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Cancun - Sept 10th - Report from Starhawk

Sept 10th report from Cancun actions.
Cancun Update 9/10

Kyoung Hae Lee is dead. I donıt yet know his story, only that he came with
the Korean workersı contingent. I videoed them forming up in the march,
carrying their proud banners, beating their drums and bells. They marched
up at the front, with the campesinos and the other workers. When the march
reached the police barricade, they split off, marched up to the fence, and
Kyoung Hae Lee took his own life, stabbing himself in the heart in an act of
ritual suicide.

But let me begin in the morning, as we wake and prepare for the campesino
march. "I donıt what to wear," Andy says. "I donıt know if Iım dressing
for a nine kilometer march in the hot sun, or a police battle." "If the
campesinos decide to play it low key and nonconfrontational" I suggest,
"theyıll probably ask to send a delegation through and they may let them, in
which case weıll be standing around in the sun for hours. If they decide to
push through, weıll have the battle but somehow in either case I doubt that
weıll have the nine kilometer march."

We head down to the Casa de la Cultura where the mood is festive. Thousands
of campesinos are milling around the food tents, a giant drum circle is
underway and students are dancing ecstatically in the center while old
grandmothers look on and smile. We meet up with the pagan cluster and
Rodrigo appears, back from Mexico city just in time. Kukulcan, the amazing
giant puppet feathered serpent God, with a head of carved styrofoam
reproduction of a Mayan sculpture, covered in silver and copper foil, dances
through the streets, snaking in giant meanders. Chac, the Mayan God of
rain, a giant striding figure painted silver gray, rolls with a more
dignified pace. Contingents of campesinos form up behind their banners,
many wearing their own identifying scarves, the women in their traditional
dresses, white with beautiful embroidery on collars and hems. They are
chanting their chants and songs and clapping along to the rhythms. The
black bloc contingent forms up‹punks in their ritual black with patches and
masks. I see the students Iıve trained, marching together in their
contingent. Our affinity group joins together behind the Infernal Noise
Brigade, under a blue spiral banner. We are toward the back, as the
campesinos have asked of the internationals.

The march moves out, a beautiful sight. At last we have thousands of people
marching together, filling the streets with a river of color.

When we get close, Lisa calls me. She tells me that the Koreans have moved
up to the front, and thereıs a rumor that one of them impaled himself.

There are always so many rumors in actions. I put this one aside. The
march has stopped in front of the police barricade at the entrance to the
hotel zone, at Bonampak. Thereıs a big sculpture in the center, giant Mayan
carved pillars and platforms in a pool of water. We make our way over to
the side of the crowd, where we can escape if necessary. The Infernal Noise
Brigade is playing, and the Koreans and campesinos are up front, challenging
the fence. We can see it shaking under their assault, but the barricade is
reinforced by big flanges of steel in front and behind, and is hard to tip
over or pull down.

The Infernal Noise Brigade really understand how to work the energy through
music. They are playing an eerie, tonal tune that slowly builds energy.
The fence rocks. We move in warily, but the police have barricaded
themselves behind it and donıt react. There is shouting and yelling and
chanting around us. Iım happy. I can feel this mass of campesinos and
students and all of us putting forth our power to challenge the barrier, and
we are strong.

The agreement all the action groups have made is to respect the campesinos.
The black bloc, the more militant anarchist contingent, have made themselves
padded body armor and shields, but have agreed not to use them unless the
campesinos want them to. Now some word is given and they move up and begin
pulling on another section of fence. It is one of those perfect moments
that sometimes happen in action: the campesinos on one side, the urban
street warriors on the other, pulling in unison on the barriers. At that
moment, clouds form in a clear sky, the air grows cool, and rain begins to
fall, as if Chac himself were blessing us. Blood has been spilled, and the
voluntary sacrifice has been accepted. The rain is cool and strong and we
raise up our arms and glory in it as the battle goes on.

I see one of Œourı punks from the permaculture village climb the fence. A
police baton crashes down on his head from the other side, but he seems
unhurt. Sticks are flying and then rocks are flying. Someone lights a fire
and burns a giant banner of an American flag that says "Yankee Go Home!"
The police put on their gas masks, and we fall back. Lisa has no goggles‹I
give her mine and rip out my contact lenses and put my glasses on. Contacts
are unsafe with tear gas, but no goggles fit over my glasses so if its bad I
wonıt be able to see. Rodrigo has no gas protection and I give him my paint
filter as I have a bandanna. The battle in front of us is intensifying.

Skip comes up and tells us that the campesinos want the rock-throwers to
fall back, that they have negotiated a passage through to the next barrier
but canıt go because of the battle in front of them. I say I will try to
find our friends among the punks, and run forward into the crowd. I spot
Loco and Chiwy, and run up and tell them. They already know. Abby is
running around trying to get people to stop throwing rocks and get. Then
the campesinos bring up a small sound truck. Rafael Allegria from Honduras,
one of the leaders of the campesino organization here, tries to calm the
crowd, asking them to be tranquilo, pacifico. He tries to get people to sit
down but no one wants to do it. I donıt actually want to do it myself in
that situation. Heıs asking for something too disparate from the wild
energy that is raging. The crowd begins to yell at him to get back, and
someone pushes him. The truck pulls back, and the crowd surges forward.
Rocks are flying and we are eyeing the cops, knowing that if they come out
from behind the barricade they will be angry and likely to break heads.

