Marchers declare state of human rights emergency in Arizona
Please read this Peaks update as well: Stop Snowbowl: Upcoming Flagstaff Elections, Know Where They Stand (http://indigenousresistance.org/stop-snowbowl-upcoming-flagstaff-elections-know-where-they-stand/)
By Klee Benally
Photos by Ethan Sing and Shelby Ray
Photos by Ethan Sing and Shelby Ray
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- More than 300 people including dozens of organizations rallied in Wheeler Park, then marched through the streets of downtown Flagstaff, Arizona in response to escalating human rights violations.
"Arizona is in a state of human rights emergency," stated Eli Isaacs, a volunteer with the Repeal Coalition and an organizer of the march. "We may come from different parts of this community and face different issues, but this racist state and greedy corporations can only push us so far. With our backs against the wall, its easy to see the same forces are oppressing us all, its natural to find unity against common oppressors."
Community members and students addressed reproductive justice, hetero-sexism, cultural survival, racism, sexism, ageism, police brutality and racial profiling. The gathering spoke out against racist laws such as SB1070 and HB2281, and John McCain and John Kyl's water settlement. They urged protection of the San Francisco Peaks and all other sacred places. They agreed to be in solidarity and to support one another in the struggle for human rights.
Luis Fernandez, from Arizona ALCU, asked the crowd what human rights were. Voices rang out, crying "Access to shelter, enough food, safe birth control, freedom to worship as you please" and more.
In August 2011, The Havasupai Tribe, Klee Benally, a Dine’ (Navajo) activist, and the International Indian Treaty Council, filed an Urgent Action / Early Warning Complaint with the United Nations (UN) CERD Committee, on the desecration of Sacred San Francisco Peaks, Arizona. The complaint addressed Arizona Snowbowl’s clear-cutting of 40 acres of pristine forest and the laying of over 5 miles of a waste water pipeline in furtherance of a US Forest Service and City of Flagstaff supported project to spray artificial snow made of waste water effluent on the Holy San Francisco Peaks.
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, known internationally as the CERD Committee is charged with monitoring compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).
“The Forest Service, the City of Flagstaff, and the courts have proven that they do not understand or respect our spiritual ceremonies and practices and our spiritual relationship to the Earth,” said Klee Benally, arrested multiple times while demonstrating to protect the Holy Peaks. “We have no guaranteed protection for our religious freedom as Indigenous Peoples in the US. The desecration of this Holy site is an attack on our cultural survival.”
Steve Kugler, an advocate for the homeless, stated, "During 2007’s winter solstice, a Homeless Memorial Day Service was conducted on city hall lawn. Twelve names of the city’s unsheltered people that died from exposure during the winter were read.
Unknown to the public, twelve more people had died. These twelve were not acknowledged by city officials, nor were they mentioned in Flagstaff’s media. I feel that the officials did this, because the unreported twelve people were not substance abusers, they are a blight to Flagstaff’s service industry.
My take is that Flagstaff has 2,500 all season, homeless, people who do not have a voice. Thirty percent of the 2,500 homeless are students. Let me be their voice. Flagstaff’s city’s officials were elected by the people to be a proxy voice for the people. Do Flagstaff’s citizens have justice when its elected officials feel that they are above the law, adhere to their own agendas and are not accountable to the people that elected them to office?"
Ofelia Rivas from O'odham Voice Against the Wall, talked about resisting border militarization and how she just testified before a UN special rapporteur in Tucson, Ariz. "The rights of mother earth is what we need to protect today to survive as human beings." stated Rivas.
Paloma Allen, O'odham, who has been working to stop loop 202 from desecrating the sacred South Mountain in Phoenix stated, "Indigenous rights and indigenous identity don't mean anything to this state, that's why we have to be vocal."
Lola, a youth member of a new Flagstaff based group called B.L.A.S.T. spoke passionately about how she has been impacted by Arizona's immigration laws, "This has affected me by my family getting deported, I cannot see them any more because they are on the other side of the border. It just hurts me inside to have them leave and just wake up one day and they're not there. What if that was your family getting deported, what if that was your mother getting put in jail? That is not good, that's not a way we as humans should be treated. We all have rights we all should be treated equal, so I do not understand why they are trying to take away our families."
Raquel, a former member of Tucson based U.N.I.D.O.S., the youth organization that occupied Tucson Unified School District's (TUSD) school board meeting last year, stated, "It's very clear the path that this state lays for youth of color.
It's very clear from the militarization of schools, from the militarization of neighborhoods, from the militarization of the border itself on O'odham lands. The reason that ethnic studies is under attack is because these classes represent a rupture in the plan that Arizona had for youth of color. The TUSD fears resistance so much that every parent or teacher has to go through metal detectors."
Claire Bergstresser, an NAU student and member of Immigration Action Research Team, directly addressed SB1070 and HB2281. Bergstresser quoted HB 2281 as "prohibiting ethnic solidarity" and responded to it by expressing, "I could not understand why our government had mixed politics with education, why students were being limited education on ethnic studies, the things that they can connect with, understand, and love." Bergstresser addressed the crowd, "Your voice and your passions hold no borders and will be heard. At the end of the day, it is not the loudest voices that are remembered but the ones with the passion and courage to listen, express and act in the name of something bigger than yourself. We will march today for our passions, we will march today in the name of human rights, but also we will march today to have our voices heard."