LAS CRUCES, N.M. - An unprecedented wave of protest against the international financial elite and prevailing economic policies swept the globe on October 15. And New Mexico, Mexico and the greater US-borderlands were no exceptions. Protests were chalked up in San Diego, Tijuana, Las Cruces, Ciudad Juarez and Mexico City, among many other places. In El Paso, an encampment was announced beginning Monday, October 17, in the city’s downtown San Jacinto Plaza.
In neighboring Ciudad Juarez, protesters from several groups began their action in the downtown plaza but culminated at the US Consulate, where they blasted US economic domination. The world economy, said activist Julian Contreras, was “leaving many people abandoned while privileging the banks and big businessman and not generating employment or letting the young people study…”
Demonstrators also criticized proposals to legally allow soldiers the ability to search homes without a warrant issued by a judge. The Ciudad Juarez event was held at a time when the city is in the middle of a gala, two-week event organized by the government and private sector to improve the city’s image and attract more investment.
In Mexico City, different protests involving hundreds of young people likewise linked issues of violence related the so-called drug war to economic inequities.
“We should unite all the young people, use the social networks to make a new revolution, and construct a new democracy in which there is no violence and inequalities,” said one student at a new protest encampment set up at the Revolution Monument.
Other Mexican protests were reportedly held or planned in Guadalajara, Morelia, San Cristobal de las Casas, Oaxaca City, Cancun, and more than a dozen other cities.
“From American to Asia, from Africa to Europe, the people are rising up to reclaim their rights and ask for an authentic democracy,” declared dozens of pot-banging demonstrators in Monterrey, Mexico’s violence-torn, old industrial powerhouse of the north.
Two days prior to October 15, more than 100 students rallied at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces in a local manifestation of a new national student movement that’s grown out of the original New York City occupation of Zuccotti Park, now rechristened Liberty Square, on the edge of Wall Street.
Other New Mexico cities witnessing October 15 weekend protests included Carlsbad, Roswell, Farmington, Taos, Santa Fe and, of course, the state’s largest city of Albuquerque.
The October 15 Duke City demonstration was a fusion of Americana, Third World iconography and working-class history.
Members of the AFSCME and 1199 unions were plainly visible in a highly spirited display of pent-up outrage against the economic powers-that-be. A younger crowd of protesters marched up Central Avenue from the Occupy/Liberate Albuquerque encampment at the University of New Mexico (UNM) to hook up an older, sign-waving group already positioned in front of a Wells Fargo Bank in the Nob Hill district.
Amid many fluttering American flags, a Che Guevara banner was draped across a bank fence while a nearby sign quoted the late comedian George Carlin on the American Dream.
A leaflet handed out at the event and bearing a picture of a huge mother pig criticized Wells Fargo’s lending practices and contrasted the earnings between an average bank teller and 2007-2008 company Chairman Richard Kovacevich, who the authors’ claimed made more than 662 times the pay of a teller.
A visual sampling of signs quickly revealed the crowd’s political sentiments: “No One Elected the Koch Brothers, “End Plutocracy,” “Bring Back Sherman Tillman and Glass Stegall,” “My Son Deserves a Future,” “Stop the Wars..,” “We are the Real Tea Party,” “Honk if you are Underpaid.”
And numerous motorists honked back, tapping their horns in such a crescendo of bleeps that it was difficult to hear at times. “We are the 99 percent,” “This is what Democracy looks like” and “People Power” chanted a crowd of hundreds made up of the old, the young and the middle-aged. A man was heard urging the return of FDR.
Covered with placards and armed with a list of websites related to a movement that is leaping across continents and rattling political establishments from north to south and from east to west, a woman who identified herself as Tami from Mountainair said October 15 was directed “against globalization and privatization that the banks are spearheading with their massive amounts of money…we bailed them out, we own them.”
A pair of women discovered an innovative use for one of the orange barrels used in the endless road work that makes driving around Albuquerque these days a navigational nightmare, transforming the barrier into a makeshift drum, while down the sidewalk the Raging Grannies musical combo delivered a round of a capella favorites including “Where Have all Our Taxes Gone,” performed to the tune of the old folk classic “Where Have all the Flowers Gone.”
Addressed to mayors and police chiefs, a printed message protested the clearing of Occupy Movement protesters in cities like Denver and reminded authorities of the existence of something called the First Amendment.
“When people across the Middle East occupied public squares, leaders in Washington mostly cheered these protesters and warned Middle Eastern governments not to use force to clear them…” read the statement.
On one corner Elizabeth Mirra carried a sign that read “Save Military Retirements.” In comments to Frontera NorteSur, Mirra said she was very concerned about proposals heard on Capitol Hill of late to slash military retirement pay by 20 percent and raise health insurance premiums for veterans. Until now, Mirra said she and her retired husband, who served 22 years in the military, have been able to live a very good life on his pension but cuts could force the couple “back to work.”
Mirra said the talk about cushy pensions perhaps fits “admirals and generals,” but the criticisms don’t apply to most veterans who receive 50 percent of their active-duty pay. A one-year resident of Albuquerque, Mirra said she also stood with teachers and other workers whose pensions were similarly threatened. “It infuriates me that that one percent of the people like hedge fund managers and war profiteers pay 15 percent (tax),”she added.
The demonstrators’ demands as well as warnings against state repression were strikingly similar to those heard in Mexican protests that erupted after the 1994/95 economic crisis and bank bail-out, events which ushered in an era of austerity and public debt that is still being paid off years later.
Like other places, the Occupy/Liberate movements in New Mexico are not ending with October 15. A teach-in is planned for UNM this coming week, while the Albuquerque City Council is poised to issue a proclamation on Monday, October 17, in support of the protests.
Backed by City Council Vice-President Rey Garduno, the proclamation puts the contemporary movement in historical context, declaring that “Albuquerqeans know that being the 99% also means dealing with the historical legacy of occupation by foreign powers in pursuit of profit; being targeted today by polluting industries; and watching our tax dollars go to bail out wealthy corporations while young people can’t afford to go to college….
In continuation, the proclamation declares that workers, people of color, immigrants and indigenous nations “know all too well what occupation really means,” and that the privileged one percent of the population and “their protectors in government” threaten to slash and squeeze safety nets and economically beneficial programs.
The proclamation ends, “We are the 99 percent and we stand with the Occupy Wall Street Movement.”
By Sunday, October 16, less than a month after the first spark was lit in New York, nearly 2,000 cities worldwide were involved in one way or another in the new movement that’s beginning to shake up global politics, according to the website occupytogether.org.