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Upping the Anti, 19 June 2009

Below is the report from Movement for Justice in El Barrio on their Second Encuentro for Humanity and Against Displacement. I’ll link to more reports on the Encuentro at this post as they come out…

To our sisters and brothers of The People’s Front in Defense of the Land:
To our Zapatista sisters and brothers:
To our compañer@s, adherents of the Other Campaign in Mexico:
To our compañer@s adherents of the Zezta Internazional:
To our compañer@s adherents of the International Campaign in Defense of El Barrio and our allies from all over the world:

From the Other New York and zapatista East Harlem, which is not for sale and does not forget the prisoners of Atenco, receive a greeting from the women, men, and children, those socially marginalized and globally excluded, who belong to The Other Campaign New York, Movement for Justice in El Barrio:

We are writing to share with you that this past Sunday, June 7th, 2009, we held here, in zapatista East Harlem known as El Barrio, the Second New York City Encuentro for Dignity and Against Displacement, with the participation of 38 organizations representing the resistance against neoliberalism in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. This second encuentro, just as the first one – held two years ago -, was inspired by the encuentros of the Zapatistas in Mexico from below and to the left, in order to get know each other and recognize one another in our struggles for a world where many worlds fit and against neoliberal exclusion.

As The People’s Front in Defense of the Land expressed in their message sent to us from Atenco for our Second Encuentro: “One fight unites us, the fight against capitalism. It does not matter where we find ourselves, in Harlem, Bombay, Buenos Aires, Zaragoza, Sidney, Cochabamba, Paris, Manchester, the fight against all forms of domination are one and the same.” This is what we confirmed in this encuentro, where in addition to exchanging experiences and informing each other about our forms of struggle, we had the opportunity to go into depth about who we are, where we are, the conditions we face, our forms of struggle, who is our enemy, and what is our dream. We arrived at the conclusion that, just as we did in the First Encuentro, the enemy of the organizations fighting displacement is the capitalist system of global exclusion, including the fact that this system has allies who operate at a local level as tools of the system.

As our compañero Filiberto expressed, representing Movement for Justice in El Barrio:

Eviction and displacement are happening all over the world. Which is why we have to organize so that united we can destroy this corrupt system in its entirety. Here in El Barrio we have realized that the Mayor Mike Bloomberg and the city council members: Melissa Mark-Viverito, Robert Jackson, and Inez Dickens do not represent the community and on the contrary support and implement aggressive plans for displacement. These politicians have approved projects that directly affect the entire community, they make the people think that they are for the development and progress of the community, but they do not publicize the bad side of their proposals… By keeping themselves in a position to fill their pockets with money, these politicians are capable of buying the people, as in the case of one of our compañeros whom Melissa Mark-Viverito offered money to in exchange for abandoning Movement and working with her, but he refused and did not sell out. But we know that certain organizations and groups do sell out and receive money from politicians and do not represent the community, also they do fake publicity stunts and promote themselves as being against displacement when everything is the contrary.

The distinct groups from New York that participated in our round table discussion echoed this reflection. Representatives from the Thomas Jefferson Houses Tenants Association, Coalition to Preserve Community, Harlem Tenants Council, Sunset Park Alliance of Neighbors, and the combative group CAAAV from Chinatown were there, amongst others, including the group Make the Road New York that presented us with a skit about their struggle, with songs that spoke about the deplorable housing conditions they face and the useless or false response from the landlords and politicians.

Through this exchange CAAAV informed us that, in Chinatown, urban rezoning plans in the last year have accelerated to the point that people must remove all of their belongings and evacuate their homes within three hours. Meanwhile, in Harlem, the criminalization of being young and African American is a tactic of war against the community in order to expel them, not just from Harlem but from the entire system, since the young people who are arrested and marked with criminal records will no loner have access to basic services, such as housing, and to essential human rights, such as education. “Our young people are being killed in our streets by the police, for the single fact of being youth,” expressed our compañeros.

With respect to the subject of education, which should be free, and the repression of youth, we want to share with our fellow student and youth members of The Other Campaign the reflections concerning the rezoning plans in the surrounding area of Columbia University, which is a private university. “They tell us that the university is good, that it cooperates with the community, and that the reurbanization plans for its surrounding areas are good for the community because they will bring a safe environment. But how? As soon as neighborhoods become residential zones, along with evicting the original community members through violent means, police arrive, sieges arrive, armed detectives arrive,” expressed our compañero from the Coalition to Preserve Community in the surrounding area of Columbia University, pointing out that this has to do with a system of global exclusion. Referring to a university that promotes excluding rebellious and informed students and educating only the elites of the United States, he stated, “It is not just the elites of this country but the elites of the whole world, so it will be those who are privileged who will be displacing poor people from communities.”

For their part, the representatives of that community told us the history of Central and West Harlem and of the streets that are beginning to change due to Mayor Bloomberg’s plans to rezone the area. A fundamental part of our dialogue referred to those allies of the system: elected public officials that, in their district, try to bribe the people, and the “community boards” that first tried to fool the people into believing that the displacement will only happen with their opinion. “Meanwhile, the contracts with the big construction companies were already signed a long time ago; the government officials and the members of these community boards already know the pact is made since before: they don’t fool us,” expressed the representing organizations.

Likewise, one of the aspects of our struggle in our very own community, El Barrio, consists of dealing with cosmetic organizations that, paid for by the local government, try to confuse the community by organizing activities that don’t represent the local community, with merely theatrical effects, without any social or economic repercussions, even falsely imitating symbols of the social struggle. While they do this, they promote the political agenda of public officials that approve and impose, from above, their plans of displacement. Nonetheless, we were pleased to see that, at this second encuentro, in addition to the organizations in favor of our same cause and that were with us two years ago, many more organizations joined us as well.

In the segment of our program that followed, we showed the New York City premiere of the video that we received about the struggle in New Orleans against neoliberal displacement. As very few know, at the end of last year, the City Council of New Orleans, made up by mostly white people, not only allowed an attack, but they themselves ridiculed in front of the cameras, the protesters, members of the African American community, victims of Hurricane Katrina whose homes were demolished in order to build luxury condos. They were reprimanded, beaten, sprayed with tear gas and arrested.

We expressed our solidarity with the people of New Orleans in resistance and we reiterated our struggle is not only local, but also national. And worldwide…

It extends from New York to New Orleans and from here to Atenco, Mexico. With great excitement we read the message from our sisters and brothers from Atenco and we concluded this dialogue by showing a video about the repression in Atenco. In the video we also showed the different protests that happened in distinct parts of the world during the day of solidarity with Atenco, including the takeover of the consulate in New York on May 4th by the members of Movement for Justice in El Barrio, who succeeded in entering the consulate, unfolding their signs once inside, marching, chanting loudly, demanding the liberation of the 12 political prisoners and handing out to the people in line copies of videos of the struggle of Atenco, which made the authorities shut down the Consulate.

The pain was shared, but also the solidarity and the joy of recognizing one another: of knowing that we are not alone. In closing, once again, we asked the children to break the neoliberal piñata. They broke it with force and, by doing so, found candy, just like candy are the fruits we hope to find in the end of this struggle for a world where many worlds fit, for peace and justice, dignified housing, health, and education for all, and for the liberty of political prisoners in Atenco, in Mexico, and throughout the world. Our heart is with all of you.

We are all Atenco!
Liberty for political prisoners!
Long live the Other Campaign!
And long live the Zapatista Army for National Liberation!
Movement for Justice in El Barrio.The Other Campaign New York


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