It’s Sunday, January 11th… the cars on the streets of Paris are replaced by over a million of its french citizens, upset about the recent terrorist attacks against the satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo”, for it’s controversial depictions of the Islamic prophet Muhammad…
Among those in the crowd was Amandine… who decided to join her people, take to the streets and defend the main ideals that rule over her county…
“We did this protest to show that in France we have rights and that we are all equals. That we have liberty to do things we want to do and to fight against bad things, against this we need to fight together to show that we don’t agree.” says Amandine Destribats, a Parisian activist.
A concept shared by Hector Guzman… the face of activism in the Valley, usually holding a megaphone, protesting against what he defines as social injustices…
“We asked people to take a look around their neighborhoods there’s a lot of poverty, a lack of infrastructure in poor neighborhoods. We need to organize, we need to come out and exercise our freedom of speech in order for things to change, in order to be heard and it is very important for people not to stay quiet, to unify and build popular power, community power.” says Hector Guzman coordinator for Fuerza del Valle.
However, the rallies that are usually organized along with other social groups such as l.u.p.e., are rarely made up of more than 25 people… this, according to one expert, is due to two reasons:
“Often times the cost of educating ourselves about that the processes are so high that we end up doing nothing. So that is certainly one consequence. For those who move forward to action without learning what the right steps are, you could be fined, you could be arrested, there could be civil suits for noise ordinances” says the director for survey and research at UTPA, Dr. Jessica Lavariega-Monforti.
That last one being the case for Guzman, who was fined twice by the city of McAllen because of a noise ordinance, that in his lawsuit claims, is selective when it comes to other loud, public events hosted by the city…
“As far as we know, the city of McAllen is the only city that has actually ever told us anything. We were threatened with citations and arrests and they quieted down a bit and that’s definitely wrong, it’s unconstitutional.” says Guzman.
Fear of these kind of retributions is fueled by ignorance… Guzman and Dr. Lavariega-Monforti point out a common denominator… the low level of education.
“That’s mainly why people are not participating civilly or they don’t see the fruits of what we can achieve if we don’t exercise our freedom of speech.” says Guzman.
“the political culture in the united states is fairly moderate, probably slightly to the right or slightly conservative, which means we don’t like things messing with our daily schedule.” adds Dr. Jessica Lavariega-Monforti.
This greatly contrasts the French culture… where demonstrations are a daily occurrence… which some at the other end of the spectrum argue, paralyzes the country’s production.
“Maybe in France there are a lot of them (protests) maybe too much some times.” says Destribats.
Sometimes it is the subject of debate that mobilizes people, like the change in the university’s mascot… something the Dr. continues to study, with hopes that with a growing population and economy, along goes participation.
“i think there are a lot of factors that go into whether something like that is successful or not. However there is a saying that: ‘if you don’t participate, you don’t have the right to complain.'” says Dr. Jessica Lavariega-Monforti.
Guzman says, “we have a certain social responsibility to speak out against poverty, against social ills, against things that we can change as a society… in a christian way it is also my duty to participate, to transform society to make it a society with more dignity, with more justice, with more liberty for everyone not just for a few that can buy it.”