2.24.2005

BRING THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE

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photos taken recently in argentina by Callie

the world is slowly being taken over by corporations, and nowhere is it more apparent than in south america. there are frequent protests, riots, and even coups over the right of the public to be able to access the basic resources of the land (ie. water, soil, seeds, a place to live, etc). often international corporations come into poorer countries and "buy" the rights to these resources, under the guise of providing better service to disseminate them. however, they often charge exorbitant rates, since their "customers" don't have any other choices. but frequently these companies get a bit of a god-complex and begin to assert their ownership over all water, not just the spring they "purchased." so if you collect rainwater on your roof? you owe some european company money for that water. and if you don't pay? they will use violence and scare tactics to make an example of you (via the usually very well-paid-for and accommodating government). so the resulting riots aren't very surprising, really. what would you do if some french or american company (ie. Bechtel) was trying to charge you more than you make in a month for some rainwater you collected? probably not just sit there and watch reruns of "friends." this is happening all over central and south america, and the only really surprising thing about the whole situation is how little you ever hear about it, especially in the mainstream media. well, that doesn't mean it's not happening. . .

this is a report from the recent assault (last week) on the homeless encampment in Goiania, Brasil. a nyc activist and indymedia reporter, Brad Will, has been down there with the group. this is what we have heard so far. . .

dawn came on confused and quiet – a few milling about – it was the quietest i had ever seen the camp -- so beautiful at dawn with the light low and cool – then the alarm sounded – I could see it wasn’t happening now – people started appearing slowly from all points gathering around a car with a sound system for news – it was plain and simple – 30 trucks on their way all full of military police – all the time the siren didn’t stop ringing – more people came up to the barricades – many ran off to tell their loved ones – what a diverse group, old and young of every color and description with young children in their arms and little dogs running wild – surprisingly it was less panicky than the night before – they were solidifying the barricades quickly but there was little more to do – there was a quick interview of police brass for the corporate press -- the traffic had stopped on the street outside the encampment -- they had blocked all the roads leading to the camp -- i had no idea what was happening on the other side but hoped there might be an escape route there -- in the distance i could see the military police unloading from buses -- they were geared up like storm troopers with green and black war paint -- i photoed a line of women who had formed in front of the barricades and were praying and crying, some with their children in their arms -- soon there were about a hundred troops lined up in formation in three squadrons -- i started to realize just how hopeless this was -- a call went out for everyone to be at the barricade -- huge block of peaceful pilgrims collected there -- all ages and races with their hands in the air -- theresistance fighters had mostly vanished -- the military started to move in in formation with sheilds raised tight like a turtle shell -- i didnt see anyone even throw a stone -- suddenly behind me there was an explosion -- it was a concussion grenade launched from a tear gas rocket -- i was hiding behind the edge of a brick wall and was completely confused how it could be behind me with my eyes on the police -- another explotion directly behind me and i felt the slam against my skin and my ears went deaf ringing -- they were already in the camp -- it was pandemonium -- everyone was running and screaming -- as i ran i saw them coming from my flank -- and aiming to shoot again not more than thirty feet away -- then all hell broke losse -- suddenly there was gas, rubber bullets, concussion grenades on all sides -- immediately i recognized the sound of real bullets -- i tried twice to stop and film but only for seconds until bullets flew near by -- they were advancing on either side of me in large groups -- it wasnt safe anywhere in the streets -- i saw two women face down in the street -- i dont know if they were alive -- at my feet i saw blood mixed in the dry dirt -- everywhere people running in panic and screaming and trying to find some shelter from the barrage -- i headed to a back yard trying to cut through the backs of houses and was slowed by barbed wire between all the yards -- there was tall yuka plants giving me some cover as i ran -- the military units were already past me on the main avenue and running rampant shooting everything -- it was so terrifying -- they were shooting at anything that moved -- there was no where to go -- i looked up and a door opened and a woman was motioning for me to come in -- i ran inside with another older couple and they slammed the door to total darkness -- inside there were two babies trying to scream but the were gagging on the tear gas -- they showed me a bucket of water to wash off the gas -- a man opened the door to look out and i came around to film -- i saw military point at us and yell something -- we had our hands in the air but he and another raised there guns to shoot -- as the door slammed shut the bullets hit the house -- we all hit the ground -- one woman was having a panic attack -- i could smell gas from just outside creeping in -- they cracked a window the breathe and i could see two women with babies and a tiny yound girl on the bed -- the whole home was one small room and made of simple bricks and used furniture with two beds right next to the kitchen -- it was really beautiful and simple -- i imagined the bulldozer destorying it all with us inside -- the babies started to recover from the gas and the man opened another window but was seen by military and there was more shooting -- everyone was screaming i htink to get on the ground -- i didnt know what to do -- i tried to film but paced and walked over to the corner to cry -- what in gods name was happening out there -- the sound of shots and screaming was contant -- i was trembling -- there were police right outside yelling orders to come out -- the man yelled something back about being peaceful -- i yelled that i was international press -- he opened the door -- i raised my hands high with video camera in one hand -- they were in regular uniforms the woman who was panicked before passed out right in front of her husband as she walked out -- he grabbed for her -- the police made they they were going to shoot -- screaming at him i guess to put up his hands but they couldnt see his hands were holding his wife -- i yelled we needed a doctor -- it meant nothing to them -- finally he raised his hands and dropped her there on the ground -- i started walking out -- they had pistols drawn and pointed at my head -- i couldnt understand what they were screaming at me but they looked like they would shoot -- i kept repeating i didnt understand -- i was an international journalist -- they mimed to keep my head down -- as i walked out with my head down a few of they ran up and slammed into me, twisting my arms and kicking my feet out -- i got punched in the head and another jumped on top of me -- after they ripped the camera out of my hand and had me in plastic cuffs they started kicking me again -- i got one of the officers names who beat me, torres -- he seemed like he was in command and picked me up and started screaming questions at me -- i asked if he spoke spanish and he screamed no one speaks spanish in here -- one of the others handed him my camera and i got a woman cop to put my glasses in my front pocket -- they started ripping through my bag -- i told them again i was a journalist from new york city -- they started to cut my bag off my back but i managed to explain how to get it off -- there were other more official looking officers in white uniforms who appeared near by and seemed to pretend they were not interested with their name tags turned away from me -- they yanked me back to the main avenue and motioned me to head off toward the main entrance -- the plastic cuffs were so tight even the adreneline couldnt stop the pain -- i was completely confused but saw women with children walking the same direction and just followed them leaving my video camera still running in torres´s hands -- there were troops still coming in with different kinds of uniforms -- there was still shooting but a lot of it was further away deeper in the camp -- there was a long empty street and i saw a cat scurry across and crouch under a fence -- everyone was getting evicted today -- as i was walking i recognized a policeman from the corporate press interview -- he stopped me and started looking through my bag -- i told him i was a journalist from the usa -- it seemed to mean nothing to any of them -- as he was rifling through my things a huge military policeman with a mask pulled up and black bullet proof vest stopped and looked at my credencials -- he said they were fake and slammed me upside the head with an open hand so hard i almost fell off my feet except the other officer who was smiling now still had me by the arm and was holding me steady for the other --he led me toward the entrance where the barricades had been pushed aside -- in front of me were hundreds of detainees kneeling on the ground -- two cuffed together at the wrist -- there was black smoke coming up in a half dozen different parts of the camp -- i could still here the shooting -- they pushed me onto my knees with the other prisoners -- what the fuck next

