A new coalition has formed in San José, Calif. – We Are People Without Borders (Somos Gente Sin Fronteras). Two dozen activists from the coalition, mostly youth of color, mounted a spirited rally in front of City Hall Dec. 4 with a dual focus. Activists spoke and held signs and banners in solidarity with the caravan of thousands of Central American asylum seekers camped near the Mexico-California border, as well as the many local residents who could be displaced by the huge mega-complex planned by Internet search giant Google occupying up to 50 acres of the city’s downtown.
The rally in front of City Hall coincided with a meeting of the City Council taking up the Google plan, which by the time it ended had involved more than 10 hours of debate, protests and arrests. Shortly after 9 p.m., officers used bolt cutters to remove protesters who had chained themselves to chairs in the council chambers before arresting them. Then the council chambers were cleared.
As reported in the San José Mercury News by Emily DeRuy: “More than an hour later the council returned to empty chambers, with police directing everyone but staff and press to what had been an overflow room to watch a livestream of the deliberations, fueling criticism that the city was operating behind closed doors.
“Outside, protesters chanted — the sound filtering into the largely empty chamber.
“‘This is how people win the fight,’ said 23-year-old San Jose resident Samirah Shri, a member of Serve the People, a grassroots organization fighting gentrification, who was escorted from the chambers for clapping during public comment. ‘[Mayor] Sam Liccardo can pretend we’re not here, but we’re clearly here.’”
Serve the People is part of the new coalition, and its activists have led the fight over the past few months to block Google’s plans.
Another key group in the new coalition is the Barrio Defense Committee, led by long-time San José activist Citlalmina Maria Q Ortiz. Ortiz in her remarks emphasized that the rally was taking place on land stolen both from Mexico and from Native peoples – the Ohlone tribe in the case of San José. She and other speakers emphasized the profit-driven, destructive policy of the U.S. government and corporations in Central America creating the conditions making people desperate for a better life elsewhere. Ortiz also passed out flyers for a meeting Dec. 9, featuring Ben Pardo from Union del Barrio Organization addressing the following questions:
Why does the U.S. deny entrance to the Central Americans?
Why are they coming?
Who’s responsible for this human exodus from Central America?
Also part of the coalition and/or participating in the City Hall rally were activists from Anakbayan Silicon Valley, Student Advocates for Higher Education, San José Peace and Justice Center, and Party for Socialism and Liberation.
One rally speaker pointed out that Dec. 4 was the anniversary of the 1971 assassination by police of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in Chicago and quoted his famous statement: “You can kill a revolutionary but you can’t kill revolution.”
Estephanie from SAHE announced a campaign on the nearby San José State University campus to collect money and clothing for caravan refugees in desperate need.
At the end of the rally, Ortiz appealed for donations to support a struggle that is far from over.