Blogger's Second Dispatch from a Borderless World
I'm writing this now from the independent media center at the No Borders Camp, where heavy winds are blowing sand across my keyboard and across the camp. Friday was full of confrontation and exuberance at this convergence, beginning before breakfast when we butted heads with riot police.
The plan was simple: serve breakfast close to the policed vehicle barrier currently separating the Mexican and U.S. sides of the No Borders Camp, thus bridging a militarized border with pancakes and oatmeal. As campers milled around, the U.S. perimeter was dismantled and folks were encouraged to mill into the area, undermining the border patrol's control of the space; bikes, water bottles and scrap wood were removed--and a couch was moved out in--to an area previously held by floodlights and military jeeps.
This simple (and satiating) act of solidarity quickly drew the ire of the border patrol, who panicked at the site of brown people crowding close to a political boundary and called in riot police to separate the two sides. The first line of decked-out migra, armed with clubs and shields, brushed past confused U.S. anarchists who found ourselves unsure what to do at the threat of physical force--an understandable reaction, but one that put our compas on the other side at serious risk of being injured by the racist power structure. When a second line of riot cops approached, we lived up to our name and linked arms, blocking a line of angry border patrol agents with our own bodies.
The situation exploded. People scrambled to the front lines, reinforcing barricades and effectively trapping two migra jeeps and the existing line of riot cops between contingents of tense radical anti-authoritarians on either side of the vehicle barrier. Out came the pepper spray and the billy clubs--and on the far side of the Mexicali camp, Mexican police arrived and formed a skirmish line of their own. Needless to say, breakfast was tense.
The standoff ensued before anyone had a chance to eat, with anarchist spokespeople demanding the withdrawal of the armed threat to our Mexican compas, and the removal of one migra jeep to facilitate our meal. Between chanting Retreat! Retreat! Let us eat! and What do we want? Breakfast! When do we want it? Now!, hungry anarchists with conjoined elbows debated incoming proposals from the border patrol brass, and came to a consensus literally feet from clubs and pepper spray.
Nearly an hour later, the anarchist line shifted to allow the jeep and riot cops to retreat, and breakfast continued in a tense but de-escalatory manner. The result of our collective bargaining: we would be allowed a portion of the vehicle barrier (about 4 feet) across which we could commune, talk and feed one another, while the border patrol would still control the left side of the boundary through which people could pass on foot. We also secured an agreement that our Mexican members could move their tents directly up to their side of the vehicle barrier, which la migra would treat as the political border between the U.S. and Mexico even though, technically, the sandy expanse beyond it is also U.S. land.
Despite the surprise and contention Friday morning, campers on both sides proved that through direct action we could force the power structure to concede some of our demands; it took standing in solidarity with one another and putting our bodies on the line to pry open fissures in the borders between us.
The day continued in a similar key: while most U.S. campers traveled to El Centro to tear slats off the fence surrounding an ICE detention camp, I helped put up a new radio antenna and transmitter that allowed the camp's pirate radio station to broadcast many times farther than it had before. The ICE action transitioned into a radical street party at a Calexico border crossing, and campers later returned to an acoustic punk show at the same vehicle barrier for which they had fought a few hours prior.
Anarchists from both sides gathered 'round, singing "fuck la migra" songs while border patrol agents stood by and gritted their teeth. A guitar was passed back and forth to both sides of the camp, despite migra objections that the instrument technically counted as contraband. I think everyone was struck by our gathering of multinational radical youth, singing against a brutal, insipid status quo and dreaming together toward liberation.
Afterward, to the bewilderment of the border patrol, a dance party enveloped the vehicle barrier and hundreds gyrated late into the night. A binational kissing booth, a failed-but-hilarious attempt to turn government floodlights into dance lighting with makeshift gels, and a wireless mic passed around the Mexican side of the camp were the evening's highlights. Music would've been played from the Mexican side of the camp, but unfortunately their DJ cancelled.
Saturday continues to capitalize on the victories of the previous day, with all-camp meetings and discussions taking place at the vehicle barrier, and a further wave of campers from the U.S. side crossing over to meet their compas to the south.
Crossposted from Lines of Flight
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