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Oaxaca: Battle of the University

by tristan | Nov. 2

My account of the battle to defend the Radio Universidad, the voice of APPO here in oaxaca After my friend Brad was killed last Friday I came to Oaxaca. I was not sure what I could add but it hasd been constant activity here as this struggle grows and strengthens. On Sunday I flew to mexico City then took the bus to Oaxaca. While I was doing this 4,000 federal police (PFP) stormed the city. They now hold the city center and are removing barricades and trying to restore order. The APPO strategy has been ungovernability. While the police can capture certain areas and defeat some APPO tactics the city and much of the state remains ungovernable. The protests grow, more villages in the surrounding area join the struggle and build barricades and solidarity in Mexico and the world grow.

The struggle began with a teachers strike and the teachers are a central part of the movement. Evected from the central square they gather everyday in front of the Santo Domingo Church. November 2, I arrived at 10:00. There were few people. They said "The university is surrounded by the PFP." We marched with 100 people, women first. Actually the conflict began when the police arrived at Cinco Senores, a strategic intersection two blocks form the university. It was well barricaded with busses but the police got through and made a bunch of arrests. When the march I was on got there the barricades were gone and a police line stopped our march. I ran around a block and saw a similar scene of 100 people chanting in front of the police line. I went some blocks more and there were barricades and no cops. I finally got to the radio entrance to the university. People opened the gate and several of us ran in. The gate was piled with bricks and a road grader was prepared to charge the police. Inside was the radio in its fence, barricaded and with guard on the roof and all over. A speaker was set up and we could hear what they were broadcasting. They were calling on everyone to come defend them. There was also a kitchen and places for people to sleep and an alter to Brad and the others killed in the struggle.

People called for us to go to the other corner of the university, the police were atacking. We streamed off. We rushed out of that gate and a furious riot was in progress. Punks, student and others were throwing rocks and shooting giant bottle rockets at the cops. The cops had on armor, helmets and shields and were advancing on the last barricade. The fight was intense but the cops advanced and other cops cleared away the barricades and vehicles behind the line. Many people ran into the university. The rest of us retreated down the street in front. Then we counter attacked. There were then not too many police and more of us every minute. We drove the police back. People used rocks, slings, slingshots, rockets and molotovs. The police were pushed back and around a corner. A propane cylinder was opened and set on fire. Some ran in fear others threw molotovs. Then one of the huge water cannon tanks came roaring up and we ran. Teargas was everywhere and people were afraid of being run over. There was still fighting but we were driven back. Finally most of us ran into the university and the gates were locked. Gas was all over and we retreated to make a last stand at the radio. The radio often calls on people to protest pacifically, nonviolence and dont provoke the police. Now they said, "Enough pacifism, bring gasoline." The cops could have smashed into the university but they are not legally allowed to enter and they eventually said the operation was just to clear the streets of barricades. So I thought I was to be beaten and deported but no.

Time went by in front of the radio. Older women were cooking in the kitchen. There were two molotov factories and two dozen women were bussy filling bottles with gasoline and wierd stuff and stuffing in rags. Meanwhile there were battles on roads and side streets all over. There were nonviolent actions, barricades, and battles.

People called for reinforcements at one corner of the university. Dozens of people ran over and the police and tanks were just over the 10 foot wall. On the west side there were places with just bars and the cops could be seen. Hundreds of rocks were thron. Whenever the tanks advanced they were targetted with molotvs and often caught on fire (but were fire proof). The tanks shot water (and mayber pepperspray) police threw teargas and hundreds of rocks back. Russian made military helicopters circled overhead and police threw more grenades at us. Luckily it was mostly a field and people could avoid the gas clouds or throw back the grenades. The grenades did set the underbrush on fire and it was an amazing scene. Molotova and rocks flying over the wall, teargas, plywood for shields and smoke everywhere. People would come running up with crates of 24 molotovs. Wemen brought up buckets of rocks or dug them from the ground. The radio called for vinegar and more bottles. Soon people were running into the university with more crates of bottles. Everyone participated in the defence of the radio, every kind of person did something. The front lines of the battle were mostly men but almost all the work was done by women. At one point women from one molotov factory called out, "Hey men help us. Dont just sit there."

People would run over to the radio area and grab something to eat, drink, more molotovs or just to rest.

By about 2:00 the police moved back a bit and everyone ran out of the university. The police were barraged with rocks and molotovs and driven back. At every side street we grew in numbers. But the police counter attacked with the tanks and gas and their own vollies of rocks. Wer ran back but then people charged again and both tanks were hit by multiple molotovs and retreated. The crowd surged forward and drove the police back. By 3:00 the police were in full retreat and a jubilant crowd of thousands gathered at Cinco Senores as busses burned in the background. The helicopters circled throwing dozens of grenades but soon they too left.

We had won. We defended the radio, even if that had not been the cops target. We showed that they could not push past us easily. As the slogan says, "We are going to win this fight-Whatever it takes."

The radio called for food and soon food to feed thousands was pouring in. Everyone was so happy and excited. Our movement is strong and will win. We ate and celebrated while others rebuilt the barricades in front of the university and at Cinco Senores.

Hudreds of us slept there and guards were posted as usual. The radio played revolutionary music and friends invited more foriegners to come join the Oaxaca Comune.

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