For 24 years, EcoViva has stood in solidarity with social justice movements in Central America. Today, we stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and the protestors rising up across the globe to demand change. We are outraged by yet another brutal murder of an unarmed person of color, we condemn the militarized response to the protesters, and we denounce the unjust system that was built to put white lives ahead of black lives at every turn.
The issues being brought up in our national discourse echo what we have witnessed in our work over the past two and a half decades. Calls for equality in the United States are met with the same heavy-handed militarized response seen in US interventions throughout Central America. As people of color in the US speak out against laws and practices that disproportionately affect minorities, communities of color in Honduras suffer racial injustices under the authority of an illegitimate regime the US helped install.
The inhumane, military tactics we have seen and criticized in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala were taught right here, on American soil. The brutal dehumanization of immigrants by ICE and CBP officers and for-profit detention centers has paralleled that of the American prison industrial complex. We see increased pollution in low-income communities of color in the US while American-backed companies exploit land, people, and natural resources overseas. The devastation of natural disasters exacerbated by a climate changed as a result of emissions from the US and other ‘rich’ countries around the world continues to be felt most strongly by those least responsible. The vulgar slurs from the President of the United States against protesters of color and countries with predominantly black and brown residents echo and perpetuate harmful stereotypes and the idea of a racial hierarchy.
In Atlanta, Georgia on May 29th, Executive Director Ana Luisa Ahern participated in protests where people chanted and sung and yelled and kneeled and held hands and cried together for hours. The city responded by sending in SWAT teams. Armored tanks rolled in. State troopers marched in formation. Military-style soldiers set themselves up on rooftops surrounding the crowd. Officers and soldiers moved in on the non-violent protest and shut it down through an intimidating show of overwhelming force. They initiated the violence. Real violence. Not the “water bottle thrown at a soldier wearing a bulletproof vest and a face shield holding a gun” kind of violence but actual violent bodily harm inflicted on unarmed civilians. As Rebecca Solnit stated in the Guardian, we must “be clear about who is violent and what violence is. Property destruction and harming human beings are profoundly different actions, and with a few exceptions … virtually all the violence visited on human beings during this round of civil unrest across the US has been inflicted by police.” The police were not there to keep the peace. They were there to repress.
If we really want an effective end to violence we must remove the violence that lies at the root of all violence: structural violence, social injustice, exclusion of citizens from the management of the country, repression. All this is what constitutes the primal cause, from which the rest flows naturally… Peace is the product of justice and love.