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Oct 12, 20

Anti-Colonial March in Kinłání Marks Indigenous People’s Day of Rage

Report back from Kinłání/so-called Flagstaff on militant march that took to the streets in solidarity with Indigenous People’s Day of Rage Against Colonialism.

Around 75-100 people gathered in Heritage Square in downtown Kinłání (Flagstaff), Arizona on Sunday evening to participate in the national call for an “Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage Against Colonialism.

The demonstration was called by Indigenous peoples throughout Turtle Island (North America), with accomplices stepping up to support. Demonstrations were called from Nova Scotia to Hawaiʻi, from Tampa, Florida to British Columbia and in locations dotting the lands in between. The diverse locations participating in the call to action had in common the violent displacement and attempted extermination of Indigenous peoples over the course of five centuries and continuing today.

A crowd gathered in Heritage Square in downtown Kinłání amidst singing and drumming.

Participants gathered in downtown Kinłání around 5:30 p.m., singing, drumming and burning sage while holding a militant presence throughout the square. Most participants wore all black and were masked to protect their identity and to prevent the spread of COVID-19, while a few wore military-style fatigues. The crowd was both multi-generational and multi-racial, with a strong presence of young and Indigenous people leading the events. Banners were unfurled reading “Land Back,” “Colonialism is a Plague,” “Whoever they Vote for, We are Ungovernable,” and more.

A banner calls attention to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, Trans and 2Spirit crisis.

After about fifteen minutes, the crowd stepped off, winding through the streets of downtown Kinłání disrupting traffic and chanting as they went.

“Who’s land? Native land!”

The police maintained a small presence throughout the evening, with a few officers following the march on foot and more trying to anticipate the movements of the crowd to block traffic. In the latter effort they were largely unsuccessful as the crowd did not stick to a predictable route, instead weaving throughout the streets like water–flowing in and out of traffic and disrupting the smooth functioning of the congested tourist area.

At times, interactions with cars and passersby were enthusiastic and supportive, at times combative. Throughout the evening, the march grew in numbers as people stepped off the sidewalks and joined the march. Midway through the evening, as the sun was setting and the crowd was holding a presence at the intersection of N. San Francisco Street and E. Aspen Ave, two middle aged white women joined in, chanting “hey hey, ho ho, these racist cops have got to go.”

The crowd holds the intersection of N. San Francisco Street and E. Aspen Ave in downtown Kinłání.

Minutes later, at the same intersection, a man stuck at the light got out of his silver Kia, opened the hatch of his car and clipped a magazine into a military-style rifle stored there. Moments later the crowd moved on and the car turned left to head up San Francisco without incident.

As the evening went on the crowd’s presence became rowdier, with traffic cones, saw horses and other road equipment pulled into the streets, fireworks set off and brief confrontations with the police. At one point, passing by the crowded patio of Pizzicletta, an upscale wood-fired pizza restaurant, someone in the crowd threw a water balloon filled with a red liquid at the building while the crowd chanted “white silence is violence.”

An overturned traffic barricade pours water out into the street.

As the crowd marched around the Flagstaff City Hall, getting in front of the officers on foot following the march, protestors pounded on the windows of the building and hurled paint-filled balloons at its walls. When cops rushed in to protect the building and possibly arrest those doing the damage, the crowd quickly intervened to protect each other.

The events happening across the so-called US brought attention to a variety of issues facing Indigenous communities, from the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Native people, to the construction of the “apartheid wall” on Tohono O’odham land along the US/Mexico border, to the continued environmental devastation perpetrated by the US government and private corporations on Native land.

The crowd holds a position in front of Flagstaff City Hall.

“We do not believe that we can vote our way out of this crisis,” their statement read. “We will not beg politicians to reform the very system that is predicated on our genocide and destruction of our Earth Mother. We urge for something more effective towards the undoing of colonialism in our lands.”

Throughout the evening, organizers also expressed solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement against racism and police violence. “We have celebrated and supported the rage of spontaneous and powerful Black Lives Matters uprisings that have brought down monuments to colonizers and brought racist institutions like the racist Washington NFL team to their knees,” the national statement reads. During the march, the crowd chanted “Black Lives Matter! Native Justice!” and a large banner read “Stolen People, Stolen Land–Native/Black Solidarity.”

Banners and chants throughout the event expressed solidarity with Black struggles for liberation.

The march took place on the evening before the city’s official Indigenous People’s Day celebration, which will take place on Zoom throughout the day Monday, and in many ways seemed to be intended as a counterpoint to the official events. “We have grown frustrated with the uninspired assimilationist politics of Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Indigenous non-profit corporations and organizations attempt to pacify and assimilate our Peoples further into settler colonial politics,” the national statement read.

Today, as the state of Arizona celebrates its first ever official “Indigenous People’s Day,” with bumbling politicians making ham-handed attempts to pacify urgent calls to come to terms with America’s bloody history, the streets of Kinłání still echo with last nights chants: “What do you do when your relatives are hungry and starving in the streets? Stand up, fight back!”

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