By José de la Isla
(Editor's Note: The following piece is the third installment in a series about the last leg of the US tour of the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity. Journalist José de la Isla is traveling with the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity as they conclude a 27-city journey to the United States in Washington, D.C. after starting out from Mexico to persuade U.S. Drug War policy change.)
BALTIMORE — When the two busloads of peace petitioners from New York pulled up to Irvington Park, representatives of the local NAACP, average citizens, non-profit group representatives and a law enforcement officers' association joined dozens of area residents to greet them.
These Baltimoreans are among the 200 groups throughout the nation now supporting the Caravan for Peace With Justice and Dignity. The caravan is spearheading a binational effort to bring attention to the estimated 60,000 people who have lost their lives in Mexico after the drug war was militarized and police actions increased.
[caption id="attachment_20164" align="alignleft" width="285"] Kimberly Armstrong, from Baltimore, Maryland, shares with Mexican peace activists her pain in losing her son to neighborhood violence. (PHOTO: XXX)[/caption]
The Mexican Caravan is on the last leg of a journey to 27 cities in 30 days to call attention to U.S. responsibility for its part in the War on Drugs.
Baltimore resident Kimberly Armstrong shares their sorrow, as she relates how her son was murdered, shot nine times, by a 14-year old. How is it possible, she asks, for someone who can’t even buy a tomato in his neighborhood — because there is no grocery store — can get his hands on a 9mm gun?
“I can’t say it in Spanish,” she tells the arrivals, looking for the word “lucha,” to describe their mutual struggle to protect sons and grandsons. This is about family, she says, and it is their lucha together.
Women of the caravan, with photos of murdered and missing kin, reach out to Armstrong as she descends from the platform. One of them is Mercedes Moreno, of El Salvador, now living in Los Angeles, whose son José Leonidas Moreno disappeared in Mexico in 1991 after being detained by federal police. Moreno wants to highlight her belief that the drug war corrupts government and its authority, making members of civil society collateral damage.
Another mother pleads, after recounting the disappearance of her son, his wife and children: "At least when your son is murdered you have a place to cry. But when your family is missing, you don’t even have a place to do that."
Enrique Morones, one of the Caravan’s key partners, tells the audience a fable about starfish. An old man and his grandson, walking on the beach, find thousands of dying starfish in the sand. The boy throws one back into the water.The old man tells him, what’s the use? There are thousands and you can’t save them all."
The boy picks up another starfish to throw back in the sea. “It won’t make a difference,” says the old man.
“It will make a difference,” says the boy, “to this one.” And that’s Morones’ point. Change comes by saving one life at a time.
Stephen Downing, president of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and former director the Los Angeles Police Department’s drug enforcement, is now retired. He tells how his job used to be to cut off who controls the drug flow. U.S. policy didn’t learn from the alcohol Prohibition experience, he relates.
To cut off the flow means cutting off what drives it in the first place. When the policy is to cut the starfish in half, they regenerate and become two. The problem increases.
"If you want something to go away," he says, you starve it out. "You deny it nutrition. The nutrient is money."
Next: The Caravan goes to Washington, D.C.
José de la Isla is a journalist, book author and weekly opinion writer for Hispanic Link News Service.