Columbus Day reviled by indigenous peoples
More than 50 peasants and
civil organizations organized roadblocks on the Pan-American
Highway in Chiapas, Mexico to protest the 510th anniversary
of the first invasion of the Americas by Christopher Columbus
Compiled by Eamon Martin
Oct. 15 (AGR)— The 14th day of October
is commonly marked as a holiday by most nations in the Western
hemisphere. In some countries, such as the United States, government
workers and students are given the day off to observe the historical
importance of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus’ wayward
journey to “India.” But the history of conquest and colonization
that birthed the geopolitical entity now collectively referred
to as the Americas inspires no fond reflections amongst those
nation’s surviving indigenous peoples. For many, Columbus Day
is not an occasion to celebrate, but a day to protest against
a grossly inaccurate and glorified myth. This year, thousands
of indigenous activists and supporters from Canada to Chile
blocked roads and borders, held marches, cultural celebrations,
and rallies to demand attention and justice be paid to the issues
of racism and oppression which they say have persisted as a
consequence of Columbus’ “discovery.”
“October 12  marks the 510th anniversary
of the coming of the colonial pirate Christopher Columbus and
the beginning of the American holocaust that has claimed 16
million Indian lives in what is now called the United States,”
said American Indian Movement leader Vernon Bellecourt.
On Saturday, in Denver, CO, roughly 2,000 Native
Americans, descendants and their supporters marched in a morning
anti-Columbus Day parade. Aztec dancers in brilliant blue and
gold feathered headdresses performed while sage was burned to
purify and protect the marchers while summoning the spirits
of their ancestors.
Hours later, while Italian-Americans celebrated
Columbus’ arrival in the “New World,” protesters ripped down
barricades and chanted “shame on you,” saying the European settlement
of America decimated native people. Six young women, in an act
of civil disobedience, sat down in front of the Italian pride
parade. They and one other were arrested.
Scores of indigenous people, campesinos, unionists
and grassroots activists protested across Latin America. Some
of the largest protests were in Mexico, where thousands took
part in protests in the southeastern state of Chiapas. The protesters
focused on opposition to plans for a hemispheric Free Trade
Area of the Americas (FTAA) agreement; the Plan Puebla Panama
(PPP), a trade pact for southern Mexico and Central America;
and an indigenous rights law the Mexican Congress passed last
year over objections from indigenous organizations that considered
Teodosio Angel of the Union of Indigenous Communities
in the Northern Zone of the Isthmus in Oaxaca, Mexico said,
“For 510 years, governments and corporations have ignored us
and it continues today with the PPP.”
Some 500 protesters marched in the city of San
Cristóbal de las Casas, while dozens of indigenous Tzotzil people
blocked the Pan American highway. Hundreds of other protesters
surrounded the Rancho Nuevo military base and symbolically “took”
the installation by blocking the entrances for several hours
with strips of cloth. There were protests in at least 30 Chiapas
Campesinos blocked another highway for one and
a half hours to protest FTAA and PPP. In Mexico City, more than
5,000 demonstrators marched from the Monument to the Revolution
to the main plaza to oppose FTAA and plans to privatize the
electricity industry and the education system.
Meanwhile, in Chihuahua, some 2,500 farmers blocked
highways at 60 points throughout the state to protest the FTAA
and to demand concrete solutions from the federal government
for rural problems.
In Ciudad Juárez, at the border with El Paso,
Texas, hundreds of protesters blocked the Santa Fe international
bridge and two lanes of the Córdoba bridge to protest the North
American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and US President George
W. Bush’s plans for a war against Iraq.
Organizers said in a statement that they are seeking
an end to “the militarization that accompanies corporate globalization,”
and “an end to free trade agreements that exploit native communities
and their lands.”
On Saturday, a diverse array of 2,000 indigenous,
anarchist, and gay rights activists marched in Santiago, Chile,
to support the ancestral rights of the Mapuche indigenous people
to “lands usurped by the white man.”
In Cochabamba, Bolivia, demonstrators marched
to protest the colonization of the Americas; while in Venezuela,
President Hugo Chávez announced a decree designating Oct. 12
as a “Day of Indigenous Resistance.”
In Colombia, the army recognized the day by releasing
a report showing that armed groups have killed 500 indigenous
leaders over the past 25 years.
In Argentina and Uruguay, demonstrations were
held on Oct. 11 to mark “the last day of freedom of America”
for indigenous people and those descended from enslaved Africans,
in a counter-celebration against the “Day of the Race,” as Oct.
12 is known in Latin America. Indigenous Argentines held protests
in the provinces of Chaco, in the north, and Neuquén, in the
south, while African-descended Uruguayans marched through the
center of their country’s capital, Montevideo.
In Guatemala, demonstrators denounced the PPP
and FTAA while blocking roads at strategic points in the northern
province of Peten, which borders both Mexico and Belize.
Protests in Honduras, which took place in several
cities and along the country’s borders with Guatemala, El Salvador
and Nicaragua, also targeted the International Monetary Fund
for criticism. In Tegucigalpa about 2,000 demonstrators from
various groups protested.
