Phoenix Anarchists and O'odham youth protest toxic waste

Collin Sick,, October 17 2006
On October 12, 2006, Indigenous People’s Day, members from 7 valley groups stood outside of the Mexican consulate in Phoenix to say “No!” to a proposed chemical waste dump to be located outside the O’odham sacred village of Quitovac, in Mexico. The site would potentially treat and separate up to 45,000 tons of hazardous waste materials annually, including asbestos, organochlorides, and waste sludge from industries. The project, just a few miles south of the border, has been conducted with no involvement of the Indigenous O’odham communities.
There were approximately 25 protesters, and three detectives from the Phoenix PD, who were seen talking with two individuals the police later identified as employees of the US State Department. There were no arrests or injuries. The Phoenix Anarchist Coalition has been working with local indigenous activists for the last month, building relationship and solidarity in struggle. PAC will continue to work with the amazing activists from the O’odham Youth Collective, the Gila River Alliance for a Clean Environment, and the Yoeme Youth Alliance, and lend a hand in the continuing fight for native land, human rights, and autonomy.

audio: wav file (4.6 mebibytes)

Phoenix Anarchist Coalition – 0:00 – 6:15
Kevin from the O’odham Youth Collective – 6:22 – 9:40
Miguel from Yoeme Youth Alliance – 9:41 – 11:48
Lori from Gila River Alliance for a Clean Environment – 11:49 – 15:34
Chris from Gila River Alliance for a Clean Environment – 16:25 – 19:46
Text from Phoenix Anarchist Coalition’s Statement of Solidarity –
Today Phoenix Anarchist Coalition is grateful for the opportunity to stand up in solidarity with O’odham community activists in opposing construction of a toxic waste dump near Quitovac. Quitovac is an ancient lagoon in the Sonoran Desert south of the US-Mexican border. This oasis fed by natural artesian springs is the only drinkable water in 25 miles, and so it’s not surprising that this lagoon has been continuously inhabited by humans for thousands of years. Many of them were the ancestors of the Tohono O’odham of today. The oasis at Quitovac provides habitat for a richly bio-diverse community of plants and animals as well. Quitovac is also a site that is sacred to the O’odham religious tradition, the location of their summer ceremonies for renewal. The proposed toxic waste dump is by no means the first desecration of this O’odham holy place- from corrupt Mexican government surveyors taking away nearby Tohono O’odham winter fields and giving them to land speculators, to the demolition of much of the physical structure of the oasis to make room for an aborted development scheme, to the gold mine that continues to poison nearby residents with cyanide. Nor is O’odham resistance to land grabs by outside adventurers new. Indeed, their tradition of opposition to being colonized dates back at least 350 years.
So how are things different now? For one thing, Mexico is a failing nation-state. The nationalist legacy that the Mexican government inherited from bygone conquistador empires is now crumbling. Throughout its claimed territory, campesinos, urban workers, and indigenous nations are making common cause against their common enemy- the Federales from Mexico City. They aren’t necessarily putting their faith in electoral politics, either. No, they are simply reclaiming the power over their own lives that had been taken away. Indigenous tribes are taking back the lands their ancestors lived on. Workers are fed up with union padrones who until now have sold workers’ surrender to their friends in the employing classes over empanadas and margaritas at the country club. As a result, workers in factories are creating their own grassroots labor unions to oppose the graft of the government- and business-sanctioned “official” unions. The people of Oaxaca have taken community matters into their own hands in open popular assemblies. All over Mexico, people are saying no more! Enough already! We will no longer trade our lives and our dreams for so-called populism and pseudo-socialist rhetoric! Mexico’s governing classes have made too many compromises with U.S. and world business interests at the expense of the common people of Mexico.
We are waking up as well. We are becoming increasingly aware of our power as people when we stand together in solidarity. In the past Phoenix anarchists have been honored to join with the Colorado American Indian Movement to celebrate our kinship as human beings and to oppose Denver’s extremely distasteful annual parade in memory of Columbus, the genocidal sociopath. And today we in the Phoenix Anarchist Coalition think that Quitovac is worth standing up for. The world industrial economy is jeopardizing the careful ecological balance that sustains all life on Earth. That being the case, how can we afford to let the business profiteers cause so much harm to a way of life that demonstrates how humans can live in balance, and even in abundance, in the harshest of natural environments? At one time, all our ancestors were indigenous to somewhere, until conquerors came, murdering whole cultures and violently forcing people off their land. Then they sought to consolidate their conquests by stripping human meaning away from the people’s own lives and the Earth on which they lived, instead placing the source of human meaning in the sky after you die. That is how the conquest of the indigenous happened all over the world, and that is how it continues to happen today. While we can’t all be indigenous, we can recognize that we are all family, and, if we are to survive, we must re-learn to live in balance with the Earth and with each other.
And that is why we must stand up and speak in defense of Quitovac. Things being as they are in Mexico, this is a great opportunity to build alliances in a way that promises the possibility of re-making Mexican society in accordance with the values of freedom, dignity, justice, and equality. For twelve years, the Zapatistas of Chiapas have inspired all of Mexico and even the whole world. In that same spirit, we are now deeply inspired by the O’odham and other indigenous communities whenever they stand up for their land, the integrity of their sacred sites, and their rights to self-determination. Through solidarity with them, we hope to halt and reverse the damage being done by the conqueror/settler life-way to the Earth and its people, ourselves included.

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