“Operacion Justicia Climatica” – Report on the September-October 2006 Alternative Climate Justice Dialogue & Convergence against the G8+5 in Mexico CityFrom the mountains of the Mexica (Mexican) Valley of Anahuac(Ciudad de Mexico) Mexico City
by Rising Tide North America November 4, 2006Where do I start??? I arrived around the 10 of September here in Mexico; Acorn arrived about 2 weeks later. I originally stayed at the OkupaChe, the “occupied” abandoned “Che Guevara” auditorium part of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters at the UNAM- the National Autonomous University of Mexico- la Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico- the country’s largest and main university. The “Okupa” or “el Che” was one of the first groups to respond to our letters asking for support and collaboration for the G8+5 events. They hold down the use and upkeep of a pretty big auditorium (1500 person capacity at least), a radio station “Radio Okupa”, a vegetarian kitchen, and a small cafï¿½ under construction; plus some rooms for visitors, and a string of small art workshops and storage spaces for indigenous venders who sell coffee and crafts out in front.It also is the historical stronghold for many social movements and events that have happened in the UNAM and in Mexico City over the last 40 years. In the national student strike of 1999, the university cops and administration tried to take over the Che where the main organizing for the strike was happening to shut it down, tear it down, and build a preppy patio in its place. Since then it’s been OkupaChe, where the radical fringe of the student body took it over and where the school authorities have cut them off of all basic utilities. They get by with pirate plumbing and electricity and are working toward their wi-fi connection. (They remind me to tell you all that donations are welcomed).El Che does have a small problem with non-political “bums” who hang out there- due to the fact that they always have their doors open to anyone and don’t have it in them to kick people out in the street, with it being an “Okupa” or a squat and all, but they’re gradually moving toward a liberated safe zone where anti-oppression is a pillar of their work. So that was cool enough, but they had no Internet or phone connection. So our other offer for lodging which was considerably more “connected” was the “Centro de Medios Libres” or the CML- the Centre for Free Media. A collective of about fifteen very talented and hard working folks who have an apartment with a small one-room hostel that they rent out to travelers and activists passing through. This was a huge help in terms of having a safe place for our stuff (equipment) and having a workspace that allowed us a 24/7 Internet connection.My first week in this huge city of 22 million was a bit overwhelming-getting used to the city, and getting connected with various contacts we had established. At the time of my arrival you could say that Mexico was on the brink of a social explosion. With all the recent political events happening- from the contested and controversial presidential elections that had been “decided” by the high courts in favor of the conservative candidate (Felipe Calderon); the frustrated leftist loser Andres Manuel Lopez Orbrador (AMLO) calling for a national convention that would “declare” him the real president and create a paralleled government; to the uprisings in Oaxaca and the fascist reaction culminating in a huge march of the Popular Assembly of the Pueblos of Oaxaca-APPO making its way to Mexico City demanding the removal of their states’ governor Ulisies Ruiz Ortiz (URO) with an uncertainty of what they would do when they got here. On the other end the Mexican military moving in slowly surrounding the city of Oaxaca threatening to move in and remove the street barricades the APPO folks had set up in their taking of the city . And if this wasn’t exciting or tense enough, the Zapatista “Other Campaign” (“La Otra Campaï¿½a”) after suspending their tour of the country in May and standing ground in Atenco after the Mexican military-police (PFP) moved in and attacked the people the Pueblos Front in Defense of the Land (FPDT) of Atenco and the people of Texcoco who they were standing in solidarity with – over 200 arrests and all the rape and torture you can imagine that made it look like Mexico’s Abu Ghraib – and around 30 companer@s of Atenco still imprisoned today. Well, the Zapatistas re-initiated their tour and soon announced the dates of two Intergalactic Gatherings, the first happening this New Years in Chiapas and a Continental Indigenous Gathering happening in October 2007 in northwest Mexico, in Baja California near the US-Mexico border.
