ANYWHERE THE PEOPLE GATHER to express their voice, their government—be it communist, democratic or otherwise—will be infiltrating and disturbing the cohesion and strength of that voice, ultimately using violence with no hesitancy or remorse. The unsettling juxtaposition of profit, spotlight, and ignored oppressions will always cause this confluence of energy and tumult. This is our modern-day Olympic Games Carnival settling down uneasily into a world where war and class divides are hurting so many.
AS CHINA CRACKS DOWN ON DISSIDENTS in preparation for the 2008 Olympics, I can’t help but think of the slaughter at Tlatelolco. And I don’t mean the original slaughter. I mean the more recent one, where the Mexican Government, instigated and aided by our CIA, sent its army out to suppress student protests in preparation for the 1968 Olympic games and ended up gunning hundreds to death. To this day, there remain bullet holes in standing edifice, as well as a monument to mark the terrible day. To this day, the Mexican government lies about the body counts.
The massacre was preceded by months of political unrest in the Mexican capital, echoing student demonstrations and riots all over the world during 1968. The students wanted to exploit the attention focused on Mexico City for the 1968 Summer Olympics. The students demanded:
- Repeal of Articles 145 and 145b of the Penal Code (which sanctioned imprisonment of anyone attending meetings of three or more people, deemed to threaten public order).
- The abolition of granaderos (the tactical police corps).
- Freedom of political prisoners.
- The dismissal of the chief of police and his deputy.
- The identification of officials responsible for the bloodshed.
President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, however, was determined to stop the demonstrations and, in September, he ordered the army to occupy the campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the country’s largest university. Students were beaten and arrested indiscriminately. Rector Javier Barros Sierra resigned in protest on September 23.
Student demonstrators were not deterred, however. The demonstrations grew in size, until, on October 2, after student strikes lasting nine weeks, 15,000 students from various universities marched through the streets of Mexico City, carrying red carnations to protest the army’s occupation of the university campus. By nightfall, 5,000 students and workers, many of them with spouses and children, had congregated outside an apartment complex in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco for what was supposed to be a peaceful rally. Among their chants were ¡No queremos olimpiadas, queremos revolución! (“We don’t want Olympic games, we want revolution!”). Rally organizers did not attempt to call off the protest when they noticed an increased military presence in the area.
The massacre began at sunset when police and military forces — equipped with armored cars and tanks — surrounded the square and began firing live rounds into the crowd, hitting not only the protestors, but also other people who were present for reasons unrelated to the demonstration. Demonstrators and passersby alike, including children, were hit by bullets, and mounds of bodies soon lay on the ground. The killing continued through the night, with soldiers operating on a house-to-house basis in the apartment buildings adjacent to the square. Witnesses to the event claim that the bodies were later removed in garbage trucks.
The official government explanation of the incident was that armed provocateurs among the demonstrators, stationed in buildings overlooking the crowd, had begun the firefight. Suddenly finding themselves sniper targets, the security forces had simply returned the shooting in self-defense.
In October 1997, the Congress of Mexico established a committee to investigate the Tlatelolco massacre. The committee interviewed many political players involved in the massacre, including Luis Echeverría Álvarez, a former president who was Díaz Ordaz’s minister of the interior at the time of the massacre. Echeverría admitted that the students had been unarmed, and also suggested that the military action was planned in advance, as a means to destroy the student movement.
Luis Echeverria was ultimately put on trial for genocide. But was let go due to the statute of limitations running out. (Just my opinion, but seems to me that’s a charge that shouldn’t expire?) And the CIA eventually released [redacted] documents that gave a bit more insight into the event.
This is but one page, but I don’t think even all of them give the entire picture. If they did, they wouldn’t be released to the public. Because we know what the entire picture is, don’t we? Even if we don’t know all the facts of Tlatelolco, or exactly what is going on in China from our vantage point, or the particulars of any of the violence that proceeds, trails and surrounds our grand and fraudulent symbols of international family. Because anywhere the People gather to express their voice, the government—be it communist, democratic or otherwise—will be infiltrating and disturbing the cohesion and strength of that voice, finally using violence with no real hesitancy or remorse. And wherever these games go, the hosting governments will have to deal with this, and I imagine more and more. Because the People’s issues and voices—now increasingly outlawed, punished, minimized, or sent to Fenced-in ‘Free Speech’ areas—do seek a hearing, will always seek the public eye. And the unsettling juxtaposition of profit, spotlight, and ignored oppressions will always cause this confluence of energy and tumult. This is our modern-day Olympic Games Carnival settling down uneasily into a world where war and class divides are hurting so many.
A DEVELOPING country gets the Olympic games as an acknowledgment of its new, exalted status. An authoritarian government, awash with money, exploits the chance to project a peaceful, progressive image. Critics of the regime use the games as a chance to demand more democracy and human rights. There are demonstrations, forcefully broken up. […]
The president … was determined that nobody would hijack or derail them; the games would go ahead whatever happened. He also realised how hard that would be when, on August 27th, about 400,000 people converged on the centre of Mexico City to hurl abuse at him.
