Arizona shootings reflect racist, anti-immigrant terror
Published Jan 12, 2011 3:50 PM
The Jan. 8 shooting of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson was a planned
political assassination attempt. The murder attempt and massacre that followed
took the lives of six people, including a 9-year-old child, and wounded at
least 12 others. This slaughter takes place within the 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.
Photo: Marla Pacheco
Isabel Garcia of Derechos Humanos, Dr. Roberto Rodriguez, head of University of
Arizona Mexican-American Studies and Paul Teitelbaum of the International
Action Center speak at Jan. 11 press conference in Tucson.
The infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio, racist legislation such as anti-immigrant law
SB 1070 and anti-ethnic studies law HB 2281, coupled with escalating
militarization of the border, increased presence of Border Patrol Agents in
local communities and the escalating powers of local police departments —
these are what created 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 are continually using language encouraging violent
acts. Often, as in Sarah Palin’s now infamous “target
poster,” these bigots name individuals who should be “hit” or
This right-wing rhetoric, which fans the flames of racism and blames all of
society’s ills on immigrants, Black people, Muslims and other people of
color, continues to become more venomous as the capitalist economic crisis
deepens. Its purpose is to sow division and divert people’s attention
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, cruel and dehumanizing prisons filled to the brim,
trillions spent on unnecessary wars abroad and hundreds of billions handed out
to the big privately owned banks in so-called “bailouts.”
This divide-and-conquer technique protects the real culprits behind the
deepening economic catastrophe and budget cuts facing the workers and the poor:
Wall Street, the Pentagon and Washington.
Right wing puts Giffords
When the Barack Obama administration introduced the health care reform bill in
2009, the political climate became particularly vicious. The billionaire-funded
Tea Party emerged on the scene, disrupting health care town halls, threatening
any candidate that supported the Obama plan and depicting Obama in the likeness
of Adolph Hitler. Every movement of the Tea Party was given extensive media
coverage. That emboldened members of the Tea Party to spit upon members of the
Black Congressional Caucus as they entered the Capitol Building in Washington
D.C. on their way to vote for the bill.
At a health care town hall meeting in Phoenix on Aug. 17, 2009, attended by
President Obama, about a dozen people armed with guns gathered outside the
event. A Giffords health care town hall meeting was disrupted by Tea Party
bigots; a weapon dropped out of one man’s pants. The night after the
health care vote in Congress, Giffords’ office was vandalized by kicking
and shooting out a glass door and window.
Giffords retained her seat last November by a narrow margin in a campaign
against Tea Party candidate Jesse Kelly. Fundraising events 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 web site in military
gear holding his automatic weapon and promoting the event.
Right-wingers plastered anti-Giffords signs throughout Tucson with demagogic
slogans like “Gabby stole your health care” and other personal
attacks. The most right-wing of potential Republican presidential candidates,
Sarah Palin, listed Giffords among the 20 candidates 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 each target. She
underscored the message with the words: “Don’t retreat,
Arizona’s Latino Congressman, Raul Grijalva, who also survived a campaign
against a Tea Party candidate, had the windows to his office shot out and
received numerous death threats after announcing his support for the Boycott
Arizona campaign in the wake of the SB 1070 signing.
Shooter was encouraged to commit this act
Jared Loughner, arrested for the shooting, is described as a loner — a
22-year-old psychiatrically unstable youth who had a fascination with
right-wing rhetoric. Posts on Loughner’s web site used language and
terminology found on the web sites of fascist groups. Federal investigators say
they found a note inside his home where Loughner stated his intention to
No information has been published indicating that Loughner acted in collusion
with anyone else or with an organization. Nevertheless, right-wing forces in
Arizona and throughout the U.S. have given the signal that these kinds of
violent and deadly attacks are needed and they have pointed to targets. The
political environment in which Loughner lived encouraged him to act as he
The military buildup along the border and the state condoning racist Minutemen
border patrols all convey the same bigoted message. The state has also done
nothing to stop North American Nazi J. T. Ready, who organizes “Mexican
Hunting” trips — that is, excursions to hunt down immigrants trying
to cross the border areas of Pinal County. The fascist Ready has even produced
a video in which he says, “We will kill them.” (guanabee.com)
The assassination attempt is directly related to the policy of border
militarization. “These senseless deaths are the result of a border policy
that has been building since 1994,” Isabel Garcia told Workers World.
Garcia is an immigrant rights activist and community leader with Coalición
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.” Racist, anti-immigrant forces have
been steadily escalating their war against the immigrant and Latino/a
communities in Arizona, while the banks, private prison companies and military
contractors are raking in millions.
Pima County sheriff attacked for comments
Arizona has been the epicenter of this racist, right-wing reaction. When he
first addressed the media in his Jan. 8 press conference, even the sheriff of
Pima County, Clarence Dupnik, said that Arizona had become a magnet for bigotry
and hate and that some “people in the radio business and some people in
the TV business” are responsible for fomenting the divisive political
climate in Arizona. (latimes.com, Jan. 8)
On Jan. 9 Arizona’s racist and militarist Sen. Jon Kyl said on
CBS-TV’s “Face the Nation” that Dupnick’s remarks had
no place in a law enforcement briefing. Tucson’s right-wing radio station
KQTH-FM called for Dupnick’s resignation. Dupnick has also faced an
inquisition from various FOX News pundits about his comments.
Tucson prepares to fight back
On Jan. 11 several Tucson groups, including the Coalición de Derechos
Humanos, the International Action Center of Tucson, the Alliance for Global
Justice and the Student Justice Education Project, held a press conference to
denounce the racist political climate in Arizona. The event was originally
called when the state legislature was about to convene and representatives
planned to attack the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The organizers
planned to condemn this racist attack, which is an attempt to deny citizenship
to children born in the U.S. who have undocumented parents.
But then the press conference was also able to address the Jan. 8 shootings.
Speakers laid the blame squarely on the racist, anti-immigrant forces and the
millionaires and billionaires who finance them.
James Jordan of the Alliance for Global Justice summed up the press conference
by saying, “We live in a war zone. It is a war against both U.S. and
Mexican workers and farmers. It’s a war of economic policies, and
it’s a war for cheap labor just like the first U.S.-Mexican War was about
extending slave territory.
“Because of NAFTA,” Jordan continued, “hundreds of thousands
of jobs were lost on both sides of the border, and millions of rural Mexicans
lost their farms and saw their communities destroyed. Because of border
militarization, thousands of undocumented migrants have perished crossing the
desert looking for work in the U.S. Those who survive become criminalized or
demonized as super-exploited workers paid low wages, with no rights. But we can
end this war. We can end it by tearing down the border wall, repealing NAFTA
and adopting real immigration reform that doesn’t act as a cover for more
militarization and criminalization.”
The groups that participated in the press conference are working to build a
broad coalition in Tucson and to extend it throughout the state and the
country. They want to mobilize the forces needed to stop this right-wing
reaction. They can be turned back. Now is the time.
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