Puerto Rico is the one of the oldest colony in the Americas. It was a colony of Spain for almost 400 years and has been a colony of the US since 1898. Throughout that whole time Puerto Ricans have fought for their freedom. In the 1930′s the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, led by Don Pedro Albizu Campos, came to prominence by directly and openly challenging US authority in Puerto Rico. The US responded with increased repression against the Nationalists in the form of arrests, imprisonment and murder.
October 20th, 1935 the founder and leader of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party Don Pedro Albizu Campos gave a radio address in which he criticizes a program to “Americanize” the University Of Puerto Rico that is being instituted by US colonial interests. A group of students in support of the measure want Albizu declared “Student Enemy Number One”.
On October 24th Albizu is declared “persona non-grata” at a university demonstration. Students in support of Albizu respond in protest. The police are called in to quell the protest and kill four Nationalists. That day becomes forever etched into the history of Puerto Rico as the Rio Piedras Massacre. Eye witness evidence of the massacre is ignored and the police involved in the killing are promoted.
In retaliation for the Rio Piedras Massacre two Puerto Rican Nationalists Hiram Rosado and Elias Beauchamp assassinate Colonel Francis Riggs who is the commanding officer of the police on the island on February 23rd, 1936. Hiram Rosado and Elias Beauchamp are captured by police. The photograph that i visually remixed is of Elias Beauchamp. He’s saluting the camera just before he and Hiram Rosado are executed by a police firing squad without a trial. Imagine the commitment it took to carry out this assassination and to go to your death defiant and proud…
This history is intentionally kept from you. The very nature of it being hidden makes it secret. A secret rebel history kept hidden from you so that compliance to colonial tyranny becomes a bitter pill easier to swallow without the added size and weight of a history of a resistance. Hiram Rosado and Elias Beauchamp’s lives were both cut short by US colonialism in Puerto Rico but their names live on in the secret rebel history that’s whispered in a resistance that will one day build monuments to their sacrifice.
On April 21st of 1965 the great Puerto Rican independence leader Pedro Albizu Campos died of radiation experiments that were done on his body by the US government while he was in prison serving a sentence for fighting for the independence of Puerto Rico. The US has been a colonial power in Puerto Rico since they invaded the island nation in July of 1898. Albizu was the leader of the Nationalist Party and was a staunch, ardent, charismatic and outspoken opponent of US colonialism in Puerto Rico and advocated independence by any and all means necessary, including the use of violence.
To get a better sense of who Albizu was check out the trailer for this documentary that is being made on him called Who Is Albizu Campos?
To give you an idea of how powerful a figure Albizu was let me tell you about the first time my mother heard the voice of Albizu Campos, after half a century. i had been working with RICANSTRUCTION on Liberation Day, their 1st full length album and the first album to be released by CBGB Records. The opening track on Liberation Day is Pedro’s Grave and Pedro’s Grave opens with a sample of Albizu giving a speech. i wanted to play Pedro’s Grave mostly because of the Albizu sample as my mom isn’t into Hardcore Punk. When i pressed play on the CD and she heard the first few seconds of Albizu’s voice she went into a state of shock and told me to turn it off. i asked why and she demanded that i turn it off. i turned it off because something was upsetting her. After a few moments she was able to compose herself and proceeded to tell me that when she was a little girl in Puerto Rico every time Albizu spoke on the radio the threat of a large-scale revolt loomed large. Her father, my grandfather was a follower of Albizu and after almost 50 years of not hearing that voice my mother was transformed into a little girl afraid of the impending revolution that Albizu’s voice might bring. That’s the kind of power and influence and dedication that Albizu had.
My film MACHETERO features several songs from Liberation Day which was a concept album centered around the liberation struggle of Puerto Rico. While writing the script I listened to Liberation Day and found the songs influencing the narrative and the way in which the film could be structured. The songs from Liberation Day became a kind of modern-day Hardcore Punk Rock Greek chorus to the narrative of the film. Imparting important information through the songs into the narrative of the film.
