CRLN at the Border: SOA Watch Convergence Report Back

(Español aquí) This past weekend, CRLN sent a delegation of 9 activists to the SOA Watch Border Convergence in Nogales/Sonora. The group included educators, organizers, migrant justice advocates, international solidarity activists, and artists. We participated in a Friday night action at the Eloy Detention Center, one of the largest, private detention centers run by the Correction Corporation of America (CCA), in Eloy, Arizona. We gathered at the border wall to remember those taken from us by militarism and state violence. We learned from dozens of leaders and organizers from across the hemisphere in the weekend’s workshops and even co-lead our own workshop attended by over 40 participants. Below is a recap of the weekend’s powerful events plus pictures. Thanks to everyone who supported us with thoughts, energy, resources, and prayers!

 

Friday night: We spent the night rallying with hundreds of other people from across the country and hemisphere denouncing the violence of the militarized border patrol and calling for an end to detention and deportations. In a moving show of power, hundreds of people marched from the stage area, set up in a nearby field, to the edge of the detention center guarded by a high fence and made as  much noise as possible, chanting, flashing our lights, holding hundreds of candles, so that detainees could hear us, see us, and feel our support. Among many moving chants, we yelled to the detainees, “No están solos! No están solas! You’re not alone! You’re not alone!” Almost the entire time we were shouting to them, detainees were turning their cell lights on and off, pounding on their windows, and letting us know that they felt our cries.

 

Saturday: After we left the detention center, we headed for Nogales where we would stay through Sunday. We marched to the border on Saturday morning, calling for an end to the border wall and the end of police and border patrol brutality. The march arrived at the border and walked the distance to where Jose Antonio Elena Martinez, a 16-year-old boy who was walking on the Mexico side of the border, was shot 11 times in the back and killed by border patrol four years earlier. The border patrol is the largest police force in the country and has already started training its members at the School of the Americas.

 

After hearing from dozens of speakers at the wall on Saturday morning, the group headed back to the Hotel Americana for afternoon workshops. We heard from dozens of organizations fighting back against militarization, mass incarceration, free trade agreements, privatization of public goods, and the attack on people of color in this country and throughout the hemisphere.

 

CRLN co-lead an evening workshop called, White Allyship: Processing Accountability and Healing Together,” which offered space for white folks to come together to respond to questions sent to us by the People of Color space that gathered in Tucson earlier on Saturday. The conversation ended with a discussion about what the white people gathered would commit to doing in their communities as a result of the conversation and the education throughout the weekend. The list of commitments included many powerful examples such as, “Disrupt police brutality,” “Read the Black Lives Matter policy statement,” “Confront racism wherever it happens, inside ourselves and outside in the world,” “Stay outside our comfort zones, even when we go back home,” “Relate white supremacy to everything because it’s related to everything.”

 

Saturday evening included a concert at the border wall where the stage on the Mexico side reached people and moved crowds gathered on both sides of the border. The concert reinforced the power of art and organizing to break down the concrete barriers put up by xenophobic and violent immigration policy.

 

Sunday: Sunday morning, the CRLN group shared one last meal together, debriefed about the most powerful moments of the weekend, and made our own commitments about what we want to do when we return to Illinois. We left breakfast and headed to the border wall for the final action of the day that our group would participate in. Thousands were gathered on both sides of the wall for the “No Más, No More” litany to name those killed by the violence of U.S. imperialism in Latin America and by the inhumane policies enforced by border patrol and inflicted upon those fleeing their Latin American homes. The puppetistas followed the litany with street theater that named the forces of violence while commemorating lives lost and the resistance that's ongoing.

Our CRLN group left in the early afternoon in order to make our evening flights. While we were on our way to the airport, hundreds of people marched to the border checkpoint north of Nogales do demand the closure of all checkpoints throughout the U.S. And yesterday, as our group settled back into home, people gathered in Nogales for Indigenous People’s Day and to celebrate the life of Jose Antonio on the anniversary of his assassination by border patrol.

 

The weekend offered us a powerful space of reflection, organizing, and building connections between our movements. Thank you to everyone who supported this trip with your thoughts, energy, resources, and prayers. Stay tuned for more report backs and for next steps from our delegation!