In El Salvador, hundreds of trade unionists and
members of groups belonging to the Civil Society Forum staged
rallies at numerous key road junctions to repudiate both the
PPP and FTAA.
About 300 Nicaraguans and 100 Costa Ricans held
peaceful rallies against the PPP and FTAA under the watchful
eyes of police in the respective capitals.
“October 12, so-called Columbus Day, is the day
when terrorism began on our lands,” said Andrea Carmen of the
Yaqui Nation and executive director of the International Indigenous
“We’ve seen our lands taken, cultures and sacred
sites destroyed, treaties violated, families killed and imprisoned,
and so-called development imposed on us with no regards for
our peoples’ ways of life,” Carmen said.
“We are coming together today,” she said, “to
rededicate ourselves to the struggle for safeguarding our Mother
Earth, the continued survival of our traditional cultures, and
renewing bonds of solidarity with all peoples of this world
who share our aspirations for a better life.”
In Denver, Colorado, the birthplace of the
Columbus holiday, nearly 2,000 people assembled to confront
the approxiamately 200 Columbus Day participants on Sat., Oct.
At the Denver Transform Columbus Day rally, on
the steps of the State Capitol Building, one speaker explained:
“The legacy of Columbus is alive and well…That’s what Globalization
is. They turn the world into an Indian Reservation. GATT, NAFTA,
FTAA, that is the Columbian legacy.”
Sources: Associated Press, Environmental News
Service, Inter Press Service, Oread Daily, Rocky Mountain Independent
Media Center, Weekly News Update on the Americas
Anti-war activists arrested at NC congressman’s
By Phillip Bailey
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Oct. 8— A
26 hour sit-in calling on Representative David Price (D-NC/4th
District) to oppose a looming US attack on Iraq ended Tuesday
when police arrested three local anti-war activists and removed
five more at Price’s district office. The activists, who were
charged with second degree trespassing, had sought to pressure
Congressman Price to oppose resolutions in the US House of Representatives
containing measures leading to an unprovoked attack on Iraq
that could kill tens if not hundreds of thousands of innocent
Iraqi civilians in bombings and far more if ground troops invade
and occupy Baghdad.
The three were arrested after refusing a police
order to leave the building. Chapel Hill police officers physically
removed two protesters who practiced non-violent, passive resistance
in response to the arrests.
Explaining why she decided to resist arrest Lenore
Yarger said, “I didn’t feel like I wanted to help them do their
job.” She said she felt the protests and sit-in had been successful
in showing significant public opposition to war in Iraq and
raising public awareness about what elected officials can do
to help stop an invasion from happening, but expressed deep
disappointment that Congressman Price would not commit to opposing
war on Iraq as he did in a 1991 vote on the first Gulf War.
“I feel very sad that this country is moving
toward war and a lot of people [in Iraq] will have to suffer
and die in a few weeks,” she said.
Police carried the two handcuffed women out of
the building by their arms and legs to a waiting unmarked police
Witnesses said police had a camera on hand and
appeared to be videotaping the arrests. Police spokesmen said
they did not know the reason for the presence of the video camera.
All three anti-war activists were released without bond on a
written promise to appear in court Nov. 18 at 9am.
Earlier Tuesday, approximately thirty protesters
gathered for a second day of protests outside Congressman Price’s
office in opposition to the war and in solidarity with the sit-in
Orange county resident Bob H. Hall, 58, had a
question for Congressman Price, “I want to know how many innocent
Iraqi’s should be killed for him to justify what they’re doing.”
Hall said he’d like to see Price “stand up to Bush’s arrogance
and his determination to get the country in a war frenzy.”
Source: North Carolina Independent Media Center:
Britain takes control of N. Ireland, again
Compiled by Sean Marquis
Oct. 16 (AGR)— Britain’s Northern Ireland
Secretary, John Reid, suspended Northern Ireland’s power-sharing
government on Monday Oct. 14 and said the order to suspend the
authority of the Ulster Assembly would last indefinitely. He
defended his intervention as essential to prevent the collapse
of the coalition which has taken years of negotiations to forge
Reid’s move followed a threat by the major Protestant
party, the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), to withdraw from power-sharing
— the key goal of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 — because
of alleged Irish Republican Army (IRA) spying.
First Minister David Trimble, leader of the UUP
and the Northern Ireland administration, had set Tuesday as
a deadline for Britain to intervene.
Trimble wanted Reid to expel Sinn Féin, the IRA-linked
political party, rather than to take power from all four parties
in the coalition. Trimble said he accepted Reid’s move as “a
poor second best,” and offered to resume cooperation with Sinn
Féin if the IRA disbanded.
Four people, including Sinn Féin’s top legislative
aide, are in jail awaiting trial for espionage-related charges
following police raids Oct. 4.
Britain’s move means the 108-member legislature
will no longer convene. Instead Reid, a Scotsman appointed by
British Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2000, will oversee the
administration’s 12 departments with help from a beefed-up contingent
of lawmakers from London.