Arturo Rodriguez the bass player and Joseph Rodriguez the drummer and percussionist are two-thirds of the song writing trio for the band with singer Not4Prophet (who also plays the lead character of Pedro Taino in MACHETERO) being the final piece. When we were doing the final mix for MACHETERO Arturo and Joseph came by to talk about the how the songs for Liberation Day came together. In this segment they talk about the song Pedro’s Grave…
Pedro’s Grave is a kind of poetic history lesson that names various Puerto Rican revolutionaries like Hiram Rosado and Elias Beauchamp who assassinated a police chief in Puerto Rico, Griselio Torresola and Oscar Collazo who attempted an assassination on President Truman. Pedro Albizu Campos is mentioned, as well as the famous Puerto Rican freedom fighter Lolita Lebron who along with three others shot up the US House of Congress in 1954 and served 25 years in prison for doing so. The song also lists a few of the towns in Puerto Rico in which their where important uprisings against US colonialism in Puerto Rico. Towns such as Ponce where a group of protesters were massacred in 1937 and Jayuya and Utado where in 1950 there were violent uprisings against US colonial rule. The very famous mountain town of Lares where there was a violent uprising against Spanish colonial rule in 1868 is also named in the song.
Using Pedro’s Grave in MACHETERO allowed me to impart part of that history in a compact and efficient way. The visuals could stay within the context of the film and continue to tell the story as the song with the lyrics placed across the screen gave a historical context to the visuals. Using the lyrics to be subtitled onto the screen allowed people to get an idea that their was a historical context for the violence that follows in the visuals. The various individual elements of the song, the lyrics and the visuals made a more cohesive whole that allowed more information to be passed onto the viewer than any one of those elements separately.
Check out the video interview of Arturo and Joseph Rodriguez talking about how Pedro’s Grave came to be followed by the song’s incorporation into MACHETERO.
It being St. Patrick’s Day and all i thought i’d write a little about my experiences screening my film MACHETERO out in Ireland. In 2009 MACHETERO was invited to screen at the International Film Festival Of Ireland. Not wanting to miss an opportunity i flew out to with my brother Jonathan and Kelvin Fernandez who plays a leading role in the film. i flew into Dublin rented a car and drove down to County Tipperary to a town called Clonmel where the festival was being held. The rumors of Ireland’s beauty are in no way exaggerated. And the people are among the friendliest, generous and most gracious in the world… i met people in a pub in Clonmel at 2am like Richie Cleary who not only came out to the screening of MACHETERO the next morning at 11am but brought his whole family… That’s how they roll, out in Ireland…
It seemed that MACHETERO was sparking a lot of interest in Ireland. Festival director Will Nugent (no relation to Ted either by blood or by politic) took me to the local radio station to do an interview about MACHETERO and to talk about the kindred struggle for independence that Puerto Rico and Ireland share… Will is an Irish history buff so the history i dropped on him about Pedro Albizu Campos and Eamon De Valera was of particular interest to him. Irish filmmaker Fiona Ashe who was taking part in the festival asked me and a few other filmmakers to speak to a class she teaches on media. After the presentation many of the students were inspired to come out to the screening.
MACHETERO screened on September 12th, which is the birthday of Puerto Rican independence leader Don Pedro Albizu Campos. The screening was standing room only. People that i’d met in pubs and restaurants and gas stations and just walking around had heard all about MACHETERO and came to see what the buzz was about…. The post screening Q&A discussion was lively, informative and a lot of fun…. The Irish know how to have a good time, even in their resistance to imperialism… MACHETERO wound up winning Best First Film in Ireland which was humbling and exhilirating all at once… It was a heavy mixture of emotions to handle… At the end of the festival Fiona Ashe asked to me to do an interview with her about my experiences in Ireland and that video is below…
In the years following World War II the colonized nations who had fought and died alongside the imperial Allied powers began seeking independence and Puerto Rico was no exception. The US government was not interested in giving up Puerto Rico but it also didn’t want to be seen as a colonial power in the eyes of the world. In 1947 the US Congress passed a law allowing Puerto Ricans the ability to vote for their own governor. As the US Congress allowed Puerto Ricans the right to vote for their own governor they passed a gag law in 1948 known as Ley de la Mordaza. It made flying or displaying the Puerto Rican flag illegal and barred anyone from speaking, printing, publishing, organizing or advocating for independence. In 1949 Luis Muñoz Marin was elected the first Puerto Rican governor. The leader of the Nationalist Party Don Pedro Albizu Campos saw this governorship as a means of having Puerto Ricans administer US colonial interests.
