People's Freedom Caravan, Day 1
The sun was still low in the sky when people began gathering on Park Street in Albuquerque New Mexico, outside the office of the Southwest Organizing Project. People of all ages, with backpacks and suitcases, were saying hurried good-byes, stocking up on water and fruit. and chasing children excited to be embarking on a long adventure.
The People’s Freedom Caravan pulled out at 7:30 am for a journey of five days from Albuquerque New Mexico to the U.S. Social Forum, in Atlanta. On the way, stops are planned for Texas, the Gulf Coast, and iconic places of the civil rights movement. At many of these stops, more people will join in. On the 27th, we will march into Atlanta to join up with the thousands already there to launch the first ever US Social Forum.
The slogan of the US Social Forum is that a better world is possible, and a better US is necessary. At the early morning rally, Bineshi Albert declared that that process begins with the start of the caravan.
Bineshi Albert, of the Center for Community Change, is one of a group of Native Americans who are on the caravan, most of them part of the Sage Council. The council has been working for years to stop a planned road that would cut through the Petroglyph National Monument, a sacred site to the Pueblo people (listen to the interview below for details). Despite the years of work in opposition, the road opened on Tuesday. Nonetheless, this group is more than ever committed to protecting sacred sites, and they are bringing their struggle to the U.S. Social Forum, where they hope to link up to others who can strengthen this work.
Several hours after leaving Albuquerque, the buses arrived for lunch at the home of the Dorado family in Carlsbad, New Mexico. The Dorado family lives in a lovely home, but they and their neighbors suffer from the operation of a nearby cement plant, which sometimes produces dust that makes life miserable. Local attempts to persuade the cement company to clean up were unsuccessful until the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) helped out. SWOP is the chief organizer of the People’s Freedom Caravan, so, not surprisingly, the Dorado family got on board along with people from the local Martin Luther King Dream Center.
As I write, we are on the longest stretch of the trip – a seven-hour haul from Carlsbad to San Antonio Texas.
Victoria Rodriguez, is a member of the Southwest Organizing Project, which was a key organizer of the caravan. Click below to listen to a brief interview with Victoria.
Bineshi Albert of the Center for Community Change and Bruce McClackey of the Sage Council talk about the efforts to protect sacred sites in New Mexico, and why they are going to the US Social Forum.