cursory investigations fail to address the underlying causes for violence, such as gang activity, or the location of the weapon after the incident to prevent future violence.”

The DOJ cited MDOC’s “gross understaffing” in its report: “Although MDOC has made some efforts recently to recruit and hire more staff, Parchman has been operating with roughly half the needed staff since at least 2018.”

Because of that lack of staffing, the report alleged, two inmates in Unit 30 were stabbed on Jan. 21, 2020, but did not receive medical care until a dozen hours later when they were discovered. One inmate died later that day from skull fractures, rib fractures and other injuries. Another homicide took place just a few hours later.

Between 2014 and 2021, the number of correctional officers plummeted from 1,591 to 667. The inmate population shrank during that time from 21,919 to 16,945.

“The lack of supervision and staff presence on Parchman housing units creates an authority vacuum — where individuals incarcerated at Parchman rather than staff control the day-to-day operations of the units,” the report said. “As evidence of this absence of authority, persons confined to Parchman have openly defied contraband restrictions, posting photos of themselves on social media, or posting photos and videos of decrepit conditions in a cry for help. Unless MDOC institutes effective, necessary remedies to alleviate Parchman’s staffing and supervision crises, staff and incarcerated persons will remain at an unreasonable risk of serious harm.”

Even after succeeding in getting lawmakers to provide raises to correctional officers, Cain said it’s been difficult to recruit because of competition for workers.

The report said that MDOC fails “to identify incarcerated persons in need of mental health care. Parchman has too few qualified mental health staff to meet the mental health care needs of persons confined at Parchman, which results in serious harm.”

DOJ officials also said that MDOC failed “to identify individuals at risk of suicide and houses them — often unsupervised — in dangerous areas that are not suicide resistant.” In addition, MDOC fails to adequately train officers to identify signs and symptoms of suicidal behavior, the report said. Twelve individuals incarcerated at Parchman died by suicide in the last three years, all in single cells.

“The problems at Parchman are severe, systemic, and exacerbated by serious deficiencies in staffing and supervision,” the report said.

Former Corrections Commissioner Pelicia Hall repeatedly asked the Republican-controlled Legislature for more money to hire guards and to fix up Parchman’s maximum-security block, known as Unit 29, but the request went nowhere, despite MDOC saying publicly that the unit was “unsafe for staff and inmates.”

On New Year’s Eve in 2019, “a fight in Parchman’s Unit 29 sparked what would become a prison riot lasting several weeks,” according to the report. “In the months leading up to the riot, there had been widespread reports about unlivable and unsanitary conditions through Parchman; violent murders and suicides on the rise; staffing plummeting to dangerous levels; and mounting concerns that gangs were filling the void left by inadequate staff presence and gaining increasing control of Parchman through extortion and violence.”

Despite those crises, Parchman staff were “caught off guard, utterly overwhelmed, and ultimately unable to adequately and quickly respond to fighting and significant injuries in multiple buildings,” the report said.

DOJ officials say their investigation of conditions at South Mississippi Correctional Institution, Central Mississippi Correctional Facility and Wilkinson County Correctional Facility is continuing.

The DOJ is encouraging those with relevant information to contact it by phone at 833-591-0288 or by email at Community.MSDoc@usdoj.gov.

 

Original: propublica.org

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The Governorship Elections in Venezuela. The PSUV Wins By a Landslide, Opposition in Disarray

A political Analysis on the recent electoral victory for State governorship by the governing party of Venezuela, the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela

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the campaign for Constituent Assembly

 

By Nino Pagliccia and Armold August

The governing party of Venezuela, the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela), has recently obtained a resounding electoral victory for State governorship. The election was called by the CNE (National Electoral Council) at the instance of the ANC (National Constituent Assembly). Soon after, the opposition group MUD (Democratic Unity Coalition) seemed to be in disarray. Enrique Capriles of Primero Justicia (Justice First) party, for example, resigned from the MUD coalition questioning Henry Ramos Allup of the AD (Democratic Action) party who in turn expelled the four AD governors who dared to be sworn-in in front of the ANC in acceptance of the election results.

I asked Canadian author Arnold August to give his assessment of the political significance for the Bolivarian process.

Question: In the last elections of October 15 for the 23 state governorships in Venezuela, the governing party won 18 states. What is your analysis of this result in the context of the political process in Venezuela?

