North American Union 2008 New Orleans
report back from "The Peoples Summit"
after the second sun burnt day of the gulf coast's people's summit, we here in new orleans are acting like we have months left before bush comes to town, when in fact he is here enjoying the city, comforted by air conditioning and motorcades. we are already witnessing the effects of his Security & Prosperity Partnership: with the mississippi river bridge's on and off ramps blocked, I-10 was made into an express highway, directing flows of traffic and people, conveniently out of his way, inconveniencing everyone else from having access to the city.
The canal street ferry, shuttling internally displaced traffic across the mississippi river, was circled through the day by coast guard boats fully armed and ready to fire mounted machine guns, in full show of force and what bush intends to mean by 'security,' we on the docks agreed was menacing and intimidating. the imminent, historic, and nation-altering meeting about to take place between the leaders of the "free world'' is being met with little, hardly any, noticeable resistance. Due at least in part to the crippled condition of new orleans, where 3 years after the hurricanes people continue to face daily struggles to survive, with no surplus resources, time, or active community members to lend to what would likely be, in any other city in the hemisphere, an equally historic People's protest to the executive meeting.
Civilian resistance and protest to massive free trade agreements seems to be planned for more by bush than by the american public or the "progressive left", and so new orleans is the perfect backdrop for the announcement of the spp: sweeping decisions adversely affecting millions of people are met with a strangled cry, gone unheard by the rest of the nation.
"Understanding who profits and how: NAFTA + and Katrina Profiteering" was a misnomer, a vague power-analysis turned roundcircle discussion, facilitated by the people's institute for survival and beyond. The session was attended by community organizers, international public service workers union representative, mexican trade unions, activists from chiapas, american and canadian youth, citizen journalists and media activists, farmer union representative, social workers, non-profit organizations, and new orleanians, served more as the critical race theory workshop that the Peoples Institute is known for, and not as any attempt for a coordinated approach or discussion on how to challenge bush, calderon and harper at this critical moment.
ironically, at this international summit, facilitators asked that we divide ourselves into national groups to notice similarities between new orleans and wherever we were visiting from, something that would have been manifold more useful to hear from each other, as it was a rare opportunity to hear voices from across the heavily guarded borders. discussion was derailed and became about how we are gate keepers, moving further and further away from any plan of action. the 6 hours were used as an introduction to social inequality, as if people signed up to take a class on the internalization of inferiority/superiority. in fact people came to act together in the face of big brother government.
for all of our talk on giving voices to disenfranchised people around the world, taking queues from these communities, learning from eachother, creating access to decision-making, none of the mexicans who traveled the long distance were asked what they thought should happen at this summit. there was no mention of their very successful strategies for organizing resistance to destructive neo-colonial economic policies. nobody asked "what can we do now that all of our presidents are in town?" instead was the same old, painfully ineffective naval-gazing
speaking with a gentleman from mexico after the looooong winded sessions were over, he asked what the break-out group of americans discussed, and i said they were just talking and not saying much, like americans do. and he laughed, agreeing said i should have been sitting with the mexican delegation because they were discussing that very
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