By Geoffrey Harman
The Other Journalism with the Other Campaign in Oaxaca
June 14, 2006, OAXACA CITY:
In a scene that is starting to look all too familiar in Mexico, the police attempted to disrupt the Oaxaca teachers strike in downtown Oaxaca City this morning. At roughly 3 a.m. a police helicopter flew low over the tent city where the teachers have been camped for the past 23 days and shot canisters of tear gas.
Meanwhile, 3,000 state police armed with riot shields and clubs entered the chaos and tore apart the roughshod shelters where the teachers had been staying. During the course of the six-hour police intervention three people were reported to have been killed, two women and one child.
(Four journalists from the station were among the first to be arrested: Arcelio Ruiz Villanueva, Ociel Martínez Martínez, Eduardo Castellanos Morales and Roberto Gazga.)
The teachers are now broadcasting on the college radio station 89.7 FM and 113.95 AM. At roughly 10 am the police retreated and the teachers re-took the Zócalo. During the course of the struggle unconfirmed reports have said four people were arrested (three of which were from Radio Plantón),
20 people hospitalized and three police taken hostage.It was a blow that many of the 70,000 teachers who have been on strike since the 22nd of May were expecting.
Rumors had been circulating that federal police had arrived to Oaxaca several weeks ago and were lying in wait. The police that attacked this morning are believed to have been a Oaxaca state force. However, four airplanes of Federal Preventive Police (PFP in its Spanish initials) have since arrived and the 30,000 people who currently occupy the city center are waiting for the other shoe to drop, as it did in Atenco (it was the PFP that, along with state police, staged the bloody invasion of San Salvador Atenco on May 4).
As of 1:00 pm the mood in the center is one of tense anticipation. The teachers have set up road blocks that span roughly 30 city blocks and are anxiously watching the helicopters that are now circling. The noise of the helicopters’ engines echos through the now car-free streets. The purpose of the early morning attack seems to have been to clear the streets of the tents, tarps and improvised shelters where the teachers had been staying. The streets are now blocked off with damaged busses and trash trucks and some of the shelters are being rebuilt.It is all too familiar, and leaves one wondering how two obvious human rights abuses can come on the heels of one another.
This the first time that such tactics have been used against the teachers during a strike and that it would happen so soon after the atrocities at Atenco and only a month before an election shows both a complete disregard for human rights and a contempt for the national and international outcry that the first incident provoked. There is a sad fatalism that is now pervading the city — as if the thousands of teachers now occupying the center, and the thousands of teachers and supporters who are currently traveling from their homes to take part, have a collective premonition of what is to come.
There are roughly 30,000 teachers currently in the center, but upon hearing about the attack, other teachers, NGOs and other groups rushed to the city. The police force that occupied this morning was roughly 3,000 but the reinforcements that have since arrived put the number much higher. It seems that Atenco was just a warm-up in many ways. The people in the city center are digging in and waiting. To all those who oppose the draconian repression currently underway: the more observers that witness what now seems inevitable the harder it will be for the government to deny it.
Ed. Note: Narco News has received confirmation that the four planes were of the model Hercules, the same kind used by US military forces to transport troops. Each carries 92 persons.