Pablo Malizzia was there

Gorojovsky Gorojovsky at arnet.com.ar
Sat Dec 22 14:46:34 MST 2001


To members of the marxmail and L-I lists:
This has been sent to me by a common friend of Julio FB and yours truly. It is 
a very fresh, lively and concrete report of an ordinary Argentinean young man's 
experience with the mobilisation, the first mobilisation where he could see the 
people he belongs to giving a giant stride into the future. I have made some 
minor edition to this wonderful text. I guess Pablo will not be upset.

I WAS THERE


It was Wednesday night when I found myself fooling around downtown. I
didn't know what was going on a few blocks ahead of me. After dinner
with some friends, I was only trying to get home, since it was 1:30 am
and someone had said that state of emergency had been ordered by president De
la Rua. The streets downtown were so quiet, there was such a solitude
that it reminded a ghost city, or may be a nightmare. But the truth
was far from that. As a snake moves inconsciously to the sound of a
flute, a certain rumor from somewhere stole my steps and led me,
corner after corner, towards the Congress. The rumor became a familiar
sound. It was the voice of my people, singing to the beat of crashing
metals. I turned the last corner and the picture spoke by itself: The
Congress Square was packed with people. It is about 9,000 sq/yards
place, and if we compute 3 persons per sq/yard we have about 27,000
people there. But that was a very unusual crowd. Unusual, considering
our traditions and history. They were middle class people, students,
young professionals, guys with a bike next to an old lady and a cute
teeny wearing a RN'R T-shirt. There was even a street dog, howling to
the moon sitting among the people. Then I understood the origin of the
metal noises. The crowd  had as their only weapon their saucepans and
spoons. And besides that, the only symbol there were the thousands of
Argentinian flags flying the night, something that before December
20th 2001 you could only see in Buenos Aires if the soccer team won a
world cup. It was a peaceful but determined crowd, that had
spontaneously won the streets, and converged to the Congress Square
singing that the government should "push the state of emergency up its ass".
But that was not all. They also sang against
the IMF, against former president Menem, against the lack of
representativeness of most of the Union leaders and against Domingo
Cavallo, the perpetrator of the neo liberal model installed in
Argentina since his dark appearance in the political stage way back in
the past, during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship. The crowd also
sang the National Anthem, and this one who is writing now could not hold his 
tears when we got to the part that says "let's live crowned in glory. Let's
swear to die in glory". Nobody left the Square until 3:30 am. There
was a spirit of peaceful rebellion, and there were no police in sight.
Half past three in the late night everybody started to clear up slowly
and peacefully, including myself, going back home but holding in our
hearts that we stood firm and told the government that its autism
towards the crisis and the hunger was not to be tolerated anymore. Far
more if the solution they had found to stop the assaults to
supermarkets (made by desperat people that had to feed their kids)
was to suspend the constitutional rights. But then the real nightmare
begun. We were going down Rivadavia Avenue, walking away from the
Congress Square, when the police appeared on stage. Suddenly we heard
whistles zooming over our heads. We looked up to see smoky lines
crossing the dark cloak of the night, landing by our feet. The cops
were standing in a tight formation, and had opened fire with their
tear gas weapons on our backs, when we were already leaving the Square
peacefully. Everybody got in panic and started running, but in the
confusion nobody knew where to run, bumping into each other as in madness.
One of the canisters landed by my side when I was trying to help a girl
that had fallen to the ground, victim of the smoke that made us not
just "cry", but besides the mustard in our eyes we also vomited,  we
couldn't even breath. I received it so directely that I fell down
myself, next to the girl I was trying to help. Some anonymous arms
lifted me from my knees and took me away from the danger, and they led
me, running blind for one or two blocks. There, somebody washed my
eyes, and my sight slowly cleared when we all saw that two police
trucks and two patrols were heading hi speed toward us, with their
lights circleing in blue the desert streets. I looked around, and the
little crowd by me spread immediately running away. I started running
myself, but when I got to the next avenue I saw that there were cops 
wherever one's sight turned to. My eyes were not working right yet, 
but I felt a hand holding my arm. "Come in, come in" I heard, and instinctively 
I entered in a building held by an unknown woman who took me into her
home, washed my eyes and gave me a T-shirt, since I had lost mine
somewhere somehow. Half an hour later I left, not knowing even the
name of that woman who helped me. I walked back home. It was a 50
blocks walk, but fear put me so alert that I didn't notice. When I
finally got in my bed at 6:00 am I didn't know that the worst was yet
to come. And it would come next day.

