From Border Bullies to Prosecutors: Seize the Land, Chain the Peace Activists
By BRENDA NORRELL
The Gate, Tonoho O’Odham Nation (Arizona)
While Homeland Security announced the forced occupation and takeover of Lipan Apache lands in Texas for the border wall, I was at the Arizona border once again being bullied by the US Border Patrol.
All along the border, Homeland Security’s Border Patrol is intimidating and harassing the people who have lived here all their lives.
The Tohono O’odham have lived here since time immemorial. Now their land has been seized and taken over by the Border Patrol, the contractor Boeing and the invading National Guardsmen, for construction of the border wall. The graves of O’odham ancestors have been dug up, according to the traditional O’odham now speaking out against the militarization and abuse.
All along the border, young people are intimidated and harassed constantly. Tailgating police, excessive force by police and Nazi-style prosecutors push young people into rage and jails.
At the same time in Tucson, a judge has declared peace activities opposing US torture in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo, as a “danger to the community” and jailed them.
The United States government has become the terrorist it claims to oppose.
In Texas, Margo Tamez, Lipan Apache/Jumano Apache, called for immediate support, when Homeland Security announced the occupation of lands where Apache land title holders are refusing to sign NSA waivers for the border wall.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the United States will seize private lands in south Texas for the border wall, using the law of eminent domain.
Tamez said, “We need your help on our continuing efforts to protect and keep safe the elders of our struggle against U.S. tyranny.”
Chertoff announced plans to force occupation of South Texas families who refuse to allow the government access to their lands.
Tamez said, “‘Refusers’ such as the Lipan Apache Land Grant Women Defense, led by my mother, Dr. Eloisa Garcia Tamez (Lipan Apache, Basque-Apache), in the rancheria of El Calaboz, have frustrated the NSA, Border Patrol and Army Corps of Engineers officials for over two years, and increasingly in the last two months.
“Using tactics such as public announcements over the news service, used as intimidation and as psychological warfare — NSA/Chertoff exploits the press to prepare the nation to invade South Texas — and indigenous peoples–who are being ‘architected as the perpetual enemies of the United States.’ This is an old story of genocidal tactics and militarization.
“This scenario played out before, in 19th century, in 20th century. And now the 21st, my mother, the ‘child of lightning ceremony’, is fighting for the vestiges of our traditional lands.
“My mother, and the ancestors of ‘the place where the Lipan pray’, have been critical to our land-based struggle, and they are leaders in an Apache struggle in the Mexico-US International Boundary region. Our elder voices direct us in a huge role that Apache people will play in standing up against tyranny of the settler society. We cannot do this without the support and the solidarity of our indigenous sisters and brothers who are also at the forefront of the 21st century battles for our rights as indigenous people with ancient footprints on this land.
“My mother, at this stage of our community-based struggle, indicates that she is prepared to receive national and international support for our small community on the peripheries of U.S. empire. She wrote a comment on the page of this news story out of Houston, Texas.
“Today we are submitting our comments to the Environmental Impact Statement authorities, and parallel to that we are submitting an in depth case study of our histories under U.S., Mexican, Spanish, Vatican and corporate domination to the International Indian Treaty Council shadow report to be submitted to the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of Racism and Racial Discrimination in December,” Tamez said.
Meanwhile in Tucson, peace activists opposing US torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo were declared a “danger to the community” and jailed. They are the latest prisoners of conscience taking action against the torture training at Fort Huachuca in southern Arizona. Earlier, Fort Huachuca was also the site of the originator of the torture manuals used by the Schools of the Americas, leading to the murder, rape, torture and disappearance of masses of Indigenous Peoples in Central and South America in the 1980s and 1990s.
At a detention hearing in federal court in Tucson, Betsy Lamb, a retired Catholic lay leader, and Franciscan Fr. Jerry Zawada were jailed without bail until their trial, according to the support group “Torture on Trial.”
Lamb, Zawada and Mary Burton Riseley were arrested on November 18 at Fort Huachuca, home of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and School, during a protest of military use of torture against war detainees.
Magistrate Hector Estrada was concerned by evidence that both Lamb and Zawada had failed to heed an order of the court in cases pending in other jurisdictions. Betsy Lamb is awaiting trial for a September anti-war protest outside the office of Rep. Greg Walden, in Bend, Oregon.
As a standard condition of release on her own recognizance, Lamb had promised not to commit any other crime while awaiting trial. Fr. Zawada has an outstanding bench warrant for failure to appear for a court date in Washington, D.C., where he has been arrested several times in recent years for anti-war protest.
Army Prosecutor Capt. Evan Seamone came to court with three witnesses in dress uniform, several poster-sized photo enlargements and a videotape of the arrests. But the magistrate said he already knew the defendants’ intent, and would only listen to Seamone’s summation.
Seamone described the defendants’ peaceful passage through police barricades at the gate of Fort Huachuca as a violent act because it had to be met by police, who were forced to go face to face with the unarmed protesters and lift them from a kneeling position. In the eyes of the law and legal precedent, Seamone argued that such violent trespass warranted pretrial detention for the safety of the community.
Were the court to release Zawada and Lamb, “their blatant defiance is likely to happen again” Seamone warned, gravely predicting that “all kinds of chaos” would ensue at the gate to Fort Huachuca.
Attorney Rachel Wilson, representing the defendants, objected repeatedly without success to Seamone’s arguments. Wilson told the court that Ms. Lamb had “learned her lesson” and was willing to post bond along with her promise to return to court for trial. Estrada was unmoved.
He told the defendants he didn’t trust them and that he believed they were right where they wanted to be – before him in chains. Protest is brinkmanship, and the point is to not be arrested; better to organize a conference or seminar, he chided.
Estrada then ordered that Lamb and Zawada be kept in custody until their February 4 trial because they “remain a flight risk, and are a danger to the community.” Not even Capt. Seamone had suggested that the defendants were a “flight risk”.
Responding to the court’s conclusion, Felice Cohen-Joppa said of her friends, “Betsy Lamb and Jerry Zawada are not a danger to the community – they, along with Mary Burton Riseley, are the conscience of the community. They are shining a light on the involvement of military intelligence in torture around the world. Their nonviolent acts are no more a danger to the community than were the nonviolent acts of Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King, Jr.” Lamb and Zawada are not the only people now in prison for peaceful protest of U.S. torture practices.
On October 17, Magistrate Estrada sent Frs. Steve Kelly and Louie Vitale to prison for five months in prison for a similar protest at Fort Huachuca in November, 2006. They are scheduled to be released in mid-March.
Brenda Norrell can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please see photo of construction of the border fence on Tohono O’odham land: www.bsnorrell.blogspot.com
Although the Tohono O’odham Nation refers to this as a “vehicle barrier” instead of a “border wall,” traditional O’odham say it has the same effect, since it is a barrier to the annual ceremonial route and has already resulted in the digging up of O’odham ancestors’ remains. While the Tohono O’odham Nation government works with Homeland Security and supports the border fence, the traditional O’odham are opposing it. Traditional O’odham said the future of their people and their ceremonial way of life is at stake.