In a state in Mexico with little money, and not much of that going to public services, teachers hold their annual strike for better wages and against the imposition of fees on children who go to school.
The state government is less tractable this year, and has police attack the teacher's encampment on the zocalo in Oaxaca. The teachers, without guns, repel this attack.
A huge, loose network of popular groups pledge solidarity with the teachers, and the central demand of the movement - a demand supported by the majority of people in the state - becomes the resignation or removal of the corrupt governor.
At the same time, they begin setting up new forms of self-government, many directly based on or inspired by indigenous forms of local self-government, and creating a democratic coalition called the APPO, to push for broad changes in state and local government to begin respecting, and meeting the needs, of the population, which is majority indigenous and where many have long been excluded from exercising power and left in poverty.
The state government, while ceasing to function in almost all normal respects, wages a low-intensity dirty war against the rebellious population through police officers in plain clothes and, well, thugs. They kill at least thirteen people over the course of the half-year since the people's uprising began, and the government ceased to function (while the governor who precipitated the rebellion refuses to leave). Meanwhile, the protesters, who have put up barricades in the city of Oaxaca to fend off these attacks, kill no one.
A central part of the struggle, from the start, is control of and access to information. The police destroyed the teacher's small mobile radio station in the initial attack, and student allies soon began broadcasting from a public university. Supporters of the movement took over a number of government and commercial radio stations, and while state and private security forces have struck back and knocked some stations off the air, the movement is giving voice to a people long excluded from public conversation.
The thirteenth person that the ruling PRI-affiliated attackers kill is an independent, activist journalist from the United States, Brad Will of Indymedia. Days later, the Mexican federal government sends militarized police into the state. They do not go after the murderers, but instead use tanks and force to try to dislodge the nonviolent social movements from the city of Oaxaca. At least one boy is killed by a federal police tear-gas canister.
This disaster has been going on for months, but only recently have a couple of reports shown up in the U.S. media (no doubt because the violent invasion has caused Mexican stocks and the peso to drop); as per usual the reporting (see this article by Mark Stevenson) is misleading in the extreme. You know the routine by now. First, follow the "he said she said" blueprint---in particular, for God's sake, don't explicitly contrast the number (in the dozens) of (relatively) wealthy elite bemoaning the lack of tourist income with the number (in the thousands) of protesters willing to put their lives on the line today for a decent and unharrassed life in the future. Second, leave out crucial information---in particular, don't say who was responsible for the killing of Brad Will, which killing is being cited as grounds for "stopping the violence" by sending in the riot troops. Third, last but not least, paint the protesters (appropriate subtext intact, of course) as crazed wackos, silly kids, and Dark Others on a tear:
The protests began as a teachers strike but quickly spiraled into chaos as anarchists, students and Indian groups seized the plaza and barricaded streets to demand Ruiz's ouster.
This video of the invasion tells a more accurate story. Cast your eye upon the row upon row of Darth Vaderian riot police, inexorably marching down upon the unarmed and unresisting protestors, beating their shields with their clubs in unison and backed up by a row of tank-like vehicles each as big as a two-story house. We've seen those outfits before, of course, in Palestine, Seattle, Vancouver, Portland, and elsewhere where those in power have realized that when metal meets flesh, the laws of physics are typically on their side.
Among the more pathetic scenes are women pleading with the riot police ("No puedes massacre a su jente!"---"You can't massacre your people!"). These pleadings seemed to have little impact, perhaps because, following recent global trend, the "police" might well be mercenaries who could care less about the people they are violently oppressing. Still, for the moment, the thugs at least are human. Imagine what protest will be like when their jobs get outsourced---in five, ten years?---to robots of war.