The morning before the International Women’s Alliance conference in Manila, delegates from Gabriela USA were invited to participate in the Philippine-American “friendship” day, to protest the unequal relations between the US and the Philippines. We decided that it was important to participate in a mobilization to the US embassy, or “emba” as the kasamas here call it, because after all we are from the US, we have seen the inequality between the Philippines, and people of color, and poor people, and queer folks, and women folk, and the US. The mobilization was a really important political mobilization for us.
We were prepped that there might be kiskisan, or shield-to-people confrontation and we were assured that we’d be safe if any violent dispersal happened. Our conduct for the mobilization was “touch-the-seal” which means to get right in front of the US embassy to protest unequal relations between the US and Philippines. Our women braved the challenge. We were all a bit nervous but trusted the command of the people’s organizations.
At different moments in the march, we were asked to run down different streets, do an about-face and run some more. Running down streets to outsmart the Philippine National Police was almost like problem solving puzzle. The puzzle: how to get to the embassy and touch the seal. The problem: the PNP’s riot gear and batons. People were chatting to one another about going in one way and decoying the other way. These earlier runs were fun and filled with chanting and laughter. I remember the smiling faces of the Nanays with us, the youth and students alive with chanting and the men from KMU, workers who came to protest their exploitative job conditions under US corporations.
The people’s orgs had a strategy. We assembled in 4 places so when we closed in on the embassy there were marchers from 4 different directions and at a certain point the PNP was encircled by the masses. As this militant march moved in and chants grew, the PNP got nervous and started to strike back, pushing us with shields. The command of the march told us to move back. So we did. And because there were no blows. The command told us DIKIT!–come back to hold the line. We were a bit in the back of the march for safety so we didn’t have to hold the line. But we needed a solid whole so we ran back. And then the PNP started to take to their batons and large pieces of rocks. They threw rocks at the crowd hitting a few in the head. The batons were most bloody. The PNP reacted to the weaponless masses by hitting men and women alike with batons over their shields. Later, (start at 4:26) we saw a video where the PNP beat a man from KMU as he stood, surrendered.
From our end, we were told to RUN. And that we did. At that moment, all of our women made sure that they were together. Never leaving each other. Ensuring we would get to safety. We were all scared and jarred at the moment. But then, at that moment, we really understood state repression. Police repression against people who are simply practicing the freedom to assemble, the freedom to speech.
In all of my expos in the Philippines, I have never been more mobilized and agitated. The face of fascism showed itself, and even though I ran away, I’ve seen it. The face that peoples in the Philippines, Palestine, Greece, South Africa, Colombia and the world over face when they are struggling for a better world, a better life, a better future. For me, I felt like this was a march to remember not just because of the violent dispersal but because I saw the people’s resilience. Marchers whose faces I saw bloodied with batons got immediate medical attention from movement medics and wanted to go right back out and finish the march. All against imperialism.