On Tuesday, RAN activists joined about 40 other people from Amazon Watch, the Earth First! Roadshow, and Rising Tide North America in a protest at the Peruvian consulate in San Francisco. (And you can help out too – by joining RAN’s latest action alert.)
We were out there because, on June 5, the Peruvian military brutally attacked their own people.
The background to this event is a sordid story of free trade, oil interests, and blatant disregard for Indigenous land rights. In 2006, a free trade agreement was signed between the U.S. and Peru. Since the agreement went into force in February, President Garcia has used it as an excuse to sign deals with foreign corporations to open the forest to oil, mining, and logging operations. In April, Indigenous peoples – who depend on that land for survival, and don’t want to see it destroyed like Texaco did in Ecuador – started blockading roads leading into the Amazon, led by the Indigenous federation AIDESEP.
But the Peruvian government wouldn’t have any of that. On June 5, about 600 Peruvian riot police in helicopters attacked an Indigenous blockade near Bagua (which, until then, had been entirely nonviolent). At least forty Indigenous protestors were killed; eyewitnesses said that the police immediately began firing tear gas, then live ammunition into the crowd. Since then, community members have accused the Peruvian military of mass-burying bodies in order to hide the true number of civilian deaths. At this point, at least 84 people have been reported killed – and the true number may be much higher.
Here in the U.S., RAN ally Amazon Watch has been doing a valiant job of trying to get the story of what’s really happened in Peru in the last few weeks out to the mainstream media – and RAN has done what they can to help get the word out. And so, when the Earth First! Roadshow decided (on Saturday) to call an emergency protest at the Peruvian consulate in San Francisco on Tuesday, people from Amazon Watch, RAN, and Rising Tide scrambled to help organize and promote it.
Over 40 people came out – which we thought was great for a 9am weekday protest, which we started promoting less than 24 hours earlier. And the protestors weren’t content to just sit outside and hold signs, either: 15 of them walked past building security, up to the Peruvian consulate office, and demanded a meeting with the Consul-General. And they got it: they sat down with him for half an hour, and told him why what the government was doing was unacceptable.
Meanwhile, outside, a local street theater group educated passers-by about the killings, while others handed out leaflets and talked to anyone they could about the unacceptable behavior of the Peruvian government.
This action was a really inspiring example of a what a few people can achieve – on incredibly short notice – when they’re inspired by the need to act in solidarity with their fellow human beings.
If you’d like to help out, you can take part in RAN’s action alert, and demand that Hillary Clinton tell Peru’s President Garcia to stop the violence now. You can also send a letter to President Garcia via Amazon Watch or Avaaz urging him to stop the killing, or you can make a donation to Amazon Watch’s Peru Emergency Fund.
And it’s not too late to organize a protest of your own, as part of Rising Tide’s Solidarity Week of Action – at a Peruvian consulate near you!
Free trade… Big Oil… violations of Indigenous rights… deforestation… climate change… they’re all connected! And we need to stop them all!