In the middle of all this, in the last five weeks, is when Acorn and I had the task of creating and carrying-out the alternative Dialogue and Convergence for Climate Justice, as our direct response to the major October 3-4 international meeting on climate change in Mexico sponsored by the G8. Which to say the least was not on the “front-burner” of the Mexican “activist” culture here in Mexico City so to speak. We did have a handful of groups and folks who expressed interest in our initiative, and our goal was to make it not just our initiative and creation but “everybody’s” ideally, or at least in collaboration with other key groups and individuals. Within the first week of me being in country, I had a series of focused meetings with various groups to explain in length our proposals for the “climate justice” convergence and the G8+5 dates, and also the continuing dialogue between interested groups who wanted to get involved with Rising Tide. During these meetings I was told gradually that with all that was going on in the city and across the country, that it would be a huge task to try and direct people’s focus and energy on organizing a “climate justice” convergence. But based on the earlier expressions of support and offers of solidarity that we had received, we were committed to moving forward and helping to organize (or taking the lead in organizing) this anti-G8 convergence.We had outlined for ourselves 3 pretty basic objectives for “Operaciï¿½n Justï¿½cia Climï¿½tica.”1. Our first objective was pretty straight forward; that as many folks as possible needed to hear about the G8, the +5, and their general connection to climate change. In a city of 22 million it’s still kinda hard to quantify and gauge our effectiveness in this objective. We had thousands of copies of various flyers on the G8+5 meeting that we were able to hand out at the UNAM and around the city, various radio interviews given, planning meetings and “charlas” or small speaking gigs that were done impromptu, a good number of hits on our web-site www.contrag8.revolt.org
, a “Contra-G8Ã¢â‚¬Â³ (Anti-G8) list serve that has existed for only six weeks and has over 55 subscribers, and a front page indymedia feature, and dozens of other “radical” web-sites posting our “call to action.” Just do a search for “climate justice Mexico” and see for yourself. I feel pretty good about the job we did in this sense and consider it a success. We had many encounters with random folk at the UNAM tell us that they knew what the G8+5 was and why they were in Mexico.Internationally, we also made significant progress in exposing the existence of the G8+5 Gleneagles Dialogue on Climate Change (which until now had never been targeted by activists, let alone radical environmental ones, and therefore was basically unknown) and its nefarious neoliberal agenda. At www.Indymedia.org, our mobilization was featured on the front-page “Upcoming IMC Coverage” calendar from August until mid-October. International climate action NGOs are now aware about and critical of the key role that the G8+5 process has within negotiations defining the next “post-Kyoto” global climate change agreement; for example, the DC-based Sustainable Energy & Environment Network produced a strong report analyzing the World Bank’s participation in the G8+5. In the US Climate Action Network, there are now voices calling for more activist attention to be paid to the G8+5. Hopefully, it’s also true (although less apparent to us given the gap of “the big pond”) that the Mexico anti-G8 mobilization has helped to re-focus UK climate activists on the leading part that their government is playing within the G8+5. So in our minds, “mission accomplished” for objective one.2. Our second goal was to get in touch with various groups in the capitol city and throughout Mexico who would be “potential key allies and campaigns” for Rising Tide North America’s long-term continental organizing. We did start out with a small handful of contacts for groups in Mexico City (DF) that had more of a “we wanna protest the G8Ã¢â‚¬Â³ type of an approach.We also wanted to protest the G8, but we also wanted to talk about climate change and direct action against it. And of course we had ample opportunity to talk about how the G8 is involved in climate change, but we also we wanted to get the discussion rolling on how we can get organized and what we could do about it besides just protesting the G8 (or after!!). This “mission” is still an on-going process of making contacts, establishing relations, and finding common ground to create a genuine (as opposed to shallow or flakey) working relationship with prospect allies and campaigns- all this slowly but surely fomenting as you read these lines..3. And our third goal was to “do an action” and not get caught. One of our “potential” allies that came in early and was a hopeful there for a little while was surprisingly Greenpeace Mexico- a group with not the greatest reputation among direct action groups and the “grassroots NGO scene” in Mexico in general and particularly in DF (Mexico City), but they did have a campaign aimed at climate change- so we thought “that couldn’t hurt.” We were given the contact to the “director of the climate change campaign” and contacted him. This guy had come to an open meeting that had been called by a “friendly” group of activists to get folks from various other groups and collectives interested in working on the G8+5 events together; and we sent that invitation to GP-M. This guy had come and alerted us that the G8+5 meeting might have been moved from DF to Monterrey (a big industrialist city in the north of Mexico) , but that information had not confirmed 100% . So we made friends that evening, and agreed to keep meeting and working towards a calendar of events that we all had a part in creating- but this unexpected news/rumor of the official G8+5 meeting being moved to another (far away) city in Mexico was disheartening.
