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Photos of the very early part of the battle at the university
This is a republish of text I published before:
After my friend Brad was killed last Friday I came to Oaxaca. I was not sure what I could add but it hasd been constant activity here as this struggle grows and strengthens. On Sunday I flew to mexico City then took the bus to Oaxaca. While I was doing this 4,000 federal police (PFP) stormed the city. They now hold the city center and are removing barricades and trying to restore order. The APPO strategy has been ungovernability. While the police can capture certain areas and defeat some APPO tactics the city and much of the state remains ungovernable. The protests grow, more villages in the surrounding area join the struggle and build barricades and solidarity in Mexico and the world grow.
The struggle began with a teachers strike and the teachers are a central part of the movement. Evected from the central square they gather everyday in front of the Santo Domingo Church. November 2, I arrived at 10:00. There were few people. They said "The university is surrounded by the PFP." We marched with 100 people, women first. Actually the conflict began when the police arrived at Cinco Senores, a strategic intersection two blocks form the university. It was well barricaded with busses but the police got through and made a bunch of arrests. When the march I was on got there the barricades were gone and a police line stopped our march. I ran around a block and saw a similar scene of 100 people chanting in front of the police line. I went some blocks more and there were barricades and no cops. I finally got to the radio entrance to the university. People opened the gate and several of us ran in. The gate was piled with bricks and a road grader was prepared to charge the police. Inside was the radio in its fence, barricaded and with guard on the roof and all over. A speaker was set up and we could hear what they were broadcasting. They were calling on everyone to come defend them. There was also a kitchen and places for people to sleep and an alter to Brad and the others killed in the struggle.
People called for us to go to the other corner of the university, the police were atacking. We streamed off. We rushed out of that gate and a furious riot was in progress. Punks, student and others were throwing rocks and shooting giant bottle rockets at the cops. The cops had on armor, helmets and shields and were advancing on the last barricade. The fight was intense but the cops advanced and other cops cleared away the barricades and vehicles behind the line. Many people ran into the university. The rest of us retreated down the street in front. Then we counter attacked. There were then not too many police and more of us every minute. We drove the police back. People used rocks, slings, slingshots, rockets and molotovs. The police were pushed back and around a corner. A propane cylinder was opened and set on fire. Some ran in fear others threw molotovs. Then one of the huge water cannon tanks came roaring up and we ran. Teargas was everywhere and people were afraid of being run over. There was still fighting but we were driven back. Finally most of us ran into the university and the gates were locked. Gas was all over and we retreated to make a last stand at the radio. The radio often calls on people to protest pacifically, nonviolence and dont provoke the police. Now they said, "Enough pacifism, bring gasoline." The cops could have smashed into the university but they are not legally allowed to enter and they eventually said the operation was just to clear the streets of barricades. So I thought I was to be beaten and deported but no.
Time went by in front of the radio. Older women were cooking in the kitchen. There were two molotov factories and two dozen women were bussy filling bottles with gasoline and wierd stuff and stuffing in rags. Meanwhile there were battles on roads and side streets all over. There were nonviolent actions, barricades, and battles.
People called for reinforcements at one corner of the university. Dozens of people ran over and the police and tanks were just over the 10 foot wall. On the west side there were places with just bars and the cops could be seen. Hundreds of rocks were thron. Whenever the tanks advanced they were targetted with molotvs and often caught on fire (but were fire proof). The tanks shot water (and mayber pepperspray) police threw teargas and hundreds of rocks back. Russian made military helicopters circled overhead and police threw more grenades at us. Luckily it was mostly a field and people could avoid the gas clouds or throw back the grenades. The grenades did set the underbrush on fire and it was an amazing scene. Molotova and rocks flying over the wall, teargas, plywood for shields and smoke everywhere. People would come running up with crates of 24 molotovs. Wemen brought up buckets of rocks or dug them from the ground. The radio called for vinegar and more bottles. Soon people were running into the university with more crates of bottles. Everyone participated in the defence of the radio, every kind of person did something. The front lines of the battle were mostly men but almost all the work was done by women. At one point women from one molotov factory called out, "Hey men help us. Dont just sit there."
