On Saturday, January 24th, 2015, the Palestinian Youth Movement – San Diego (PYM-SD) and Colectivo Zapatista (CZ) co-organized their 2nd Break Down Borders 5K along the U.S. side of the U.S.-Mexico Border. This 5K represented a form of demonstration, highlighting the violence and injustices that indigenous and oppressed communities face at colonial border regions around the world. The 5K draws parallels between injustices happening at the various borders in Palestine under Zionist military control and the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Additionally, state violences and tactics in both the U.S. and Palestine not only resemble one another, but both states exchange tactics and trainings in order to maintain a racialized social hierarchy to oppress indigenous people and people of color living under colonial rule. This event is part of the 11th annual Enero Zapatista, a month-long celebration in San Diego in January to celebrate the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas, Mexico in 1994, which achieved political autonomy for many of the indigenous peoples of southeastern Mexico. We were joined by about 200 local community members.
While ongoing systematic oppression has been persistent throughout history, the turn of the New Year marks a lot to remember, with another devastating attack and demolition of Gaza, the continued upsurge of murders of the black community by cops and continued killing and detention of border crossers, among many other ongoing injustices.
This event highlighted a constellation of transnational connections between indigenous and oppressed communities, rooting these connections in local struggle. As indigenous and oppressed communities unite, we are in acknowledgement that no matter what point in the history of colonization, our lands and people from the U.S. and Mexico to all of Palestine and the refugees and displaced from colonization are suffering under the control of colonial, neoliberal regimes. We were joined by Peace and Dignity Journeys (PDJ), a group that organizes runs to hundreds of indigenous communities across the Americas, a spiritual act of breaking barriers and connecting indigenous communities, adding a piece of ceremonial significance to the staffs that they carry through these communities for every run they coordinate. PDJ graciously offered these staffs as part of the run and opened up our celebration of community power with a ceremony honoring indigenous communities. These staffs, carried by Palestinian, indigenous, black and [email protected] community members, led this year’s 5K.
We were also joined by community prison abolition organizer and professor Dennis Childs. He founded the San Diego No Prisons Coalition and is doing grassroots organizing against the construction of the Donovan prison in South San Diego. His words offered a framework for thinking through the connections between prisons, Palestine and indigeneity. Pieces of his discussion and our the entire action can be seen in this video link. We were also joined by the UC Graduate Student-Workers Union, UAW 2865 who in December became the first labor union to endorse BDS, by a two-thirds margin with an unprecedented call for Boycott, Divestment AND Sanctions of Israel, over half of whom endorsed the academic boycott.
Alongside PYM-SD and CZ, we were joined by other community orgs from Southern California including Anak Bayan San Diego, Health and Fitness San Diego and Indigenous Defense Resistance Unity Movement (IDRUM) from San Bernardino. Undocumented community members and members from the Mexico side of the border also participated, prioritizing this form of protest over the vulnerabilities that this close proximity to the border could put them in. Local Reggae band Sol Remedy offered their talents, playing their music as runners and walkers finished their run and were building together.
We followed the live music with a community reflection circle where people expressed the political, social and spiritual connections the run surfaced. Ending in a debka circle, our run brought communities together across different contexts here in San Diego and Southern California more broadly and allowed for a moment of celebration of our communities and the work that we do; running/walking, listening, discussing and dancing together.
The political foundations of the run are rooted in militarization and control of our communities and borders. The same Israeli company, Elbit Systems, is constructing both the Israeli annexation wall in Palestine and the U.S.-Mexico border wall and reaping huge profits. Currently, the Israeli annexation wall confiscates Palestinian lands, cutting off families and villages from their agricultural lands, while an Israeli blockade on Gaza has suffocated its 1.8 million inhabitants since 2007. This summer Israel attacked Gaza militarily, with the latest attack resulting in the murder of over 2,000 Palestinians during the holy month of Ramadan. Additionally, millions of Palestinian refugees, displaced for over 65 years, are unable to return to their homes. Here in the United States, there are 1,100 deportations every day across the nation. Up to now, under Obama there have been more than 2 million deportations, the most ever seen under any president. Millions of families have been torn apart.
In addition, we protest the injustices of our communities locally and internationally more broadly and as such recognize that tactics of local law enforcement institutions in the US not only deploy similar tactics as the Israeli military, but they also receive training from the Israeli military and benefit from prison and weapons technologies developed by Israel, tested on Palestinians and sold to the US and used on the most vulnerable citizens, more times than not black and brown. This protest also recognizes the parallels between the Palestinian political prisoner struggle and the struggle of communities of color locally who face mass imprisonment and acknowledge these parallels as systematic racism.
We refuse to submit as security, prison, law enforcement and governmental institutions continue to profit off of the oppression of our peoples. With all of these powerful connections and participation from a larger network of community members, this year’s 5K (our 2nd annual) offers a new beginning for San Diego community organizers, the transnational connections they make and prospects of joint-work on local levels and beyond!