As governor Luis Muñoz Marin immediately endorsed a proposal known as “Free Associated State” to try to get as much autonomy for the island as possible. “Free Associated State” granted some autonomy over Puerto Rico but nowhere near complete autonomy. Albizu Campos, the Nationalists Party and other independence supporters all agreed that “Free Associated State” simply put a Puerto Rican face on US colonialism. In response to all these developments Albizu Campos and the Nationalists Party began to plan an island wide insurrection. On October 30th of 1950 in the towns of Jayuya, Utuado, Arecibo, Ponce, San Juan, Mayagüez, Naranjito and Peñuelas there was an open armed revolution to rid Puerto Rico of the US imperialism it had suffered under since the Spanish American War of 1898. The revolution failed and Albizu and hundreds of other Nationalists were rounded up and arrested.
In 1952 the US Congress ratified “Free Associated State” status for Puerto Rico and Puerto Rico has existed in this very confusing and very nebulous state since then. While in prison for his role in calling for and leading the revolution of 1950, Albizu began writing a young Puerto Rican Nationalist woman named Lolita Lebron. In that correspondence he asked Lolita to lead an attack on the US Congress. She accepted the mission and along with Raphael Cancel Miranda, Irving Flores and Andrès Figueroa she led an attack on the US Congress on March 1st of 1954. The date was chosen because it was the first day of the Interamerican Conference in Caracas, Venezuela and the attack was meant to draw international attention to Puerto Rico’s plight as a US colony especially to the Latin American nations meeting in Caracas.
Lolita, Rafa, Irving and Andrés got into the visitor’s galley of the Congress as it was in session. Lolita unfurled a Puerto Rican flag and screamed “¡Que Viva Puerto Rico Libre!” – Long Live A Free Puerto Rico! then the group shot into the Congress. Five Congressmen were wounded in the attack and the four Nationalists were captured. When Lolita was asked if it was her intention to kill she replied, “I didn’t come to kill, I came to die.”
Lolita, Rafa, Irving and Andrés all served 25 years in prison for the attack. At that time Lolita Lebron was the longest held female political prisoner in the world, a fact that did not go unnoticed during the Cold War. In 1979 President Jimmy Carter pardoned the Lolita Lebron and the other Nationalists after and a long and lengthy international campaign to free them. Carlos Romero Barceló the then governor of Puerto Rico was opposed to the pardon claiming that it would only encourage further acts of “terrorism” on the Puerto Rican government and US interests on the island. When the Nationalists returned home they were received as national heroes, much to Barceló’s chagrin.
Throughout the history of Puerto Rico’s long and complex colonial relationship with the US government there have been many of these uprisings that, at the time of these actions, seem to receive very little support from Puerto Ricans. Yet the Puerto Rican people have always supported their political prisoners and have had an outstanding track record of garnering global support for them that has brought pressure to bear on the US government to free Puerto Rican political prisoners time and time again. If Puerto Ricans don’t want independence from the US then why do they want independence for the political prisoners and prisoners of war who fight to free Puerto Rico from US colonialism?
There have also historically always been massive outpourings of support for these independence leaders when they die. Many Puerto Ricans agreed with the ideas of the Filiberto Ojeda Rios, the independence leader assassinated by the FBI in 2005, even if they didn’t agree with his decision to use violence as a means of expressing those ideas. Puerto Ricans felt that Filiberto was worthy of their admiration. Filiberto’s funeral procession was the longest in Puerto Rican history. The same could be said for Lolita Lebron. When she passed away in August of 2010 it wasn’t only the so-called minority of Puerto Rican’s who want independence that mourned her passing but the whole Puerto Rico nation that mourned. It was also the Puerto Rican diaspora that mourned as well as the international community that has always supported Puerto Rico’s independence. Many will say that the violent actions taken by Lolita Lebron, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irving Flores and Andrés Figueroa on March 1st of 1954 can’t advance the cause of Puerto Rican independence but history has proven that this argument doesn’t hold up…
The images of Lolita Lebron above are available as T-shirt’s and as 1″ button from my design company RICANSTRUCTED. There are other designs that can be found there of other Puerto Rican independence leaders there as well… You don’t need to believe in Puerto Rican independence to wear a shirt with an independence leader on it like you don’t have to be Argentinian or Cuban to wear a Che T-shirt… Show your support for the independence of Puerto Rico and get yourself a RICANSTRUCTED shirt…
“Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity” – William Butler Yeats
While Americans voted in a presidential election Puerto Ricans who are American citizens but can’t vote in US elections were contending with their own “plebiscite” on the “status issue” of their homeland, the US colonized island of Puerto Rico. For those who don’t know, Puerto Rico has been a colony of the US since 1898. Since then the “status” of Puerto Rico has been a political game of hide and seek in which the US tries to hide the fact that Puerto Rico is a colony and Puerto Rico seeks a way out of it’s colonial past and into it’s independent future.
