“Barrio in barricades without a reason
round up in a midnight raid and shot for treason
mothers daughters fathers sons put in detention
bullets beatings torture guns too cruel to mention”
RICANSTRUCTION – Breakfast In Amerika
“And it’s true we are immune
When fact is fiction and TV reality
And today the millions cry
We eat and drink while tomorrow they die”
U2 – Bloody Sunday
Imperialist powers have had a long history of blaming those they oppress for the conditions of their imperialism. There’s no better example that bears out this flawed thinking than the categorizing of violence used in service to liberation being labeled as “terrorism”. Let’s be very clear about something before we go any further. The violence of the colonized is different from the violence of the imperialist. The violence of the colonized is a response to the violence which is inherent in imperialism. Ireland and Puerto Rico, two of the oldest nations in the world, still struggling to extricate themselves from the grip of foreign imperialism, have been doing so for centuries. The parallel experiences that these nations have experienced over time has more to say about the nature of imperialist violence than it has to do with how the colonized respond to that violence.
In the 1930’s Pedro Albizu Campos the leader of the Nationalist Party in Puerto Rico moved the party toward taking a more active and militant stance towards independence for Puerto Rico from US imperialism. In 1935 in an incident know as the Rio Piedras Massacre four nationalists were killed by police for attending a rally in support of Albizu. The police responsible for the killings were given promotions. The message was clear to Puerto Ricans across the island, that it was okay to kill Puerto Rican Nationalists. In 1936 two Puerto Rican Nationalists Hiram Rosado and Elias Beauchamp assassinated Colonel Elisha Francis Riggs who was in charge of the insular police force at the time of the Rio Piedras massacre. Hiram and Elias were captured and then executed by the police, without a trial. Shortly after that Albizu was arrested on charges of sedition.
On Palm Sunday of 1937 the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico planned a march in the city of Ponce to commemorate the abolition of slavery and to protest the arrest and imprisonment of Albizu on recent charges of sedition. As the Nationalists gathered to march the colonial governor General Blanton Winship caught word of the protest and sent in police, to surround the march and keep it from happening. Some of the police were armed with machine guns. The Nationalists refused to disperse and decided to march anyway. They marched forward singing “La Boriqueña” the national anthem of Puerto Rico, pushing forward against a line of armed police. The police opened fired on the crowd from all sides and for 15 minutes they terrorized the marchers with gunfire, beating them with clubs and arresting them without cause. In the end seventeen men, one woman and a seven year old girl were killed, 235 people were wounded and 150 people were arrested. No weapons were found on any of the dead, wounded or arrested but despite that fact no one was held responsible for the largest massacre in Puerto Rican history. The message was clearly sent once again… it’s ok to murder Puerto Rican Nationalists…
In the decades that followed a wave of repression by the US colonial government was waged against the Nationalists. All the while the Nationalists fought to release their political prisoners, organized and attempted to overthrow the US government in Puerto Rico, attempted to assassinate US President Harry Truman, and shot up the House Of Congress while it was in full session. When one looks back on US imperialism’s reactions to these actions by the Nationalists there’s a calculated bewilderment on the part of the US as to why these Puerto Ricans would do such things and an arrogance that denies the fact that the brutality begins with US imperialism. There is a willful ignorance to the fact that the forceful political actions of the Nationalists are a means towards ending the violence of US imperialism. To put it simply… If the US got out of Puerto Rico then the Nationalists decision to use violent actions would cease.
In the latter half of the 1960’s Catholics in Northern Ireland were coming under increased discrimination in terms of electoral politics and housing. Despite the fact that Irish Catholics in Northern Ireland were the majority, Northern Ireland was under the control of the Unionist’s, who supported British rule. The Northern Ireland Civil RIghts Association was formed to respond to theses issues of discrimination. Despite the fact that the NICRA was an organization dedicated to finding non-violent solutions to theses problem the group was met with violence by Protestant loyalists and the Royalist Ulster Constabulary at many of their protests. In 1969 a riot erupted in Derry and spread across Northern Ireland for three days. It became known as the Battle of Bogside. At the end of the rioting 1500 Catholics were pushed out of their homes and 1000 people were injured. This was the beginning of an era in Irish history known as The Troubles.