People would run over to the radio area and grab something to eat, drink, more molotovs or just to rest.
By about 2:00 the police moved back a bit and everyone ran out of the university. The police were barraged with rocks and molotovs and driven back. At every side street we grew in numbers. But the police counter attacked with the tanks and gas and their own vollies of rocks. Wer ran back but then people charged again and both tanks were hit by multiple molotovs and retreated. The crowd surged forward and drove the police back. By 3:00 the police were in full retreat and a jubilant crowd of thousands gathered at Cinco Senores as busses burned in the background. The helicopters circled throwing dozens of grenades but soon they too left.
We had won. We defended the radio, even if that had not been the cops target. We showed that they could not push past us easily. As the slogan says, "We are going to win this fight-Whatever it takes."
The radio called for food and soon food to feed thousands was pouring in. Everyone was so happy and excited. Our movement is strong and will win. We ate and celebrated while others rebuilt the barricades in front of the university and at Cinco Senores.
Hudreds of us slept there and guards were posted as usual. The radio played revolutionary music and friends invited more foriegners to come join the Oaxaca Comune.
Here is a great video by La Jornada the leftist newspaper. It is in Spanish but is good anyway. The early speakers are saying that the university has autonomy and that the cops are not allowed to enter it (this is true in most of the world). They are not even allowed to attack it.
The really amazing thing about APPO is its participative nature. There are leaders but they really follow the lead of the people. Most actions are organized by small groups and carried out. This is how APPO functions. Major press conferences, negociations with the government and such are carried out by leaders after assemblies are held to decide what will be done. At the university the police came and groups decided how to respond. The radio called on people to come and what to bring but no more. Everyone organized themselves spontaniously. Most organizing is around encampments and barricades and spontanious action.
I tried to talk about sexism in society and the movement and the amazing participation of women on all levels in my article. I hope that was clear that it showed what happened and what still needs to be done.
After the battle the show of solidarity was amazing. There was so much food that people were begging us to eat. Hundreds of bottles of vinergar were stacked up. Thousands of bottles came in. The molotov factories worked late into the night and stockpiled about 2,000 molotovs. Now that the battle was over men also began to work. One guy with his bandana over his face cleaned the stopped up toilets, an older guy served food and many moved supplies or worked in the molotov factories. I really can not express how this is a struggle of everyone, the people of Oaxaca. I saw a rather plump woman in heals, fancy jewelry and a matching gauzy top and skirt walk up to a group of dirt smeared and sweat stained molotov fillers and street fighters and announce that she was going to be giving massages. Everyone participated-everyone did what they could.
Hundreds of us spent the night at the university. In the morning we jumped up to watch the 6:00 news. It was full of lies. People laughed every time it showed cops getting hurt. I am not in favor of hurting cops but it was understandable after 14 people on our side have been killed. At 6:20 about 15 shots rang out in quick succesion and we all dove to the ground. People screamed and ran around. After a moment a cry went up, "Los cohetes." Teams of guys with tubes and large bottle rokets ran toward the shots. I guess it was an attack on the radio antena from paramilitaries. No serious damage was done.
We all ate breakfast then people drove into the university with a Pepsi truck and people formed a "bucket brigade" to unload it. Soon a milk products truck was brought in as well. Then a truck came of its own will. It was filled with food sent by an outlaying APPO village.
I walked up to Cinco Senores. The intersection was well guarded by people with bottle rockets and crates of molotovs. The backhoe had dug a trunch across the road. The grafitti said, "We will never forget the 2nd of October (1968, when the government massacred hundreds of students in Mexico City) but the 2nd of November was unforgettable."
throwing rocks at cops
tube for bottle rockets
women at work in the molotov factory
Inside the university in front of the radio
In front of radios barricade
Some grendades the cops used