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Rage Against the Machine

Freedom Fighter of the Month

June 2000 - Garrick Ruiz

I feel as though we live in an era in which power on all levels (global, national and local) is being concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. This means that those of us who have a vision of something better, those of us who care about democracy and justice, must constantly struggle against that power and the institutions which further that concentration. We must envision a world in which all people are able to have meaningful participation in the questions and decisions which affect their lives. And we must not only envision it but we must fight to make it a reality. People do this in many ways all over the world. I try to make some small contribution to that better world. I'll describe some of the things I do and have done.

What I really want to say to people is that there's no secret to fighting for good things in this world. Five years ago I was filled with rage at how the world worked and I thought it was wrong, but I didn't know how to act to make it better. What I discovered is you just have to start working. If you're pissed off about something find a group that's working on that issue and join them or form your own if there isn't anything you like. One dedicated person can do amazing things and make a huge difference, when you bring a lot of people together around something the possibilities are endless.

I'm from Los Angeles. This August my city's being invaded by one wing of the ruling party in this country, the Democrats and their circus, the Democratic National Convention (DNC). Because of this I felt like it was necessary for me to be a part of the welcoming committee, so to speak. I want to send a strong message to all the politicians that this system does not work. Regular folks are not represented and we can see that the U.S. government and the corporations which run it are not doing anything to help the regular folks in this country. That's to say nothing of the rest of the world where our solution to most problems seems to be war or the threat of war. A lot of my time and energy is being put into organizing protests around the DNC to send a strong message that we aren't going to stand for it anymore.

To this end I'm working mainly through two organizations, the D2K network and Rise Up/Direct Action Network-LA. D2K is the broad coalition formed to coordinate the action on all levels while Rise Up/ DAN-LA is helping to push for and coordinate the Direct Action component of the demonstrations. I worked with the Direct Action Network in the protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle last year and also participated in the actions in Washington DC this April against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. We're hoping to bring a lot of the spirit of those actions to LA this summer.

I've worked on a number of issues as an activist. Right now I'm involved with a group called Youth Organizing Communities (YOC). As one of the most vulnerable sectors of our population, youth and particularly youth of color have consistently been targeted as scapegoats by the powers that be. In California this March Proposition 21 was passed under the guise of controlling gang activity. What it actually does is criminalize all young people. This type of thing is not unusual, generally the weakest members of society are blamed for problems and attacked, we see this with immigrants, people of color, poor people and now youth. The problem is when you attack people a lot of times what they will do is get together and fight back. This is what has happened in California and we're seeing young people come together and resist these laws that target them.

I've worked with the East Timor Action Network for many years. It's a human rights organization which focuses on holding the U.S. accountable for its actions in supporting the oppression of the people of East Timor. East Timor is half of an island in the Indonesian archipelago, about 400 miles north of Australia. From 1975 until just last year East Timor was brutally occupied by the Indonesian military. Over a third of the 1975 population or over 200,000 people were killed under Indonesian rule making it the worst genocide in proportion to the population in post- World War II history. One of the memories that will stay with me always was being in East Timor last August during the vote in which the population voted for independence. Almost 80% of the people voted to leave Indonesia despite the fact that they were under threats from the Indonesian military and paramilitary militias they sponsored. In retaliation for this vote the country was basically destroyed. And yet today no one regrets a thing. A friend of mine who is there now says he spoke with a man whose house was burnt down along with all his belongings. Yet he is still says that he is extremely happy that East Timor is free. This spirit can be summed up by graffiti which appeared in the capital after the incredible violence following the vote "We may be poor, but we're free". This is the human spirit which those who seek to dominate try to crush but here as in other places around the world, no matter how many people they kill, no matter how much they threaten they are not successful. And East Timor is free now. There is much work still to do but a great victory has been won.

If I can offer a little bit of advice it would be to get involved in the struggle. This world needs to be changed fundamentally or we're not going to make it as a race. There are countless things that need to be done and if you see something that needs doing, do it. From East Timor to East LA people are struggling for a better life and a better world. From Chiapas to Chicago there's work that needs to be done. And from the Middle East to the Midwest you can help to make this world better so lets get together and do it.

-Garrick Ruiz