For several weeks now two incidents have sparked outrage in two countries that are often described in separate news reports. They are, however, inexorably linked.
The incidents: The police murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, 2014; and the killing of six students as well as the abductions and apparent murders of 43 students around September 26 in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico.
I’ve been closely following both stories. The responsible parties are similar—government forces acting to maintain a status quo where the poor and the dark skinned—the historically disempowered—are kept compliant and terrorized.
Deadly force by police in the United States is carried out more often against the poor and working class of all ethnicities, but at a higher rate for African Americans. The Washington Post on November 25 reported that one study found blacks from 2010 to 2012 were 21 times more likely than whites to be killed by police. In Los Angeles County alone, according to the November 27, 2014 edition of the Los Angeles Times, 590 people were killed by various county law enforcement agencies from January 1, 2000 and August 31, 2014. Latinos made up 50 percent of the victims while 27 percent were black—although blacks make up only 10 percent of the county’s population.
The national and local outrage is justified as the numbers of police officers who get exonerated continues unchecked. The apparent manipulation of the grand jury system by Missouri prosecutor Bob McCullough in the Michael Brown shooting follows the pattern of not holding police accountable. Even U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says the grand jury process appeared to be turned on its head with improprieties like having police officer Darren Wilson testify or presenting exculpatory evidence, as if McCullough were trying the case, which is not the job of a grand jury.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people have been protesting in Mexico City and in Guerrero state against the disappearances and murders of Ayotzinapa’s students in Iguala. So far bodies have been found in mass graves, and a bag of body remains were removed from a nearby lake. The mayor and his wife as well as police chief fled, but were eventually found and arrested. Guerrero’s state governor has resigned. But more may still happen as there is pressure for Mexico’s president Enrique Pena Nieto to step down.
So far 100,000 Mexicans have been killed and another 25,000 have disappeared since late 2006 when former president Felipe Calderon began a failed drug “war”—with pressure and funds from the U.S. government. The Mexican people are fed up with alleged government ties to drug cartels and other criminal enterprises. Many of those killed were at the hands of police or troops.
This is at a time when the poverty rate in Mexico has been over 50 percent and the gap between the wealthy and poor has widened. A similar process is underway in the United States.
The growing militarization of police in both countries is directed at those people lost in the income inequality gap, frustrated with lack of jobs, home foreclosures, or increasing barriers to education and quality healthcare. This is to control a growing class of “have nots,” the 99 percent.
We are facing the same enemy in the U.S. and in Mexico. This enemy is an economic, political and cultural system, not just a few government officials or capitalists. It is a system to keep people exploited, without power, and vulnerable. It’s time for us—the poor, the laboring classes, both employed and unemployed, regardless of skin color—to come together in our own interests. The protests are expressing our resistance. Now we have to build momentum toward a new system of social relations that aligns our advanced technology to meet our needs. This can only happen when real power and society’s wealth are in our hands.
Iguala and Ferguson are twin features of this struggle.