Another rally was planned for October 2nd, just ten days before the opening. Thousands gathered in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas, part of the vast new Tlatelolco housing project. Security forces were waiting for them. Plain-clothes agents tried to mingle with the crowd, but they stood out by wearing a single white glove.
They were subsequently found to belong to the self-styled “Olympia Battalion”, a shadowy paramilitary squad. Acting as agents provocateurs, just after 6pm they fired on the crowd, prompting army troops to open up with machineguns. As people tried to flee, some were killed by soldiers wielding bayonets.
It’s easy to connect Tlatelolco and Beijing right now, even though the violence and body counts are not at all comparable (Easier yet, as that last linked article demonstrates, to connect Tlatelolco and the Tianenmen Square incident). True, both governments are hiding whatever the actual facts are as obtusely and insistently as the USA hides the numerous American corpses being sent back to our shores regularly. And it’s also easy to point to China or Mexico, two countries we both love to vacation to, use products and resources from, and all the while chastise and shame and slander. Maybe it’s not so easy to draw the line back here to the Good Ole US of A because this citizenry believes in taking it. We believe in taking about anything that’s handed our way. As long as we can Twitter and WordPress it! So you don’t see the uprisings other nations deal with all the time.
I read someone recently…a few people, actually, who claim that the Protests of the 60s are some funky, outdated, trendy and now-gauche behavior. It seems to be Teh Cool Progressive Idea here and there to eschew putting your body and mouth where your beliefs are. What a sad, sad, joke this is on ourselves. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. People typing up storms condemning feet in the street, justifying slack muscles and the continued discorporation of our political and social selves, we approach the brain in a jar stage soon, a withering whirl we are of virtual word and war rushing through wires…until they yank the power.
Showing up with your voice and your body is NEVER passe. It is NEVER old or outdated and it will NEVER be less impressive than the most wrathful or righteous email, post, or tweet. To even classify it as a Thing to be Dated is foolish. Showing up with your self, at risk and front and center is the most effective way to make the People’s voice threatening at all. And if the Voice of the People is not threatening, then it is not taken seriously. If it can’t intrude on the proceedings of the more powerful, it is but an item to be considered on a possible agenda (or not).
I’m not condemning online activism, I partake in a lot of it. Yes, we know that petitions mean a lot, even when gathered electronically. But not until they are delivered. Further, I will never cheer on this gradual separation of brain and body that the online world loves to promote. However, I’m not here to set up a dichotomy between the two. In fact, I think a fusion of both is emerging and will continue to emerge and evolve until the Voice of the People moves swift, sure, and stronger than any measures of control. Which is good for la gente, though perhaps scary to those who would control and contain us, yet milk our energies and fuel for their own purposes.
This would be the point where I do tie these govt monitoring/suppression behaviors to my own country. This is where I mention being one of the RNC 1800. The RNC 1800 were only named so after we were behind bars. Or penned up in a greasy bus garage, or shackled for five hours straight without food or bathroom…before being held another 30 – 50 hours. We weren’t any predetermined group. We were simply people who were swept up by the orange nets of NYC police, who had plans in advance to squash all dissent and protest anticipated as a reaction to the GOP sweeping into NYC (to dance on top of the WTC wreckage in order to promote their fake leader for another four years). Some reports say tens of thousands, some say 100,000 people came to New York to make their voices heard. If you follow the links, you see why I connect this to Beijing 2008 and Mexico 1968. The same operations were in effect. Government infiltration and moles, classic COINTELPRO type action designed to crush and detain the proles so that the royalty can come to town without being disturbed.
So maybe we don’t just “take it.” Some of us get out there and go face to face. But it’s not enough today, and on that aspect of critiquing street protest, I agree. We need the media, too. Which is why, while I joke about Twitter, I think that deployed hand-in-hand with street action, technologies like this will soon be a devastatingly powerful tool of the People. For example, even though Operation Overlord was the first practice drill for mass-arrests and detainment in our country, the news was squashed by the MSM. People even a few states away didn’t hear of it. To this day, many haven’t! (Of course the city was up in arms and behind us, gathering outside the jails and protesting and talking to local media.) It wouldn’t happen that way today. Nor should it.
Nor should we stop asking why billions can be spent on honoring atheletes (who deserve recognition for their talent and competition and achievement), and billions can be spent on police weaponry and detainment centers and tasers and fences and walls and wiretapping, and [UNDISCLOSED BILLIONS] can be spent on super-high tech futuristic control and pain-compliance weaponry—when only a fraction of that money spent with different attitude and purpose would lessen so many pains and imbalances that lead to these disruptions and imagined need for draconian and punitive measures in the first place. We should ask that over and over and over again. With our posts, with our graffiti, with our shouting voices, with our bodies, with our hearts.