Arnold August: Not only did it win the 18 states, but the PSUV substantially increased its popular vote compared with the National Assembly elections held in December 2015, when the opposition won by a wide margin. Thus, in a short period of time, the Bolivarian Revolution reversed the situation. These latest October 2017 state elections, therefore, are of great historical significance not only for Venezuela but for the whole region. The U.S. is hoping to subvert the Bolivarian Revolution and use it as a springboard to weaken, and even destroy, other left-wing movements and governments in the area. The latter represent an alternative to capitalism and they, along with other powers such as Russia, China and Iran, flourish as a major multi-polar challenge to the U.S. goal of world hegemony.

Thus, because of the domestic and international importance of this resurgence in the last elections, the analysis is still ongoing. Any serious observer is obliged to continue to reflect upon and investigate the upset victory, as you are striving to do now with this interview.

Nevertheless, there is one ongoing conclusion that I have been exploring since the elections. The election results marked a watershed in Venezuelan democracy. The majority of the people and the Maduro government crossed the Rubicon from participatory democracy toward protagonist democracy. They may not have yet reached terra firma on the other shore of the Rubicon, but Venezuelan democracy is firmly on the path toward protagonist democracy as the main feature of its political system.

Some Bolivarian Revolution sympathizers and activists in Venezuela and outside may raise their eyebrows in surprise, and even suspicion, with regard to my view. The analysis may seem, if looked at superficially and dogmatically, as an underestimation of the outstanding Bolivarian experience in participatory democracy.

However, this is far from being the case. For example, in my 2013 publication Cuba and Its Neighbours: Democracy in Motion, there is a section dealing with Cuba’s neighbour titled “Venezuela: New Experiments in Participatory Democracy” that provides a very positive analysis.

And, more importantly, consider this. Hugo Chávez very clearly stated that “socialism means participatory democracy but above all protagonist democracy” (Comandante Chávez, “El Socialismo es la Democracia Participativa y sobre todo la Protagónica,” posted March 19, 2013).

Protagonist democracy means that the people are reaching the stage of consciousness and action – individually and collectively – to exercise on a daily basis their rightful protagonist role in their own revolution.

We saw this in the massive uprising by the Venezuelan people. A civic–military alliance overturned the U.S.-supported April 11, 2002 coup d’état against the Chávez government only two days later on April 13. This is how the now legendary Chavista slogan came into being: “Every 11th has its 13th!” The people themselves are able to overcome even the most adverse situation and seemingly hopeless obstacle by taking affairs into their own hands.

This growing protagonist feature of the Bolivarian Revolution’s democracy goes hand in hand with its development of socialist measures. It has been evolving over the years at a steady pace despite the economic war waged by the U.S. against Venezuela. Alongside this evolution, protagonist democracy has deepened and broadened to increasingly become a daily feature in the lives of the people. The Chávez thinking on this progression, as expressed above, is crucial to viewing today’s Venezuela from his perspective: socialism cannot be defended nor, even less, be developed without a political and electoral system based on protagonist democracy. Nonetheless, this developing level of consciousness is not tied to elections. On the contrary, the electoral process is just part of the battle of ideas that is being waged nationally and internationally in favour of socialism.

Out of necessity, this political movement in Venezuela increasingly becomes “daily” – perhaps not literally but very close to it since the death of Hugo Chávez. Ironically, Obama and Trump, by striving to subvert the participatory and protagonist people’s political defence of its Bolivarian Revolution and the biggest oil reserves in the world, have contributed to pushing the revolution to convert democracy toward, as Chávez said, “above all protagonist.” Thus, the paradox: Venezuela is now anchored in an even more favourable position to defend and expand its revolution, as the state election results glaringly exposed.

The 2002 American policy of blatant interference, as exemplified in the coup d’état, has become a daily staple in other more “smart power” forms feeding the unrest and crisis in Venezuela. This approach began to take shape after President Obama refused to recognize Nicolás Maduro as the constitutionally elected successor to Chávez on April 14, 2013. There has been virtually no let up since, with Obama handing the U.S. Venezuela game plan over to Trump on a silver platter. Only the form of the 2002 attempted coup has changed. It has become a slow-motion coup but with the same intent: to smash the socialist program. The response is that, metaphorically, every day in Venezuela is lived with the slogan “every 11th has its 13th” at the forefront.

However, unlike the military coup d’état attempt in 2002, now the “11th” is represented by the slow-motion coup that the U.S. has been fomenting since April 2013 to date, while the “13th” is the day-to-day people’s revolutionary struggle during this time to maintain political power. It was – and is – either that the Venezuelans will be the authors of their own revolution or that the revolution will be subverted.

Question: And what was the role that the National Constituent Assembly plays in the country?