The Infernal Noise Brigade has gone, and suddenly Iım afraid. "Iım not sure
I want to be here," I say to Andy who is next to me. "the energy
seems..disorganized." Iım not sure how to say what I sense, just the sense
of a lull with no clear direction, lots of scattered, unfocused power that
could turn nasty or dangerous. "Unless we do something to organize it."

The only thing I can do, really, is drum, and hold the whole scene in my
deep attention to make it more coherent. I begin drumming and softly

"What is our desired outcome?" Andy asks. In truth I donıt know. I would
like to see the fence come down, see us enter into that space and take it
back and march to the conference center and tear down that fortress, too.
My mythical mind wants to see the power of the people surge forward and
reclaim this space, wants to believe that fences and steel bars cannot keep
us out. My tactical mind is saying that even if the fence comes down, we
would be entering nine kilometers of a narrow road between the lagoon and
the sea, with no escape if weıre attacked‹and even if we were allowed to
march, itıs nine kilometers in the blazing sun which came out again as soon
as the rocks started flying.

"I just want to raise enough coherent energy to get a little clarity," I
tell him. Another drummer is a few feet away, and we join up together,
holding a beat that people respond to. I feel like Iım playing the energy
of the crowd as it surges forward and subsides, and as we drum, many people
are working the crowd. The tension is building and the rocks are flying
when a juggler steps into the space between the crowd and the police. He
stands there, rocks flying around him, tossing his clubs and catching them
in hypnotic patterns, a magician holding back the attack.

Some of the students from the Coordinadora begin slowly edging the rock
throwers back, forming a line and opening space, the juggler in their midst.
A chant begins, "El pueblo, unido, jamas sera vencido!" and then another
and another. The crowd pulls back, and the tension subsides.

The campesinos have moved back across the traffic circle into the shade, and
begin making speeches. Our group sits on the edge of the fountain, a bit
stunned, not sure what weıve just experienced. The sound track changes
again, as a campesino band marches up to the barricades and around the
traffic circle, while the students begin a game of anarchist soccer in front
of the police lines. A mis-aimed kick, and the ball rolls under the fence.
A cops boot nudges it back out to the field of play.

Hyoung Hae Lee is dead. Now in the evening we know he was a farmer, a
leader in his community, a director of a magazine for farmers and fishermen,
a married man. He came here planning to do this act. He made a casket
which he set on fire in front of the police line. He killed himself, as
farmers all over the world are killing themselves. Six hundred and fifty
farmer suicides in one month alone, Vandan Shiva said. He killed himself
not in despair, but as an act of power.

His death affects us all deeply. It reminds us that this is not just
carnaval and war games, but deeply serious work. It makes us question what
we are called to give.

- Starhawk

homepage: homepage: http://www.starhawk.org/activism/activism-writings/cancun_journals.html

Lee's suicide 11.Sep.2003 13:56


I have to question just how effective an act it was. It doesn't seem to be getting much mainstream media attention; just checked cnn.com and sfgate.com and there's nothing about it on either of those front pages.

If someone commits suicide and hardly anyone learns about it, does it serve as much of a statement?


Questioning why everyone is questioning Hyoung Hae Lee 11.Sep.2003 18:48

DJ Shadow

I'm really starting to get upset with all these questions about his suicide. He made a tremendous sacrifice, and many people's first reaction is to question it. I don't get it.

Did you see the part of Starhawk's report about hundreds of farmers killing themselves? The WTO is killing people with their policies, and this man decided to protest this in his way. It's tragic, and it's done. Let's honor him by fighting to stop these fucked up policies, instead of questioning his actions. Is it necessary for everyone to understand it, or that the mainstream media in the US covers it for it to be defined as a success?

i want starhawk's job 11.Sep.2003 18:53


how do you get a job where you get to go to all the protests? i hate my job

re question: i imagine everyone in korea has heard about the suicide. the american media is all wrapped up in 911 and blind amurikan fascism to talk about anything else. just like in Chile i'm sure they are talking about other things right now. just becuase the US corporate media isn't talking really at all about the wto, doesn't mean that people in other places aren't. i imagine that if the corporate media did talk about the wto and what's going to happen to farm subsidies and prices, that a lot of farmers in the US would be really pissed as well. i remember a tobacco farmer driving his tractor into the pond on the national mall last year strapped with fake explosives. it seems the US media would paint Lee Kyang Hae as some sort of extremist that no one could relate to, instead of a hero who billions of farmers can relate to.

These scum will stop at nothing . . . . 11.Sep.2003 19:29


These clowns are using the tragic death of an obviously deranged man for their own base purposes . . . . .

img 11.Sep.2003 20:18


Standing up in Cancun
Standing up in Cancun

on npr 12.Sep.2003 10:11


I heard some really great coverage of the WTO protests on NPR yesterday, detailing the breaching of the barricade, Lee's suicide on top of the fence, and the decision of the protester's to fall back and embrace more passive resistance after his death. Albeit, the last line of the report was something like "the WTO talks continued uninterrupted," it was good for me to hear amidst all the blathering about 9.11. I wish I could be there.