The Troubles continued in 1972 when the NICRA organized a peaceful march for Civil Rights in Derry. The NICRA forced city officials to allow the march to happen without a permit but they placed a military barricade along the route and the NICRA had to reroute the march. A splinter group of young teenagers broke off from that forced detour and continued towards the military barricade attacking it by throwing rocks which was not uncommon in those days. Rubber bullets, water cannons and tear gas dispersed them but in the heat of this battle two solders claimed that some of the teens were armed and began firing into the crowd. The military opened fire on the crowd. A ceasefire order given to the military forces went unheeded and over 100 rounds were shot at the demonstrators. In the end 26 protesters and bystanders were shot by the British military, 14 of them were killed, 13 of those killed were teenagers. In the investigation that followed the British military was found to have acted in self defense despite the fact that no weapons were found on anyone who was killed, injured or arrested on that day. The Provisional Irish Republican Army which had begun a campaign against the partition of Northern Ireland only a few short years before found a boost to their recruitment in the aftermath of what became know in Ireland as the Bogside Massacre or as Bloody Sunday.
When you take a look at these incidents… when you look at these Bloody Sundays you’ll find that the colonized are doing what they can to peacefully find solutions to the problems of imperialism and are met each time with a violence escalated to the level of massacre. In both these circumstances the imperialists react to the challenges of their illegitimate authority with murder and brutality. In both circumstances more than a few of those who were more than willing to try and achieve a non-violent solution are driven to trying to achieve those goals with force. The only logical conclusion that can be drawn from these massacres on two different island nations under the rule of different imperialist powers is that this is not an issue about individual acts of violence and the responses to that violence but that this violence is inherent in imperialism.
Yet if you look at the investigations done in the aftermath of these massacres you can see the imperialists maneuvering to justify their brutality with imagined threats that shape an imperialist reality. In the Ponce massacre General Blanton Winship is sure that the Nationalists march will turn violent and then creates a self-fulfilling prophecy by opening fire on a peaceful crowd. The same is true with the Bloody Sunday massacre in Ireland. The soldiers have been indoctrinated by their imperialist masters that the protesters are coming to kill them and so they decide to kill first. The imperialist reality is a nightmare for the colonized. The imperialist reality is an illusion, locked inside a hermetically sealed vessel, in which actual reality is not allowed to seep in. This imperialist reality is imposed on the colonized despite the lack of evidence or proof or even logic.
If you somehow think that this imperialist reality is some relic of the past think of the recent US and UK imperialist adventure in Iraq and the search for weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein was mostly certainly going to use. In the aftermath of that war where are the weapons? Where is the threat? Where is the justification for such actions outside of the self created illusion existing in the hermetically sealed vacuum of imperialism? It doesn’t exist because imperialism is a false reality without logical basis or empirical standing. Sunday after bloody Sunday it continues to impose this reality on the world in an effort to excuse the greed and hubris of imperialism. The question isn’t why are Puerto Rican Nationalists and Irish Republicans and Iraqi insurgents attacking imperialism… the questions is why is the illusion of imperialism, the fake reality of imperialism being imposed in Puerto Rico, in Ireland, in Iraq… Sunday after bloody Sunday…
Film of the Ponce Massacre in Puerto Rico in 1937
Film of the Bloody Sunday Massacre in Ireland in 1972
A quick note on the artwork at the top of this post…
The base image of a man laying dead and bloody on the ground is taken from a photo of the Bogside Massacre. The ghostly image of text sitting on top of that image is of some text (graffiti) written on the wall by a victim of the Ponce Massacre as he lay bleeding he used the blood to write ‘Long Live The Republic Down With The Assassins’. The cross in the center of the image is the symbol that was used by the Puerto Rican Nationalists.
Shortlink for Sundays Bloody Sundays: http://wp.me/p1eniL-F9