AA: On May 1, 2017, the Maduro government announced the daring convening of elections to the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) to be held on July 30, 2017. The country was in the throes of the U.S.-provoked crisis. This was the only way out for the well-being and peace of the entire nation. The time had come to “re-found” the Bolivarian Revolution, just as in 1999 with the new Constitution after the election of Chávez, who founded it as a first step.

Please allow me to pursue the “crossing of the Rubicon” metaphor. The successful NCA elections, its dramatic convening and the results work together to represent the first plunge into the Rubicon: the protagonist feature of the Bolivarian Revolution overtook its complementary participatory characteristic to become what Chávez said was “above all” the need for being protagonist and not only participatory.

The NCA itself constitutes the highest expression of a protagonist system whereby the people themselves govern. It thus provided the orientation and confidence for the state elections only two-and-a-half months later in order to propel the Bolivarian Revolution further toward crossing the river to the shore. This new form of people’s power is the basis for safeguarding and further developing Venezuela’s socialism.

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Thousands march in Seattle to denounce white supremacists

When Seattle anti-fascists of many political persuasions massed to protest a «Patriot Prayer» rally on Aug. 13, police prevented them from marching to the site of the far-right gathering. But they made their message heard regardless.

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March Anti-racism. Photo: Freedom Socialist Party

Police attack protesters trying to counter far-right rally

SEATTLE, Washington.- Downtown Seattle was awash with opponents of white supremacy on Sunday, August 13 as a diverse crowd of 2,000 marched in opposition to a rightwing “Patriot Prayer” rally at Westlake Park. Participation swelled dramatically as the counter-protest also became a response to the August 12 car attack on anti-racist demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia. Although police blocked the main protest from entering the park, the demonstrators’ message of solidarity reverberated through downtown canyons. In addition, several hundred protesters managed to enter the park and shout down the rally attended by 75 or so Trump supporters, Proud Boys, and militaristically clad allies.
 
The “Patriot Prayer” gathering was planned weeks earlier by Joey Gibson, of Vancouver, Washington, who claims to oppose racism, but whose events consistently draw white supremacists and neo-Nazis. He previously visited Seattle on June 10 as part of an anti-Muslim rally in Seattle that drew hundreds of counter-protesters.
 
Many of the organizations that came together in an ad hoc coalition to defend the Muslim community in June joined forces again for the August 13 march. Organizers and endorsers included Greater Seattle IWW General Defense Committee, Freedom Socialist Party, Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity, Veterans for Peace Chapter 94, Seattle Solidarity Network, Radical Women, ANSWERSeattle.org, SAFE in Seattle, Party for Socialism and Liberation, and Clifton Wyatt, former president of the International Association of Machinists Local A 751.
 
The M.L. King County Labor Council encouraged unionists to attend with a note stating, “If we are not fighting racism, sexism, homophobia we are not really fighting for workers’ rights.” Speaking for an endorsing union, Washington Federation of State Employees Local 304, Steve Hoffman addressed the key role of the labor movement in opposing the far right and roused the crowd before the march began with the slogan “An injury to one is an injury to all!”
 
Approaching the city core, marchers became frustrated as Seattle police repeatedly blocked their access to Westlake Park. Scores of police in riot gear, with bicycles, batons, tanks and other vehicles, blocked all intersections and alleyways leading to the park. They lobbed flash-bang grenades and pepper-sprayed protesters in unprovoked attacks on a crowd that included elders, children, and people with disabilities. In response, protesters chanted, “Who do you protect? Who do you serve?” and “Cops and Klan work hand in hand!”
 
“We need to protest to Seattle’s mayor and police chief for essentially taking the side of the racist reactionaries by teargassing locals who came to take a stand against them, while providing a military-type escort for the bigots,” said Patrick Burns, a union carpenter who was a marshal for the counter-protesters’ march.
 
“I urge everyone to call the City Council and demand that the police be brought under control,” said Annaliza Torres of Radical Women. Torres said sixty organizations and community leaders signed onto a letter protesting «biased policing» at the June anti-Muslim rally. She said police allowed the Proud Boys to repeatedly attack the anti-racist rally, but then pepper-sprayed and arrested the people who attempted to defend themselves. «We haven’t yet had a reply to our complaint. Instead, we got intensified police harassment today,” said Torres.
 
Su Docekal of the Freedom Socialist Party, one of the march organizers, said, “The police and the city absolutely violated our constitutional rights to protest and free speech. We know from experience with the Aryan Nations and others here in the Pacific Northwest that the way to prevent fascism from taking root is through direct, disciplined confrontation when they come out in public to recruit. Our goal is to build a broad, democratic united front able to stop them in their tracks.”

 

Source: Freedom Socialist Party LA

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