International Action Center statement on the Arizona shootings and the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords
International Action Center Statement Joint statement from Tucson and New York City offices of the IAC January 9, 2011
The Jan. 8 shooting of Arizona Congressperson Gabrielle Giffords should rightfully be termed a political assassination attempt. The planned murder attempt, which took the lives of six people, including a 9-year-old child, takes place in a political climate of extreme racism, anti-immigrant terror, and fear-mongering that the right-wing, their politicians and pundits have been stoking for more than a decade.
It is part of the calculation of the ruling elite in this country to fan the flames of division, racism, and reactionary thinking in order to divert people’s attention from the economic crisis. The attempt on the life of a member of Congress is a direct by-product of the economic crisis.
The infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio, anti-immigrant law SB1070, the outlawing of Ethnic Studies programs in public schools, the escalating militarization of the border -- this is what laid the basis for the events of Jan. 8. “Hate radio” talk-show hosts, like Tucson’s Jon Justice, along with nationally known bigots like Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and Glenn Beck, in their on-air rants continually use language encouraging violent acts.
The assassination attempt is also directly related to the policy of border militarization. “These senseless deaths are the result of a border policy that has been building since 1994,” stated Isabel Garcia, an immigrant rights activist and community leader with Coalicion de Derechos Humanos in Tucson. “This has propelled the growth of fear, hate and violence. Over 5,000 migrant deaths, shootings and continuing violence are a direct result of this policy.”
The rise of the right-wing rhetoric encouraged by many mainstream government and political forces and incessantly promoted by the media is meant to divert the people of this country from the real problems at hand: unemployment, deepening cuts to education and social services, attacks on public service workers and unions, continuing foreclosures and evictions, and other dire conditions.
The powers that be -- Wall Street, the Pentagon and Washington -- allow and foster this right-wing rhetoric to fan the flames of division in society. They utilize this division to try to keep people's attention away from the real culprits behind the deepening economic catastrophe and budget cuts facing the workers and poor: Wall Street, the Pentagon and Washington.
The increasing number of heavily-armed Border Patrol agents roaming the desert areas adjacent to the border wall has resulted in two fatal shootings within the last two weeks alone. Each of these events involved a large group of Border Patrol agents and a shooting spree. The first incident left a Border Patrol agent dead, while the most recent incident resulted in the death of a 17-year-old Mexican youth who was shot while trying to scale the border wall. Homeland Security will not provide any further details on either shooting.
Shooter was encouraged to commit this act
The militarization of the border and the actions of the racist Minutemen are just two examples of the climate that led to the Jan. 8 massacre. This was not the action of a "mentally unstable" youth "acting alone." It was the action of someone who has been given the signal that these kinds of violent and deadly attacks are needed. It was the action of someone who was encouraged to act as he did.
For example, Giffords retained her seat last November by a narrow margin in a campaign against Tea Party candidate Jesse Kelly. Fundraisers were held by Kelly where he urged supporters to help remove Giffords from office by joining him to shoot a fully-loaded M-16 rifle. He was pictured on his website in military gear holding his automatic weapon and promoting the event.
Giffords was among the candidates that Sarah Palin targeted for removal in the last election. Palin depicted these targets on her website by placing the crosshairs of a gun sight over the congressional district of the “target.”
A town-hall meeting on health care that Giffords hosted in the spring of 2010 was disrupted by Tea Party bigots, one of whom dropped a weapon out of his pants. The night after the health-care vote in Congress, Gifford’s office was vandalized by kicking or shooting out a glass door and window.
Arizona Congressperson Raul Grijalva received death threats after he called for a boycott of Arizona in response to the passage of SB1070. His office also had windows shot out during the fall election campaign.
At about the same time on Jan. 8 as the shooting, the Cesar Chavez building at the University of Arizona was vandalized. This building is home to the university’s Mexican-American Studies program.
Time to step up the struggle
The youth who pulled the trigger, Jared Lee Loughner, is being portrayed by the media as a "mentally unstable lone gunman," solely responsible for this act. According to Paul Teitelbaum of the IAC in Tucson: "The blame lies squarely with the racist, anti-immigrant forces that have been steadily escalating their war against the immigrant and Latino/a communities in Arizona. Billions have been spent to militarize the border, terrorize communities and sow confusion and division among workers, youth and poor people.
"What if the assassin had been Latino/a, a Muslim or another person of color? Martial law would have immediately been imposed in Tucson. The banks, private prison companies and military contractors are raking in millions of dollars off the situation in Arizona, while the people suffer. This must be stopped," concluded Teitelbaum.
Teresa Gutierrez, national co-coordinator of the IAC, stated: "Events in Tucson on Jan. 8 demonstrate that the progressive, union, anti-war and immigrant rights movements must ratchet up the struggle. The media give an enormous amount of time and air waves every time the right-wing sneezes, while progressive events get ignored. This fosters acts like Jan. 8. But history shows that when the people are in motion by the tens of thousands, we can push back the powers-that-be as well as the rightwing. The people can and will prevail."