In act of solidarity, U.S.-Mexico Caravan for Peace joins local leaders to condemn rampant violence and mass incarceration caused by failed War on Drugs.
Selma, Alabama–(ENEWSPF)–August 29,k 2012. Today, the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity—made up of Mexican survivors of the drug war and activists from both Mexico and the United States – will join local civil rights leaders to travel over the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge in order to draw attention to the more than 60,000 people killed in drug-war-related violence in Mexico since 2006, as well as the devastating and systemic racism caused by the failed war on drugs in the U.S.
On “Bloody Sunday,” March 7, 1965, roughly 600 peaceful civil rights marchers headed east out of Selma towards Montgomery to protest a brutal murder and the denial of their constitutional right to vote, but they were attacked with clubs and tear gas by armed officers when they reached the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Today Alabamians – including Bullock County NAACP President Dr. James Poe and community leader Sam Walter, along with members of local NAACP and other civic organizations – seek to raise attention to the overwhelming racial disparities of the drug war – or what has been called the “New Jim Crow”. They are joined by the Caravan for Peace, which is traveling across the country to call for an end to the failed drug war that has proved to be a war on communities in Mexico as well as people of color in the U.S.
This action of solidarity between Mexican drug war survivors and U.S. black and latino communities comes one day after the 49th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
“Our movement brings together activists from both of our countries to shed light on the policies that have failed our families, neighbors, and nations,” stated Javier Sicilia, the poet turned activist and Caravan leader after his son, Juan Francisco, was killed last year in violence related to the drug war. “United, we will raise our voices to call for an end to a war on drugs that allows entire communities to become casualties, and we will demand a shift in attention to poverty and the lack of economic opportunity that helps breed criminality.”
What: Peaceful March Across Historic Edmund Pettus Bridge
Where: Edmund Pettus Bridge
When: 12 pm
Immediately following the bridge crossing, the Caravan will continue its journey to Montgomery, where it will join with the Alabama NAACP, Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice and other community organizations to hold a press conference and public forum, during which survivors and witnesses of the drug war from both sides of the border will share their testimonies.
What: Press Conference
Where: Fresh Anointing House of Worship, 4870 Woodley Road, Montgomery, AL
When: 3 pm
Although today black people are legally able to go to school where they choose, to own homes and to vote for the politicians who represent them –and though the formal system of segregation and Jim Crow has been dismantled – schools are more segregated now than they were in 1963, home ownership by people of color remains well below that of whites and a full 13% of black men are denied the right to vote because of felony convictions, mostly for offenses related to the drug war.
Racism and exclusionary practices did not cease with the end of Jim Crow. They became more subtle as they went from racism enshrined in law to racism achieved through social mores and the use of drug laws. The Caravan and its allies in the Selma community are calling for the U.S. public to recognize and reflect on this new form of racism—which in many ways has its origins in the war on drugs. The rhetoric of the war on drugs arose at precisely the same time as outright racism was becoming taboo. Fighting “drugs” and “disorder” was code for maintaining white privilege in the face of challenge by people of color and others who believed in the principles of justice and equality.
“The NAACP is united with the Caravan for Peace in calling for an end to ineffective criminal justice policies like the war on drugs and racial profiling that fail to address the real problems of our communities,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “We must abandon the unsuccessful “tough on crime” approach to justice and adopt a “smart on crime” strategy that places individuals, their welfare and dignity, and community safety at the center of drug policy.”
Today, as a result of this “war,” two-thirds of those in state prison are black or latino, even though the rate at which they use and sell drugs is about the same as whites. Prisons are the new ghettoes, the latest in a series of exclusionary mechanisms that serve to exclude people of color from mainstream society. Even after being released from prison or jail, a criminal drug conviction often creates a permanent ban on voting, getting a job, receiving public benefits, obtaining financial aid, and many other vital aspects of social, economic and political life – leading to a permanent underclass of primarily young black men. For these reasons, many today consider the drug war as a major driver of a “New Jim Crow.”
“In the 1860s we fought the deadliest war in the nation’s history to end slavery. In the 1960s we were fire-hosed in the streets, attacked by dogs, our children taunted and attacked, our leaders assassinated to stop Jim Crow. What do we have to do this decade to end the incarceration epidemic?” said Neill Franklin, retired police Major and Executive Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. “Only to hold our elected leaders accountable to the will of the people and to make the will of the people heard throughout the land. Out of respect to Dr. King and to all of the unsung heroes who fought for civil rights in the 1960s and in the decades before and since, it is literally the least we can do.”
Bringing together people affected by the drug war from both countries, the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity is traveling across the United States, from San Diego to Washington, D.C., to expose the root causes of the extreme violence in Mexico that has caused the murders of more than 60,000 people and 15,000 disappearances. The Caravan also seeks to raise awareness about the effects of the drug war on communities in the U.S. – principally black, latino and immigrant communities—and to inspire U.S. civil society to demand new policies that will foster peace, justice and human dignity on both sides of the border.
More specifically, the Caravan calls for:
- The exploration of alternatives to drug prohibition, including diverse forms of drug regulation and decriminalization;
- a halt to the illegal smuggling of weapons across the border to Mexico, which can be achieved without infringing on U.S. constitutional rights;
- concrete steps to combat money laundering, including holding financial institutions accountable;
- the immediate suspension of U.S. assistance to Mexico’s armed forces, and a reorientation of U.S. aid to Mexico in a manner that prioritizes human security; and
- an end to the militarization of the border and the criminalization of immigrants, and the adoption of policies that protect the dignity of every human being.
For more information: http://www.caravanforpeace.org
About the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity: www.movimientoporlapaz.mx