You may find it strange that Puerto Rico is a colony of the US, but it’s all a part of an elaborate deception to confuse the issue of Puerto Rico’s sovereignty… or lack of it. Puerto Rico competes in the Miss Universe pageant, the Pan American games, the World Baseball Classic and the Olympics as a nation, alongside other nations and Puerto Ricans are proud to compete in these contests but it creates a false sense of Puerto Rican sovereignty in the eyes of the world, which is exactly what the US wants. It’s the illusion of autonomy disguising the reality of colonialism and it’s been a political limbo for Puerto Rico for over half a century.
There are two main things that make Puerto Rico a US colony. The US can strike down any Puerto Rican law it finds disagreeable and Puerto Rico can only trade with the US, trade with other nations is forbidden. Puerto Rico is a “territorial possession” of the US and the colonization of Puerto Rico couldn’t be plainer than with these so-called “plebiscite” that are held every few years without rhyme or reason. These “plebiscites” are elections in which Puerto Ricans can vote for “Statehood”, “Commonwealth” or “Independence”. One of the major problem with these “plebiscites” on the “status” of Puerto Rico is that they are non-binding. What does that mean? It means that Puerto Ricans can vote to their heart’s content but the results of that election mean nothing because the US Congress has final say on the “status” of Puerto Rico. Let’s say for argument’s sake that all Puerto Ricans wanted to be incorporated into the US by becoming the 51st state or that all Puerto Ricans voted for independence, it would mean nothing. The will of the Puerto Rican people is not important enough to take into consideration because the power of Puerto Rico’s future lies in the hands of the US Congress. Is it becoming clearer now, how Puerto Rico is a US colony?
There are have been three previous “plebiscites” on the “status issue” of Puerto Rico, 1967, 1993 and 1998. None of these plebiscites have been mandated by the US Congress, they have all been initiated by the colonial Puerto Rican government by those who either prefer the status quo or statehood. Independence has never had a fair shot in any of these “plebiscites”. Independence organizations have stated that no plebiscite should take place until the US relinquishes all political and economic power over to Puerto Rico for a five to ten-year period so that Puerto Ricans would have a clearer understanding of what independence might be like. These demands have fallen on deaf ears by both the colonial government in Puerto Rico and by the US.
As a result of the political theater that these “plebiscites” have become many people who believe in independence refuse to take part in them, since they amount to nothing more than an opinion poll. As a result, the tally for independence has always been very small with the rest of the vote being split in favor of “Statehood” or “Commonwealth” with “Commonwealth” always coming out slightly ahead. So what’s the reasoning for having a “plebiscite” in Puerto Rico on the “status issue”? It’s a clumsy and flawed process to find a way out of the fractured political limbo that inherently comes with colonialism.
This latest “plebiscite” was organized by the PNP the New Progressive Party which supports statehood and was in power at the time of the “plebiscite”. The ballot was designed in two parts. The first part of the ballot asked if Puerto Ricans were satisfied with the current political status, which is described as Commonwealth. Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the US, a Commonwealth territory of the US. If they expressed their dissatisfaction with Commonwealth in the first part of the ballot then they would go on to the second part of the ballot which gave Puerto Ricans three choices for change, Statehood (full incorporation into the US), Free Association (a kind of partial autonomy), or Independence.
The first part of the ballot had 54% of Puerto Ricans were unsatisfied with the current Commonwealth status. The second part of the ballot is where everything gets interesting and in typical Puerto Rican fashion, confusing. Of the 54% of Puerto Ricans who voted their dissatisfaction with Commonwealth status, 61.5% of the vote went for statehood, at least that’s how the PNP, statehood party, did the math. The PDP the Popular Democratic Party which favors Free Association (a kind of quasi autonomy) with the United States asked their supporters to use their vote to protest the whole process feeling that this plebiscite favored statehood. Free Associated State garnered 33% and Independence garnered about 5% of the vote on the second part of the ballot. On the surface it seems that Puerto Ricans would want statehood, but beneath the surface lies another story. A much more fractured story. Many Puerto Ricans voted their dissatisfaction with Commonwealth but never filled out the second part of the ballot. If you factor in the ballots that were intentionally left blank, then the vote for statehood only comes to about 45%.