Before coming to Mexico, Acorn and I had done weeks of research on this meeting and have a string of official sources that identified Mexico City as the host of these G8+5 ministerial meetings, including page 14 of a powerpoint presentation from the Mexican energy secretariat office). This ultimately set the tone for people’s involvement with any “action” aspect of our Climate Justice Convergence (CJC). We had various moles working to confirm where the actual location of the meeting was, and as we continued meeting and trying to recruit folks to get involved, this unresolved detail started to overshadow the attractiveness of the “anti-g8+5Ã¢â‚¬Â³ events in Mexico (City). Our moles did finally come through with the confirmation, but not until the middle of week of the CJC events and two days before the official meeting dates. And I must say that this piece of info was kept under a tight lip within the participating secretariats and not easily obtained..
With only two weeks to put it all together- and without really knowing “what it was” that we were putting together, we put some ideas into action, deciding for ourselves the general make-up of the calendar of events (but always striving to get feedback and help/collaboration from local folks) – all the events, with exception to the “Day of @ction Against the G8+5Ã¢â‚¬Â³, took place at the OkupaChe.
The schedule loosely went down like this:Friday 29 of September: Concert- organized by the Che folks “Against the war and the G8Ã¢â‚¬Â³ was the theme of this hard-core metal show that we had some of out outreach and education materials at.Saturday 30: the “Energy Video Forum ” a series of videos from throughout Latin America all dealing with energy issues and social movement building, a healthy attendance of about 30 folks and a fluid dialogue about Rising Tide and climate change.Sunday October 1: “Concert for Climate Justice and against the G8+5Ã¢â‚¬Â³. Which because of money issues (the bands wanted a couple hundred dollars for transportation expenses and equipment rental) we had to change at the last minute to “Slam/Show for Climate Justice and Against the G8+5Ã¢â‚¬Â³ The idea was that we could a least do some kind of “song and dance” poetry/rap show or cultural _expression of some kind. When we got there, the Philosophy Department and shut off the lights in the whole quadrant (which included the “Che”- which pretty much left us in the dark and with no show to show for.Monday Oct. 2: This day is a traditional day of protest for all Mexicans, commemorating the 38th anniversary of the 1968 student massacre in Mexico City at the plaza of the three cultures (see Acorn’s “article” report on the protest on that day). Knowing that hundreds of students from the UNAM would being taking part in the march that day, we had thought of doing a solidarity action which ended up being a “Food not Bombs” serving of my grandmother’s lentil bean and potato soup recipe- mmmmmmm goood. We served easy over 100 bowls of soup with tortillas- and handed out at least 1000 Rising Tide (Marea Creciente in espaï¿½ol)and G8+5 climate change flyers during the feed.At about 3 o’clock we all headed down to the protest/march. This was especially great because the rally and march composed of tens thousand people from dozens of different recognizable groups. We hugged up into the anarcho-punk contingency- Mohawks and painted heads, patches, spikes, and leather, masked up faces and badass banners. 12345678! They would scream and off we would charge running until we came up rushing behind the frustrated and less-rambunctious Marxists contingency. That afternoon we handed out 3000 more flyers that invited folks to the last two days of the Climate Justice Convergence against the G8+5- along with a nice brief of what is the “G8+5Ã¢â‚¬Â³ and the Gleneagles Dialogue taking place the following two days. It also called for a day of action on the 4th and the idea was to get folks to the convergence on the 3rd to talk about and plan a collective spontaneous action that could be carried out the following day on the 4th.