Reid indicated he planned to consult regularly
with the powerless administration’s top two figures — Trimble
and the Catholic deputy leader, Social Democratic and Labor
Party chief Mark Durkan.
Reid said he will be a “hands-on” executive for
Northern Ireland and is willing to tackle difficult issues —
even considering introducing water charges to Northern Ireland,
an issue Executive ministers were considering but were reluctant
On Monday Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, Minister
of Parliament, addressed the Ulster Assmembly at Stormont —
during their final meeting — and said:
“This morning’s analysis of the current crisis
by the British Secretary John Reid is a dishonest one. We are
in crisis because political unionism is resisting change and
rejecting the Good Friday Agreement and because the British
government has failed to act on their obligations.
“In addition to suspending the political institutions
three times, Mr. Reid has failed to act on policing, demilitarization,
equality, justice and human rights. This record does not inspire
confidencee that Mr. Reid will now move to implement this Agreement.”
Adams also reiterated Sinn Féin’s call for “the
full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.”
Blair and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, said
they were “deeply saddened” by Reid’s move. But in a joint statement
the premiers said it would prevent the outright collapse of
The Ahern and Blair statement said Sinn Féin’s
connections to an illegal organization must be “brought to an
unambiguous and definitive conclusion.”
London is understood to be particularly pleased
that Ahern was willing to sign up to so strongly-worded a statement
that was critical of the IRA, and by implication of Sinn Féin.
Analysts predict this crisis will be the toughest
yet to resolve because of rising Protestant hostility to sharing
power with Sinn Féin, a party that has grown increasingly popular
among Catholics, thanks to the peace process.
Monday’s suspension of powers was the fourth
ordered by Britain since Trimble’s coalition took office in
December 1999, following the US-brokered compromise. Under that
plan, Sinn Féin received two administration posts on condition
that the IRA began to disarm.
Apparently Reid suspended the Unionist-dominated
assembly rather than cave into the Unionist calls to sack the
republican Sinn Fein from the power-sharing government.
The latest crisis has purportedly been caused
by allegations of IRA intelligence gathering inside Britain’s
Northern Ireland Office.
The “intelligence gathering” acusations were set-off
by an Oct. 4 police raid on Sinn Féin’s Stormont offices. Police
claim they uncovered evidence that senior Sinn Féin and IRA
members were involved in intelligence operations in Reid’s office.
The alleged republican spies, who included Sinn
Féin’s senior administrator, Denis Donaldson, had allegedly
intercepted documents which included the names and addresses
of about 1200 serving Northern Ireland prison officers and senior
They are also said to have had copies of correspondence
relating to the peace process between Reid, Trimble, Blair and
US President, George W. Bush.
Britain’s Northern Ireland Office will take over
day-to-day running of the province of 1.6 million people, while
Blair seeks to rebuild consensus among the political parties.
Unionist leaders, whose supporters are in the
majority in Northern Ireland and want to retain links with Britain,
say the IRA must disband or openly disarm before the peace process
can get back on track.
In an Oct. 9 editorial the BBC’s Northern Ireland
security editor, Brian Rowan, said that calls by Britain and
the UUP for the IRA to disband were one-sided.
“Look too at what the loyalist [Unionist] paramilitaries
are up to — shooting at each other and in between times attacking
vulnerable nationalist communities,” Rowan said. “While all
of that is going on, republicans will see a continuing need
for the IRA.”
Rowan said that the IRA exists in a “bigger context,”
of an occupied land and questioned: “Is the IRA really likely
to step off the stage with the British Army still on it?”
Rowan also said that according to British security
sources the current ceasefire between British, unionist, and
republican forces was not under threat from the IRA.
“But,” according to Rowan, “unionists and the
British government now expect much more from the IRA’s ‘complete
cessation of operations’ - an end to intelligence gathering,
targeting and the acquisition and development of weaponry. Indeed,
an end to the IRA itself.”
Republicans angrily reject the spying claims and
There are some in Ireland who are saying that
the police raid was a media stunt pulled-off to help prop-up
failing British and nationalist agendas.
According to An Phoblacht/Republican News, an
Irish weekly political newspaper, with the UUP openly endorsing
an anti-Agreement agenda, nationalists inadvertently became
the only defenders of the Good Friday Agreement.
“Even the possibility of such a configuration
was just too much for the British,” the paper reported.
“The timing of the arrests was perfect for David
Trimble. Last week, he was being blamed for bringing down the
institutions; this week, republicans are being blamed.”
“However, it was the high media profile of the
raid on the Sinn Féin offices that gave David Trimble the excuse
he desperately needed to collapse the institutions on his terms.
“The new Chief Constable of the PSNI [Police Service
of Northern Ireland], Hugh Orde, authorized that raid. He knew
there was nothing to be found in those offices. He knew they
are permanently unlocked and accessible at any time day or night.
He knew the political cover such a raid would give to David
Trimble,” according to An Phoblacht.
Sources: An Phoblacht/Republican News, Associated
Press, BBC News, Irish Times, Sydney Morning Herald