Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Not in my Hood: Tempe residents organize against SB1070

by Jon Riley

As Arizona veers closer to becoming a white supremacist police state, there can be no doubt that many in the immigrant rights movement are wondering what's next. The pickets, rallies, and marches organized by the mainstream movement have failed to stop the attacks on Arizona's immigrant and Latino communities. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants and Latinos have "self-deported" from Arizona for years, and with the passage of SB 1070 many thousands more will likely follow. Even when the marches were absurdly long (often in 100+ degree weather), or the movement leadership sold out radicals and marginalized indigenous people, year after year we attended these events to show our solidarity with immigrants.

Up until the signing of the law, our primary activities had been supporting our O'odham friends in their struggles and campaigns against the border militarization and ecological destruction effecting O'odham communities. Our own projects reflected our deep commitment to attacking white supremacy and the ongoing colonialism in the Southwest.

We intervened both in word and deed in many of the right libertarian/constitutionalist movements in Arizona, specifically those opposing the speed/red-light cameras and the border patrol check points. Within their agitation to the police state we saw contradictions that could challenge whiteness and create the fissures needed for white working class movements that challenge the police state and engage in projects of solidarity with communities of color.

It was after this recent May Day rally at the state capitol that some us started discussing our tasks for the coming months, and asking ourselves some important questions. The most important question was how do we go about building areas safe from SB1070 in our town, and in what ways shall we attempt this. The first and most obvious step was reaching out to like minded people, so we went back to our communities, our neighborhoods, and began working with others residents opposed to the racist and anti-immigrant social order.

In Tempe, a mixed group of politically active folks and first-timers put a week's worth of afternoons into fliering local neighborhoods. Calling for a neighborhood assembly and picnic, this flier presented a reasonable stance given the many diverse communities that would be threatened by the new law. O
pen to all who want to see a non-compliance/no enforcement stance from the city of Tempe, it attracted more than 40 people who shared ideas and got to know one another. Most importantly, the residents took the initiative. In a week's time there were yard signs (pictured below), a website, a neighborhood protest against SB1070, a banner and sign making party, a hot marching band for the demo, and even more fliering on a much larger scale.

Our unpermitted demonstration
drew over 100 residents. Folks from the neighboring town of Guadalupe, a few hacks from the mainstream immigrant groups, students, teachers, small business owners, workers, mothers, and radical resisters showed up. We took the streets, snaked through the hood, and saw our neighbors come outside and give us a thumbs up. A handful of others came out, cursing Mexicans, immigrants, and/or the demonstration, most folks ignored them and walked on. We stopped at Mill Ave. & University -the busiest intersection in Tempe- and residents in the march spoke passionately on a megaphone, sharing their knowledge and solutions. After resting a minute we marched to the city council building where more speeches were given, the final speaker discussed how the proposed comprehensive immigration reform actually calls for the militarization of indigenous lands along the border. People in the crowd defiantly shouted back
"Mr. Obama, tear down this wall!"
"Tear down the damn fence!"
"We need open movement."

This demonstration is a first step in the campaign towards creating safe places from racist laws. We are inspired by the leadership and initiative of our neighbors as we participate in the only campaign in Maricopa County against the enforcement of SB1070 in a city organized solely by its residents. We are excited by the future possibilities for freedom in our neighborhoods across the valley.

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