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Tucson holds vigil for victim of Border Patrol killing

By staff |
December 12, 2017
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Tucson, AZ vigil for victim of Border Patrol killing
Tucson, AZ vigil for victim of Border Patrol killing (Fight Back! News/staff)

Tucson, AZ - On Dec. 7, community organizations and residents held a vigil in downtown Tucson in honor and remembrance of a Central American migrant killed by Border Patrol the week before. On Nov. 29, Border Patrol agents in the Baboquivari Mountains of the Tohono O’odham nation, located just southwest of Tucson, Arizona shot to death one of four migrants said to be from Guatemala. The others were detained.

The Border Patrol held a press conference the next morning stating that the man was shot because he assaulted an officer and allegedly had reached for the agent’s gun. Multiple community organizations including LUPE Action Committee and Coalicion de Derechos Humanos held their own press conference, where they contested the narrative of the Border Patrol.

Devora Gonzalez of Derechos Humanos stated, “This is a direct result of border militarization, where urban crossings have been sealed, and internal checkpoints have been implemented, pushing people further into the mountains where agency accountability and oversight is impossible. We reject the categories of criminalization that puts every migrant and refugee in the borderlands directly in the crosshairs of Border Patrol sights.”

The Dec. 7 vigil included participants from the LUPE Action Committee, Coalicion de Derechos Humanos, School of Americas Watch, Border Patrol Victims Network, and the Promotoras of the YWCA. Organizers aimed to highlight the most recent murder as well as all others who died at the hands of border patrol or border militarization.

The vigil itself had two starting points; one was at the federal courthouse, which houses the Operation Streamline proceedings every week. Those who met at the courthouse stood facing the street in a line that wrapped around the sidewalk, while holding candles and signs. The other starting point of the vigil began at the corner of West Spruce and South Palomas where there was a community run that passed by the federal courthouse. They stopped there for a brief prayer circle, then continued on the run, at which point others followed suit in a silent march, and finally ended at El Tiradito, a local shrine where Derechos Humanos has held a vigil for those who have died crossing the border since 2000. Vigil participants held candles, sang, and said aloud all the names of those who have died due to border militarization since 2010, 55 of whom were murdered by the Border Patrol.

Speakers at the vigil spoke to the untrustworthiness of the Border Patrol. Members of the Border Patrol Victims Network gave the example of the agent Rogelio Martinez, who was killed on the side of the highway by the mirror of a semi-truck, but local Border Patrol unions used his death to spin an agenda. Now largely a martyr for the right-wing anti-immigrant forces, they said he was killed by undocumented migrants crossing the border, a blatant lie.

LUPE organizer Edward Cott stated clearly that the local news not only echoed government official lies but never retract clearly false statements. The LUPE organizers were made aware of this fact earlier this year, when they were attacked by police in an anti-ICE raid rally which resulted in four unjust felony arrests. Every local news media outlet published false claims about that incident. In regard to the LUPE rally, all charges have since been dropped due to public outrage.

School of the Americas Watch organizer, Eduardo Garcia, highlighted the role of U.S. imperialism in the whole of Latin America. The U.S. has historically sought to exploit and dominate all the countries of Latin America, and on top of that has funded and trained right-wing military forces when democratic elections or popular movements have crossed that aim. This history of intervention has fueled migration northward.

The vigil ended with songs of resistance and a moment of silence. The organizers of the event stated clearly that their current demand is for an opening of investigation into the murder of 55 people by Border Patrol since 2010.