The reason this is all so confusing is because the statehood party, the PNP, is trying to claim a victory in the face of a massive ousting of the statehood governor and many PNP members of the Puerto Rican legislature. The statehood party in Puerto Rico has closely aligned itself with right-wing neo-conservative austerity measures that have included the firing of government workers in massive numbers. These austerity measures made the former PNP, statehood governor Luis Fortuño so popular with the Republican Party in the US, that he was a featured speaker at the Republican nomination of Mitt Romney. When Puerto Ricans went to the polls to vote they let it be known that Luis Fortuño and his austerity measures which were carried out by his party, which held a majority in the Puerto Rican legislature were not the kind of direction Puerto Rico needed to go in. The Pro-Commonwealth Party, the PDP, won the governorship. The PNP is using the “victory” of their “plebiscite” to make up for their loss of political power on the island. It’s a schizophrenic politic but one that is indicative of the Puerto Rican existence. The PNP, statehood party, is declaring a victory for themselves in a plebiscite that seemed to be rigged to their benefit while they are being voted out of office by a furious Puerto Rican electorate that finds their brand of governance intolerable.
The real tragedy here is that Puerto Ricans are being asked to decide the future of their nation with one arm and one leg tied behind their backs. In the 1930’s and 40‘s the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico led by Don Pedro Albizu Campos became the largest independence organization on the island. The US government took this challenge to their authority with arrests, imprisonments and assassinations of Nationalist’s. Albizu replied by openly advocating revolution against the US. In order to stem that revolution and to keep Puerto Rico off the United Nations list of colonized nations, the US government decided to allow Puerto Rico to create a Constitution of their own and give Puerto Rico a measure of self governance. Albeit a level of self governance that was and continues to be approved by the US congress, which essentially built a stage for a new kind of absurdist political theater called Commonwealth.
For over 400 years the governor of Puerto Rico was appointed. When Puerto Rico was a Spanish colony the King of Spain appointed the governor. When Puerto Rico became a colony of the US in 1898, the President appointed the governor. In 1948 the US allowed Puerto Ricans to elect their own governor. In 1952 the creation of the Commonwealth status was crafted by the US in a brilliant piece of legislative complexity that creates the illusion that Puerto Rico is a self-governing nation while the US continues to be a colonizing force on the island. This kept a potentially full-blown revolution from happening on the island in the 1950’s and kept Puerto Rico off the United Nation’s list of colonized nations. A list that independence advocates have been trying to get back on since then.
The problem with this illusion of Puerto Rican self governance is that the independence movement has consistently pulled back the curtain to reveal the naked machinations of colonialism. It can even be argued that the greatest challenges to this illusion were done by those independence groups and organizations that took a more militant stance against it. The Nationalists, CAL (Armed Commandos of Liberation), MIRA (Independent Armed Revolutionary Movement), the EPB (Popular Boricua Army) also known as Los Macheteros, and the FALN (Armed Forces Of National Liberation) took up arms against US imperialist designs in both the US and in Puerto Rico and these actions are a constant reminder that Puerto Ricans are not free. The greatest difficulty in completely destroying the illusion of this self governance is the continued participation of Puerto Ricans within the illusion. This is the nature of colonialism, to divide and conquer.
The illusion of self governance is what’s keeping Puerto Rico from being free. The reason more Puerto Ricans aren’t confident about independence is that the illusion is ever-present, that Puerto Ricans are self-governing… Despite the constant and continued actions of those in the independence movement and the long and rich history of struggle for freedom that Puerto Rico has, the grip of this illusion remains strong. Puerto Ricans are afraid of becoming an independent nation because they believe that they are governing themselves now and that governance has never ever really served the needs of Puerto Rico. It can’t serve the needs of Puerto Rico, because it was never intended to, it was designed to serve the needs of US colonialism. This illusion of self-governance is designed to erode the confidence of Puerto Ricans so that we lack the faith in our ability to govern ourselves into prosperity. Not a financial prosperity but a spiritual, psychological and physical prosperity.
“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 gunstoo 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 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
Check out MACHETERO my 6X international award winning film on the struggle for Puerto Rican independence on Vimeo On Demand…