Yesterday, as Baltimore restaged the intifada, protesters in Mexico, in Chilpancingo, the capital of the state of Guerrero, rammed a flaming truck into the glass-fronted congressional building, and set fire to at least six other vehicles. They had taken to the streets to mark the seven-month anniversary of the disappearances of the 43 students, who have come to represent the hundreds of thousands of dead as a result of US-Mexico’s drug, immigration, and trade policies (a number of the relatives of the disappeared are currently in New York, where they are appealing to the United Nations to end Washington’s so-called Merida Initiative, or Plan Mexico, which sends billions of dollars to Mexico to supposedly fight drugs but which the relatives of the 43 say goes to “suppress dissent”).
Elsewhere this week, in Oaxaca, protesters did damage to the building of the governing Partido Revolucionario Institucional. Videos of the Chilpancingo protest are here, here, here. In Mexico City, demonstrators erected an “anti-monument,” a large red 43 in the middle of the business center.
Obviously, the right way to think about the murder of Freddie Gray and the protests that followed is to think deeply about slavery and post-abolition racism in the United States. Immediately after the trouble began yesterday, historians and critics on social media were broadcasting information about Baltimore’s history as a slave port, its long history of police brutality, its equally long history of resisting race terror. Apparently, Spiro Agnew’s law-and-order response to a protest that turned violent in 1968 bought him his spot on Nixon’s ticket.
One can also, without diluting the power of that deep history, think about the repression and reaction laterally, as an effect of the same transnational policing and trade policies responsible for the disappearance of the 43 student-activists in Mexico. Since the August murder of Michael Brown and the September abduction of the 43 Mexican students, #BlackLivesMatter and #TodosSomosAyotzinapa are just two of the hashtags that have captured distinct heterodox protest movements that are converging.
I was at an event the other night at CUNY, a “Citizen’s Tribunal,” part of a “caravan” that is bringing the parents and advocates of the 43 disappeared to over 40 US cities (Roberto Lovato writes about it here in The Nation). At the CUNY event, a lawyer for the parents said that the two principal obstacles to “neoliberalism”—and hence the two principal targets of neoliberalism’s enforcers—were the ejidos, that is, peasant communities who still hold and work their land in common, and the rural teacher-training institutes (like the one where the 43 were enrolled), which for decades has taken the lead in protesting the dispossession generated by “free trade.” In the wake of Baltimore, that observation put me to think that Mexican peasant communities and African-American urban communities are broadly structurally analogous in their relation to “free trade” capitalism.