Friday, November 10
SOA Watch’s field Organizer, Maria Luisa Rosal, began the event by highlighting the importance of having the SOA Watch Encuentro happening at the Border, and reminded the crowd of how border militarization has expanded into all of Latin America, through US intervention. Then a more detailed analysis of the current political climate of central america was outlined by Brigitte Gynther, SOA Watch’s Latin America Liaison. She highlighted the 2009 coup in Honduras, and how that has affected community organizing; specially in respect to the lack of justice for the late Berta Cáceres. Gaspar Sánchez from COPINH (Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras), then spoke as to some of the organizing happening in Honduras. He specified that there needed to be not only justice for Berta, but there needed to be reform in Honduras. The first step for that reform to be possible, was to stop US financed intervention in Honduras, which is why Gaspar expressed the vitality of being at the SOA Watch Border Encuentro. The crowd then was given a rundown of the day’s events, as well as what to do when confronted by police during any of the weekend’s.
The workshops were separated in two time blocks with 3 workshops each. The first time block included “Justice for Berta Cáceres” by COPHIN; “2017 Trans-Gay Migrant Caravan: The Struggle Continues” by Colectivo Diversidad Sin Fronteras; and “Migrant’s Journeys from Central America to Washington, DC” by American Friends Service Committee. All of these workshops touched on the way that migration is linked with U.S. influence in Latin America, like through the Merida Initiative, which provides funding to Mexico to implement harsher immigration laws for Central and South American migrants.
The second set of workshops focused on the criminalization of black and brown bodies and how to combat systems of oppression. The sessions were as follows: “The Criminalization of Migration: Prosecution of “Illegal” Entries and Re-entries” by Coalición de Derechos Humanos, End Streamline Coalition, Mijente, Puente Arizona; “From Palestine to Mexico, All the Walls Have Got to Go: BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) and Border Militarization” by Palestinian BDS National Committee, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, Friends of Sabeel North America; and “Black Liberation, Reparations and the Fight Against US Imperialism” by Witness for Peace – South West.
End Operation Streamline Rally
In the afternoon there was a rally in front of the Federal Courthouse in downtown Tucson to protest Operation Streamline; the criminal proceeding that illegally charges migrants en masse, that happens there daily.
The first of four speakers was Norlan Flores, an organizer with the Southside Worker Center who went through Operation Streamline and shared his experiences of being processed along with more than 70 others in a courtroom where “your only option of defense is to admit guilt”, which is in fact “not a defense at all”. His powerful words were followed by Nellie Jo David, a member of the Tohono O’odham nation, who spoke of the militarization of O’odham land, and the forces that drive migrants to their deaths. Jessica Rodríguez, an organizer and DACA recipient, deplored the crowd to show up, not just when laws are challenged, and not just for dreamers, but also for their parents, and family. She spoke of a compañero that had been detained at a Motel 6 in town because the staff had called la migra, how he should have been standing in the crowd with us. The final speaker of the afternoon was Leilani Clark, a local organizer that broke down for the crowd just why programs like Operation Streamline exist; simply to funnel money to the deportation machine.
The large crowd circled the block chanting and singing before the speakers told their important truths and the rally concluded with a reading of the names of the 147 people who have died in the desert this year alone, asserting “presente” for each one.
End All Detention: Eloy Movilization
Hundreds of people gathered for a vigil outside of Eloy Detention Center, an immigration prison that currently detains close to 1,600 migrant and asylum-seeking brothers and sisters. It was an evening to commemorate the souls who have died while crossing the Sonoran Desert, and show our solidarity for the souls who are continuously criminalized and imprisoned for mobilizing—a mobilization that is forced upon them by the detrimental effects of U.S. imperialism and U.S.-inflicted violence in their home countries.
We asked ourselves: What if this immigration prison behind us were to close and re-open as a free university for folks? For that moment, we were vocal about our hope that we will be last generations to see that repulsive building. As the sun set, these words traveled with the wind: let’s be Eloy’s sunset. Let’s be the people who will witness the shutting down of these prisons. Their disappearance. “Las paredes de Eloy vamos a tumbar, para que las familias se puedan abrazar,” The Peace-Poets free-styled as the sky went dark. By then, all we could see were the candles lighting our path closer toward Eloy’s gates. “¡No están solos!” We screamed. Our brothers and sisters could hear us through the cement and glass that’s caged them for weeks, months, years. In the distance, we saw their messages. They covered and uncovered the light in their cells, signaling they could hear us. They could see us. No están solos.
Tear Down the Walls, Buld Up the People Concert
The Tear Down the Walls, Build Up the People concert at Solar Culture, co-sponsored by SOA Watch and Coalicion de Derechos Humanos featured performances by Teré Fowler-Chapman, Top Nax, Shining Soul, Santa Pachita, Lando Chill, Carlos Arzate, Rattle Ry, Ciphurphace & DJ Grapla, DJ Humble Lianess, and b-boy dancers.
The night started out with DJ Humble Lianess’ ambient instrumental hip hop accompanied by an interpretive dancer. In the next set, spoken word poet Teré called out white passivity and the cooptation of black culture with several readings from their new book of poems, “Bread &”. Top Nax’s boom bap style hip-hop got heads bobbing while b-boys and b-girls break danced in a circle in the middle of the crowd. The night of music, poetry, and dancing came to a stop when the MC Leilani Clark called Jessica Rodriguez, a local community organizer, to the stage with an urgent call to action. The compañero from the Southside Worker Center who was detained at a Motel 6 earlier in the day is eligible to be released first thing in the morning, but $1,100 are needed to cover his bond. Jessica highlighted the importance that the compañero be released on Saturday morning, as after the holiday weekend ICE will likely take him into detention. By the end of the evening, concert-goers had donated enough that they are only a couple hundred dollars short of the full amount.