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Dear friends, comrades and strangers at Occupy Vancouver,
Over the past month I've been following developments in downtown Vancouver from Mexico, where I'm working on a project I've been planning for almost a year. Since I've been here, there's been more than a few moments when I've felt like geting on a plane, train or bus and come "home" to support you all.
It is hard to miss these events, but in another way it's beautiful to be able to check out the Vancouver Media Co-op and watch and read about what's happening. To all of you, I want to say: Thanks.
Yesterday I spent a good part of the day with Indignadxs in Ciudad Juárez, who began organizing under that name in response to the October 15th call.
In this city, where over 9,000 people have been murdered over the past three years, the conditions don't exist to set up tents and "occupy" public space en masse.
On November 1st, the day of the dead, a group of Indignadxs took part in a peace march through downtown Juárez, wheat pasting crosses to the walls in memory of the dead. They were gathered under the slogan "El luto no basta! En Juárez, todos los días son días de Muertos/Mourning is not enough! In Juarez, every day is the day of the dead,” and in memory of Darío Álvarez Orrantia, a university student who was badly injured by police during a march against militarization almost exactly one year ago.*
Police provoked and attacked the demonstration, arresting activists. Later they went after the jail solidarity gathering. In total, twenty-seven activists and their supporters and two journalists were arrested and held overnight. Many of the folks I met with yesterday still sported bruises from police beatings.
This in a city where every day there are multiple murders, as well as regular arsons and disappearances, which go uninvestigated and whose perpetrators go unpunished.
In their first meeting after the mass arrest, which folks figured is the first arrest of its kind in Juárez in about 20 years, it was immediately decided to take the streets again. On November 26th, the Indignadxs of Juárez will march again with their crosses, refusing silence.
Here in Juárez there is supposedly a "drug war," but many of the people I have talked to insist that there's no such thing. Instead, they say, there's a war by the state on the people, on poor people. The perpetrators are the police, the army, and paramilitary groups operating with state support.
A couple of the Indignadxs I met with yesterday talked about overcoming fear and silence in this context, and how they believe Juárez really a kind of laboratory for the future. "What is happening here will happen up there in 10-15 years," one man told me yesterday evening.
He's a community organizer in Villas de Salvarcar, a barrio in southeast Juárez where in early 2010 gunmen opened fire on a birthday party, killing 16 people, most of them teenagers.
Yesterday afternoon I visited Villas de Salvarcar, and met with people who are taking over abandoned houses and transforming them into libraries and community spaces. Daily acts of occupation. Lived acts of solidarity and autonomy in the face of extreme repression and a climate of near total impunity. Concrete reclamations of space in a context where people can simply no longer believe the empty promises of the state.
This letter is an inadequate homage to the brave people and the Indignadxs of Juárez, and to the folks participating in Occupy Vancouver. To you all, again: Thank you.
In solidarity and struggle,
*An earlier version said Darío Álvarez Orrantia was killed by police. In fact he was shot five times but miraculously survived. My apologies and thank you to a reader for pointing out my mistake.