On Saturday, February 19, in the village of Tepatepec in Hidalgo, Mexico, an unusual sight would
   have greeted any visitor to the public square. Sixty riot cops, stripped of their clubs, shields and
 most of their uniforms, were bound together with the ropes they use on those they arrest and forced
                                     to kneel in the chill air.
 The situation started when police raided a teachers' college in the village in an attempt to put an end
    to student strike and occupation. The strike was inspired by the 9-month strike at the national
   university that was ended by a police takeover on February 6. Both strikes began in response to
  government proposals to make academic standards more difficult in ways that would particularly
 affect students from poor rural families who need to take time off to help on the family farm. Although
   the reasons behind the occupations were specific injustices within the present social order, the
 methods of action chosen were those of open conflict with the power structures rather than peaceful
   negotiation. Perhaps the history of government corruption in Mexico left the students with fewer
                    illusions about what peaceful negotiation can accomplish.
    I am reminded of the school occupations that temporarily shut down a good part of the Greek
 education system from late 1998 through early 1999. In this case as well, the occupations began as a
  protest against reforms in the educational system. In Greece, the presence of anarchists and other
 revolutionaries probably played a role in giving the occupations a more insurgent form. I don't know
      if the same is true in Mexico, but the national university is known to have a radical student
 But to continue with the story of the shivering pigs: Though state officials claim that no strikers were
 injured in the police raid, word reached the villagers that a young woman had been raped. Incensed
    by the rumor, several hundred people armed with clubs, machetes and, in many cases, pistols
surrounded the school. In the ensuing battle, one cop was shot, seven people-among them cops and
  protesters-were injured and possibly a dozen patrol cars were burned. Once those cops still inside
   were subdued, they were forced to remove their shirts and shoes and in some cases their pants.
  After the sixty cops were tied together, they were paraded through the streets to the central square
 where the villagers forced them to kneel and then to lie face down on the pavement shivering in the
                                            cold air.
    Of course the situation ended in a compromise of sorts. When all but fifteen of the 350 arrested
  students had been released, the villagers let the cops go. If any of the villagers considered taking
    more extreme action against the cops, they certainly realized that such a public action in their
 present situation could only lead to a massacre by the state. What they did shows the determination
    of these villagers to act directly in their own interests and in solidarity with the struggle of the
  students. These same students have indicated their willingness to defy power and its laws, as well
    as democratic morality, in other actions such as the hijacking a month earlier of a state-owned
                          gasoline truck in order to get fuel they needed.
 Police power is only as great as the willingness of people to accept it, but certainly without a strong
 insurrectionary movement, the state will always find ways to reimpose it. Nonetheless, the thought of
 these shivering pigs blushing with shame is a pleasant one, and the action of these villagers shows
                                       the limits of power.

Back to the Venomous Butterfly Page (on KKA)
                             Back to the Killing King Abacus Page