I must mention here that there was a visible police infiltrator element that is always present in general within the UNAM and the radical activist groups in the city, and everywhere in Mexico and Latin America really. We had a couple of “strange” incidents that had happened that put us on guard with respect to how we presented ourselves as organizers of the Climate Justice (CJ) events and any “action” being organized out of it. In Mexico, there is a law – “Article 33Ã¢â‚¬Â³ – that has been used with full force in the few last years that prohibits “tourist” to participate in any “political activities”, which is a very broad definition of activities, let alone organize activities that could be considered “political” in nature. I know of a handful of these incidents from personal experience and they usually involve arrest, deportation, and expulsion from Mexico for 5-10 years or indefinitely. Needless to say I was not about to stick my head out there too far to get noticed.Since the printed materials and web page stuff we had created and up-loaded from the CML house had explicit intention of communicating and organizing a protest and “campaign” so to speak around the G8+5 meetings, we were defiantly meeting that criteria. The incidents I mentioned were a series of different people that had come to take part in climate justice convergence events that made other obviously-on-our-side folks uncomfortable or persons who would just come up and ask about the “G8 action” and what we were planning, who was Rising Tide, or just about us in particular. This left us pretty exposed- hence we made the decision to not have the Rising Tide name on the poster or the flyers that we printed out- just the Contra-G8 web-page (which has RTNA link on the top banner of responsible groups taking part in the events) and an email address that we had created just for these events.October 3. First day of the G8+5 meetings (now confirmed to be in Monterey).This was also one of the main planned days of the CJ convergence and dialogue, where about 25-30 folks showed up, mostly young adults, students from the UNAM, and traveling punk kids from around the country- Guanajuato, Baja California Sur, and beyond. The agenda for the day was to get to know each other, talk about the environment and the struggle, talk about climate change and center on the G8+5 meetings. Folks were really interested in knowing about Earth First! and other like campaigns/movements, and what was really going to be the course of action for the next day. Again, because of what I had mentioned above about the infiltrator element (“orejas” or ears in English) we, or I because Acorn was not present at this event, had to take a back-seat position when it came to “planning the action”. Which is just what we wanted to have happen in the first place because of the feeling the local folks needed to become part of the organizing and decision-making to feel truly apart of the CJ convergence and dialogue. This was not easy to do. There was a definite shyness happening and few proposals were coming forward. I had reluctantly put a couple ideas forward for place to protest at-the ministries of Energy and Environment or maybe the G8 embassies..But after a short while I had stepped out to talk to the Greenpeace guy who had just dropped by to bring us these big placards with pictures of flood scenes and fucked-up cities streets after a hurricane. When I stepped back into the “action” discussion, the group had decided on a pretty cool and security-safe action for the next day..October 4. “Day of Action Against the G8+5 and for Climate Justice” That morning, after dropping off our printing order at the print shop, we went to hit up a bourgeois natural food store for organic fruit to do a smaller but smarter Food not Bombs part II. Organic bananas and apples, and a shit-ton of flyers on the G8+5 meeting, the Montes Claros Climate Justice Declaration, Organic foods and agriculture, and Qï¿½e es Marea Creciente? (What is Rising Tide?). And where would this action take place? Well, when you think of Mexico, and Mexico City in particular, where other than the main Zocalo of the city, the “Plaza of the Constitution” to have a day of action and protest. Right under the huge Mexican flag in the middle of the Zocalo we set up our spot where another 30 “compas” (friends)came to help pass out the 3000 freshly printing flyers we had just run off.
