The Equal Voice Network, of which LUPE is a partner, sent more than 50 people to RITA’s action against SB9 at the state Capitol Wednesday. Members of the Equal Voice Network represented the Rio Grande Valley at the rally, where around 500 people from across the state protested Governor Perry’s anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic agenda. Even though we expect SB9 to pass the House and Perry to sign it into law, the fact that over 50 RGV residents were willing to devote their entire day to the trip and action, with little more than a week’s notice, shows the devotion to fighting for justice that characterizes the network.
The action united leaders of faith, progressive politicians, and human rights organizations in a show of unity seldom seen in Texas. The Equal Voice Network joined El Paso’s Border Network for Human Rights, Austin’s Workers Defense Project, and the state-wide Texas Organizing Project, among other human rights organizations taking part in Wednesday’s rally. The United Methodist Church ministers, Catholic Council of Bishops, and Hispanic Evangelical Ministers association all came out against SB9. Every police chief representing Texas’ urban areas also denounced the legislation. And every Democratic state Senator fought hard to stop the bill from passing the Senate.
Yet Texas’ Republican leadership did not listen to the word of reason, dignity or compassion. As the United Methodist minister who closed the rally said in his prayer, “I have seen an evil spirit enter into my state and that spirit has been reflected in that law.” It is up to all Texans of conscience, faith and dignity to reject that spirit and replace it with love, compassion, and hermandad.
The resounding call to action was, had enough? Register and get out to vote in 2012. If 700,000 Texas Hispanics registered and voted in the 2012 elections, prompted by and organized into community organizations, state politics would be revolutionized. And news of Ariz. State Senator Russell Pierce’s recent recall campaign succeeding in kicking out the racist, anti-immigrant politician should encourage us to realize the power of an organized, progressive electorate in bringing us closer to the change we are working to create in our state.
Of course those who are barred from voting have a major role to play in changing our state’s political climate. Undocumented Texans can organize their communities to get registered and vote, but can also build their power as an organized workforce and consumer base. As the current Arizona boycott and past boycotts organized by workers have shown, when comunidades de base, grassroots communities, use direct action and highly visual protests to elevate a consumer boycott to the national level, they can use the power of big business to force changes at the state and local level.
It was a joy to see so many of us, of all ages, with energy, passion, and ganas de seguir en la lucha, despite the sad political climate we currently face. Yesterday, we rallied, sang songs, read poetry, shared experiences, stories, and chistes, in a spirit that shows that, no matter how hard things get, we will overcome. As Martha passionately reminded us in the rally yesterday, our community is no stranger to hardship. Nor are we strangers to triumph in the face of despair. We will draw on our past victories, memories of leaders, stories, pains and celebrations to continue to defend our community and fight for justice, which is our right as dignified people.