Student arrested at local Oaxaca protest

By Emily Smith

A Macalester student was one of five people arrested last week at a protest outside the Mexican consulate in downtown St. Paul.

The student, Alia Trindle ’07, and a few friends were part of a group of about 35 protesters who gathered at the consulate to join calls for the resignation of Governor Ulises Ruiz in Mexico’s southern state of Oaxaca. Protestors have occupied that state’s capital since May, accusing the governor of abuse of power and electoral fraud in 2004.

Mexico’s Interior Minister Carlos Abascal urged Ruiz on Tuesday to either negotiate with protestors or step down, Reuters reported.

According to Trindle, the doors to the consulate in St. Paul last week were locked, so protesters stood outside, holding signs and chanting.

Initially, a few police officers were present. They told protesters to stay out of the consulate’s driveway, Trindle said.

When more police officers arrived, they handcuffed a man carrying a knife and ordered the crowd to disperse. Another man was handcuffed while the protesters circled the block, according to Trindle.

Across the street from the consulate, Trindle stopped to pose for a picture. The woman who took the picture, who was not a protester, was then handcuffed.

At that point, Trindle and her friends decided to leave, she said.

As they were walking away, police officers arrested Trindle and a friend for failure to disperse.

According to Trindle, she told the officer that she was walking to her car, but he continued with the arrest.

She was put in a holding cell but released later in the day when a lawyer her friend knew of paid her $300 bail.

“[Trindle] had the option to leave earlier and failed to take that,” said Tom Walsh, a St. Paul police department spokesman. “She had failed to comply.”

“The Saint Paul Police Department supports the idea of first amendment rights,” Walsh said. “We simply want people to do it in the most safe way possible.”

The Mexican consulate is not the only entity in that building, Walsh said, so protesters impeded other functions.

The protesters did not have a permit.

A group of about 15 students gathered on campus the night of the protest to discuss the arrest and events in Oaxaca.

The following day, Nov. 2, students handed out flyers with background information on Oaxaca and an invitation to an informational and planning meeting that night.

Nearly 45 students, including members of the Macalester Peace and Justice Committee, gathered at Thursday night’s meeting.

The unrest began when Oaxacan teachers went on strike May 22. Support for the teachers among the population spiked when, on June 14, Governor Ruiz ordered an attack on the striking teachers, according to activist and news reports.

A Popular Assembly for the People of Oaxaca (APPO) was convened, and many grassroots organizations joined. They have since occupied the city. Many marches have taken place, one of which drew a million people, according to reports.

“It was an amazing movement that was very grounded in the reality of the situation,” said Annie Virnig ’09, who was in Oaxaca when the movement began this summer. “Being there and seeing it unfold firsthand was an incredible experience.”

APPO is demanding that Governor Ruiz be removed from office. In late October, teachers agreed to return to schools.

Violence escalated on Oct. 27 when police attacked citizens’ barricades. American Indymedia journalist Brad Will was killed in the attack.

Federal police dispatched by Mexican president Vicente Fox arrived the next day. Since then, more people have been killed or disappeared.

At least 17 people have been killed and at least 37 have disappeared, according to activists’ reports.

Students erected an altar outside the Campus Center last week. A sign on the altar reads “In Our Hearts and in Solidarity.” Above it, names of those who have died in the conflict were written on pieces of cardboard and strung between two lampposts.

“We did a nice job of drawing attention to the issue,” said Lara Hamburger ’10, who helped make the altar. “It seems like people are interested in [the altar] when they walk by.”

The meeting generated enthusiasm about participating in more political actions, Hamburger said, but no specific plans have been made yet.