With banners being draped around the flag poll, other scattered across the plaza floor, and others being painted by our creative and expressive amigos, our action was just getting started. The “plaza police” notice our presence and immediately started to sus us out, identifying the foreigners and gauging the messages on the flyers and banners. These uniformed cops didn’t stay long, but after a while beefy middle-aged men with cru-cuts in civilian clothes started to appear around the perimeter of our action, just watching us..At one point a woman had come up to Acorn to ask him what we were up to and what our message was all about. Acorn is a very talented non-Spanish speaker and could barely communicate to the nice lady “no comprendo”. I happened to be standing beside him and jumped in to give a quick response to the woman and others wondering what we were all about. Before I knew it the small group had swelled into a small crowd of people hugging up closer to hear what the fuss was all about. As I was speaking aloud to this small crowd I stared to notice voice recorders and cameras on me. Before I could make a easy dissolve back into the rest of the “youth” painting banners and passing out flyers, an older woman police officer, accompanied by the two cops that were hassling us earlier had jumped in with some questions for me. Jotting down everything I was saying, she abruptly asked who I was and where I was from. Hesitant to answer and giving the worried eye to the “Zocalo folk” that we had originally been talking to, the people started to “lawyer” in my defense- telling the police woman that I wasn’t up to any bad deeds and that “these kids are making really good points and doing a good job”. The officer woman agreed and assured us that she had no intentions breaking up our action or anything else. She did want to know though how long we were planning to stay at the Zocalo, and if we had any plans to protest any embassies afterwards. She ask me this with a sly look and a wink, as if she already knew that was our plan, AND to watch it, if it was.Our plan was to finish up our banner painting, and then head spontaneously, and decentralized, to a number of different “protest sites” that had included the different place I had suggested the day before.With our element of surprise out the window, and with the over exposure of ourselves as foreigners part of this action, the collective group of folks taking part decided it was best to “break-out” and not do the symbolic “sign holding on the side of the street” action, everybody feeling pretty satisfied with the Food not Bombs/ Zocalo flyer action. The proposal was to regroup that following Saturday and continue discussing how to plan an effective climate change campaign and action, not just against the G8 but rather something more solid, local, and attainable.Another complication with this “Day of Action” was that the normally empty (aside from droves of pedestrians) Zocalo had been taken over by preparations for a large book fair that was happening there the next 2 days. Therefore our plan for a grand “photo opportunity” was disrupted by the ubiquitous tents and stalls that workers were busy constructing. But even so, the action produced lots of great artwork, signs and banners (a number of photos of these can be seen on this page and at www.contrag8.revolt.org) and ultimately was a fun, creative way to protest the G8 while communicationg with tons of Mexican people our thoughts about climate change and globalization.With these final days of the Climate Justice Convergence against the G8+5 and the Gleneagles’ dialogue on climate change here Mexico City there was an overwhelming amount of work to handle and ultimately this came down to us in Rising Tide. The folks at the OkupaChe and the CML did their part in what they could, and we are indebted and very grateful for their help. Our weaknesses were that were very spread thin in terms of human labor to delegate work effectively. Between Acorn and I, the only bi-lingual Spanish speaker was myself, and so this greatly reduced Acorn’s participation in many aspects of the organizing and carrying out of work tasks. We adjusted appropriately having Acorn take care of the news, information, and design aspect of our work that included the articles that went accompanying our days of the climate justice convergence and the layout of the flyers we made. This wasn’t strictly Acorn’s domain, as I had considerable hand in this work also. We also had little time and energy after moving around all day in this huge city to effectively communicate with each other often to generate feedback on our progress and adjust for changes in priorities.But in the end we did succeed in accomplishing very important goals. I do believe we are doing pioneering work here in Mexico linking up our various struggles where they meet. And in this respect I see very genuine and creative solidarity work we can do as Rising Tide chapters in the economically advantaged “first-world” with our emerging allies on front lines in the Global South.
The work with the on going “dialogue” is a continuing process that I briefly mentioned in the outline of our three goals. The work here is one of listening to what people here have to say and think about “climate change” or “global warming”, but also what they are saying about their struggles; what’s important to them, and what are they willing to give in the name of working toward “climate justice”. There are a handful of very good “relations” being made, to name just a few; Oilwatch Mexico, the “Other Campaign”, rebel forces in Guerrero and Oaxaca, and in the borderlands of the Sonoran desert. And the approach to this type of cross-cultural work, considering the cultural baggage that “international environmental groups” have requires sincere and gradual steps towards establishing strong links in the international grassroots counter climate change network we are working to create.
Note: This report-back was delayed by the tragic assassination in Oaxaca, Mexico of our friend and companero, the Indymedia journalist and Rising Tide / Earth First! activist (among many other affiliations that he had) Brad Will – and by the recent urgent need for solidarity work in response to his death and the current Mexican federal assault on Oaxaca. Brad was RTNA’s local Critical Mass contact in New York City, a participant in some of our formative meetings, and a very helpful bi-lingual presence in Mexico City at certain actions of the Climate Justice Convergence itself. Below we’ve shared a photo of Brad sharing soup at our Food Not Bombs action on October 2nd. We will miss Brad deeply, and we invite the international climate justice movement to commemorate him (and all those killed in Oaxaca’s struggle for democracy and justice) by supporting the popular rebellion of the people of Oaxaca in whatever local, effective ways you may be able. For more information: www.mexico.indymedia.org ; www.narconews.com ; www.friendsofbradwill.org