i was lost -- there were rows and rows of detainees and more being marched hands over head in a line -- clusters of women with small children and elderly trickled out unescorted and were shown to waiting buses-- i had been handed over to a plains clothes policeman who finally found my digital photo camera -- the idea of losing another camera in one day put me in a panic -- i told him just to take the card out and give me back the camera again and again -- he went through every little pocket and had all these scraps of paper i had forgot to throw away with phone numbers and addresses of people who had nothing to do with anything and put my passport and my camera in a separate plastic bag with these things -- i kept asking if he could cut off the plastic cuffs and replace them -- he just wandered away with my bag after placing a guard right over my head -- a couple dogs were on the lose and one came close and he kicked it -- the militarty police kept yelling insults and kicking people who were sitting on the ground -- the pain in my back was making it hard to sit but if i relaxed at all it would push on my hands andthe pain would shoot into me -- the hard brazilian sun was beating down and i was sweating hard -- i looked up and there was a local companero from indymedia pointing at me -- he wasnt even in cuffs -- they came over and he started explaining we were together -- what an incredible relief -- i wasnt alone -- soon another was discovered -- his video camera had also been stolen -- they cut off my cuffs and my whole body sighed -- we were separated from the mob scene and placed in neutral territory baking in the sun between the prisoners and a tent where the hard core military police were in the shade celebrating their victory -- they would come marching out in formation singing songs -- it was twisted i looked in some of their eyes and there was just darkness -- it was like they had no souls, cold hard steel killers-- i saw other undercover police with a computer and some really young ones getting into a car -- there was a lot of talk of infiltration the days before -- time crawled -- eventually we were placed on a bus with all the other prisoners -- i coulnt figure out which was worse for us, being isolated or lost in the herd -- but with the other imcistas i was calmed -- at the police station it was mayhem -- paperwork took forever -- we were led to an area turned into a medical station -- there were pools of blood on the floor starting to turn black at the edges -- people were getting stiches for head wounds -- i saw a guy with bandages all over his head caked in blood -- he described a bullet passing through his scalp -- he was refusing more medical treatment --- he looked scared -- there was movement everywhere and every available space was utilized with scores of prisoners -- it was a much more mellow scene -- there was a journalist who spoke english and i told her i was beaten and they stole my camera but no one say it on the news -- i got a medical check and slowly slowly we made our way to the federal police -- i was the only foreigner -- as we drove out there were other imcistas outside trying tofigure out were we were off to -- there were crowds of young people who had gone to school that day and were gloomily waiting for their parents -- looking at them they could be from anywhere, any class and country, all clean and in their nice clothes with book bags -- we sped away -- at the federal police the snails pace continued as they argued about my visa -- i had a tourist vias but they said i was working as a journalist -- we explained that my work with the imc was completely unpaid -- they said they were going to cut me loose with a court date in june -- ok -- then they wanted to go copy all the photos in my camera -- this took about 3 hours and suddenly i was buzing away out of there and ready to pass out ---- so many stories to tell -- i only have written about what i saw so far but now i need to write about the witness accounts -- people said they saw bodies being dragged to the water wells and dumped, they saw bodies thrown into burning buildings -- no one knew how many were still missing -- all night there were military ambulances leaving the encampment -- all night imc volunteers were at the hospitals and these ambulances never arrived -- a massive orchestrated coverup was underway while i collapsed that night -- people working in the hospitals were afraid to talk with us -- they were already bulldozing houses -- in the jail so called leaders were being selectivle pulled into special holding for interogation -- children still looking for their parents -- streams of refugees -- there was no government plan what to do with these people -- the next morning there was a gathering called for at the catholic church -- i asked if the police would be there waiting and a friend said never, after what happened the day before, this was the center of the city -- there was a sound system and people scattered everywhere in and out of the church sleeping -- most of them didnt even have a change of clothes -- i talked to many who had their money, their identification and their cell phones stolen -- everyone was hungry -- was takijng pictures and say a gathering near the alter and it looked like they were distributing food -- i walked up and there were two open caskets -- it was more than i could handle -- they were floating in pools of flowers and surrounded by loved ones crying -- little children didnt seems to understand -- one had pictures of he and his wife, his new home in the encampment, them on a vacation -- so proud and full of life -- the other had strange marks on his hand and everyone told me they were the initals of the policeman who killed him -- some kind of weird trophey marking -- i was spilling out and dizzy i stumbled away and cried -- they could have been anyone, they could have been me -- the police said they died shooting eachother and the corporate media repeated it unquestioned -- the two official deaths -- outside there was a huge line waiting to report missing people -- their faces -- i turned away -- there was some distribution of clothing and soap and bread but it was a mad house people pushing and desperate clutching babies -- i went with a friend who said she was getting food at the market for the church kitchen -- i went to a safe house to rest a while and people came running in to tell me about the attack -- undercover police had infiltrated the rally that started at the church and had grabbed on of the so called leaders to arrest him -- the people werent having it and started to fight for their companero -- the undercovers pulled out their guns shooting in the air and were barely able to flee the scene running into a forming block of military police who were suspiciously near by in large numbers -- the community was there for a funeral -- despite the gunplay they assembled for a march carrying the caskets to a huge park then buses took them to the cemetary -- after the funeral the buses went to the mayors office and everyone camped out for hours -- a storm was brewing black clouds in the distance and the wind kicked hard -- there were different proposals on the loudspeaker and people decided to go to two gymnasiums set aside for housing -- what a dark night