When I woke up I turned on my TV set, and I saw that the historic
'Plaza de Mayo' was the new stage of what had started the night
before. As the ones that came before me must have felt that October
17th 1945, I could do nothing but attend. I took the subway heading
there, but they stopped it when we were half way from the Plaza, in a
useless attempt to stop people from getting there. In that moment I
realized that a lot of people in that train were also heading like me,
and we took buses and walked toward the Plaza. When we got to 9 de
Julio Avenue, the crowd was growing, and when we got to Roque S..Peña
street it was a human river flowing in a single direction. This last
is a diagonal street that communicates the Obelisk and the Plaza de
mayo, where the Pink House (the Presidential office) is located. There
were no parties there, no further flags than National flags, and among
the people there were as many males as females, from people in their
teens to people in their seventies. The songs that had been heard the
night before were once again sang, and we kept moving forward moved by
the will to get to the Plaza. How wrong we were. The police had the
firm intention to keep everybody away from the Plaza and they
demonstrated it when their gases started raining over our heads.
Everybody ran back as we realized how it would be: We had to get to the
Plaza and occupy it, and they had to avoid it. In those hard moments
everybody was helping everybody, unknown anonymous people sharing
water in a hell sunny day, teaching each other how to tie the T-shirt
wet over your mouth and nose in order to reduce the gas effects,
teaching each other not to wash your eyes, or the magnificent
properties of the lemon to heal the itch of the tear gas. I saw two
couples of guys take off their ties and give them to a couple of girls
for them to use those to cover their mouths and noses, since the girls
just couldn't take off their T-shirts as we men can do. Almost
everybody, including myself, learned all of this lessons in the hard
way in the worst place. And the tactics appeared naturally according
to each new situation that occurred. People took some iron hurdles
that were closing a phone company reparation, and moved them forward
creating a wall from side to side of the street to prevent policemen
from crossing it. Then the crowd moved forward, moving on and on the
iron frontier and gaining positions closer and closer to the Plaza.
But then the horses appeared. The mounted infantry charged against us,
in a number of ten or may be fifteen. Everybody ran back again, and
gases landed once again all over us. Some anonymous heroes stepped on
the flares, extinguishing them, and then everybody knew what to do if
one of them fell by your side. But then, in an unexplainable way,
thousands of people immediately understood that the policemen had
already used their loads, so everybody turned around and now it was us
that charged against the police, thousands of fists up, screaming and
running like a storm in a retaliation that made them turn around their
horses and escape back to the safety of the Plaza, where the main
police force was. The crowd was mad angry because of the brutal way
that police was attacking their own folks, and a rain of stones kept
cops in a distance. It was nasty to see  those girls in their early
twenties with their crying eyes swollen and red like the ass of a
monkey, thos But when the crowd got just a block away from the Plaza,
the horses charged again with their reloaded weapons, pushing us back
with their gases and  hitting savagely with their rubber sticks to all
those that remained back in the first line, blinded in their own
tears. But once they had used their flares, all the crowd turned
around once again, and the hunters became hunted once, and once, and
yet once again in a battle that took two or three hours. They chased
us, we stroke back, they fired at us, we made them escape. As time
passed, we starting recognizing each other, even in the crowd, and
after each attack we checked out around to see if the "blond girl with
a bearded boyfriend" or the "the guy in yellow" were OK. There were
fires burning all over, and that, far from being an 'act of vandalism'
was a necessity: The heat of the flames and the smoke raised up the gas,
and it was much better to breath smelly burning trash than tear
poison. It was by then we saw that a big column raising red flags and
banners were standing five blocks back, by the obelisk. We all said
"finally, the left is here". But the argentinian traditional left
parties proved once again that they are not ready to accomplish their
destiny staying back, five blocks away from the action, for another
two hours while the rest of us were going back and forth without even
feeling the tiredness. One hour later they took the decision and
moved. The struggles remained more or less the same, for a while,
going back and forward once and again, but now it was a little worse
since the comrades refused to put down their big banners, that covered
the view making it more complicated to avoid the flares, since you
couldn't see where they came from. Then something amazing occurred.
The "people's cavalry" appeared. A group of about fifty motorcycles in
every shape and color appeared honking. Most of them were ridden by
two persons, and the one in the back was carrying big stones. Then the
bikes speed up, and disappeared in the black curtain of smoke that the
fires expelled. We could only hear the noise of the motors for a few
seconds, and then a lot of shots were heard. Then the bikers appeared
back from the black smoke, bleeding from their knees and heads, with
impacts of rubber bullets on their backs. It was around 4:30 pm, and
President de la Rúa spoke. There were some radios among the people,
and everybody (may be including the police itself) stopped for a few
minutes to take a breath and to see what was going to happen with
the Chairman's speech. Everybody was expecting him to quit, and the
calm was short because he didn't. But it was not all, since Mr. De la
Rúa also took out importance to all the events that we were all going
through, as if there were not six casualties among the civilian people
that was only trying to express their opposition to the government.
Such a denying position put things even worst, making a large group of
people get really out of control. Besides, it was clear that there was
no way to get to the Plaza and the night was dangerously close. So
they started breaking the glasses of banks and all kind of companies,
they started taking out the furniture, tables, computers, chairs,
everything they found and set them on fire. Then I walked two girls
that I'd met there out of the smoke and the fire, and we got to the
Plaza de la República, were the obelisk is and the air was clearer.
There was a large number of people there, and then I realized that
Corrientes Avenue was also crowded and in combat. In that moment the
artillery entered the stage. The hydrant truck fires flares of tear
gas and hi pressure water. It came as a tank of fear, shooting a large
number of flares that crossed the air drawing white smoky tails behind
them, fired randomly on people. A large group counter attacked it, and
it had to disappear from were it had come from. The two girls and I
ran out of there as fast as we could, and after five or six blocks a
bus stopped and they could jump into, no matter where it was heading.
The sunset was beginning to paint the west, and I sat for the first
time in a long time, in the middle of a deserted 9 de Julio Avenue,
which is said to be the widest in the world. In that moment I
remembered my family, and I phoned my mother to ease her. Then she
told me that President de la Rúa had renounced. Then I knew that I
could go home.

Today I went to the Plaza de Mayo. I sat there, and looked around. In
every corner, in every street I could almost see all the images that I
lived yesterday and that I have related to you.  The scares of the
battle are deep woundings that took more than twenty casualties, and
some tears rolled down my face again, but no gases were fired this
time. Those comrades did not die for nothing. Because everybody knows
that something has changed for ever in Argentina. 

"Let's live crowned in glory. Let's swear to die in glory"


Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
gorojovsky at arnet.com.ar

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