please donate to Brad's return plane ticket/camera replacement fund via paypal, send it to zradleyman@yahoo.com. skip the starbucks, even a couple bucks really helps. you can also find more information about this here.

and on a slight side-note. . . the next time you think you're a badass, take a look at the guy in the smoke in the 5th photo. you have to be pretty fearless to face down riot cops shirtless, and with one arm. i don't know if that's gangsta, but it sure is some tough-as-hell shit. and the 6th photo? riot cops waiting in line behind some random guys? what, is there somebody selling ice cream or something?

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MP3:

so i really didn't kow what to offer to go along with the rest of today's post. but listening to the first lines of this song seemed to make it appropriate enough. off the much anticipated upcoming album by soon-to-be-famous sri lankan M. I. A., here's a track from "Arular."

• M. I. A. - M. I. A. (Arular Version)


buy music, especially independent.

1 comment:

  1. Its hard to say anything after reading this. IM VERY CLOSE TO CRYING! it just feels hopeless. when will change come? when will humans learn to live and let live?

    im hoping for change. Whatching Venezuela. I mean my GOD!!!! How long has it been like this? The people of south america have been surpressed for longer then most of us have been alive. Just because people are poor why is it ok to kill them? Is a Brasilian worth less then a TEXAN? It seems like to the people giving the orders it is less. Maybe we should step back and ask ourselfs where these orders are coming from.

    I hope before I die I will see the revolution.

    ReplyDelete