Fierce

As A School Teacher, I’ve Learned That Ensuring The Safety Of My Immigrant Students Starts With Gun Violence

On February 14, the day of the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., my school 50 miles away paused for a moment of silence. It, unfortunately, isn’t the first that we’ve observed. Along with lesson plans, active shooter drills are becoming frequent enough that this generation will mistake them as normal.

When I saw students in our first drill being instructed to stay still, to secure and get away from the door, I was reminded of another exercise I’ve had to practice in my life.

On the inside of the entrance to my home, there is a handwritten note that says, “Do not open this door.” It’s been there since Donald Trump took office last year.

It’s meant to protect us from his deportation agents, and it’s an instruction to my little sister. She’s not allowed to answer the door if there’s a knock or the bell rings because she might not know to check through the window to see if there’s danger on the other side.

There’s no comparing the two experiences. I’m aware because I know people who lost someone in the Parkland shooting and I know people whose close family has been deported. They are not the same, but they are both terrible. And when I arrive in the school where I work, with several students like me, we carry the stress and fear of both into its halls.

I’m aware because I know people who lost someone in the Parkland shooting and I know people whose close family has been deported.

They are not the same, but they are both terrible. And when I arrive in the school where I work, with several students like me, we carry the stress and fear of both into its halls.

When I saw the Parkland students speak out, I got chills. To see their bravery and their determination gave me hope. I’m someone who has been organizing with my mom for immigrant rights for the past six years. I’m someone who has watched Sen. Marco Rubio and other politicians make promises they haven’t kept and offer progress only to turn around and block it. So when Parkland survivor and activist Emma Gonzalez said, “We call BS,” I felt a deep cheer and echo inside of me.

I grew up almost all my life in Miami, but in 2012, when I wanted to go to college, I found my entry into activism, because Florida treated students like me as out-of-state, making it impossible for me to afford.

Friends of mine and I started to organize.

We lobbied politicians and held protests, much like the students currently demonstrating for gun control.

And at the same time, we had to do personal campaigns when one of our parents was taken by ICE agents. We did it all not knowing if we’d be pulled over ourselves or if our family members would return home each day.

And we did it knowing that if we were to get politicians to actually care about us, we were going to have to make them care through organizing.

I want to tell the students fighting for their lives now to keep going. Organizing does work.

They’re already proving it, and I’ve seen it in my own life. In just the five years I’ve been active, we won deferred action that gave Dreamers the ability to study, work and live with less fear. We won in-state tuition that lets someone like me pursue my career to be a kindergarten teacher. And if our efforts were combined, we could achieve so much more.

My little sister may only be 12, but she has already learned a lot from my mom and I dragging her to our meetings over the years and as part of advocating for our family. Like the other students who are mobilizing now, she has worries that no kid should have to carry and she sees the opportunity for change. She’s using the skills she has learned organizing for immigrant rights to now start a walk-out at her school and hopefully send students to Washington, DC, for the March for Our Lives.

If politicians were wise, they’d be stepping away from their NRA donations and be moving to stand with these young people.

They are giving us all a civics lesson. My mom taught me to never make a promise I couldn’t keep, and it’s time the people elected learn it, too. We’re not stopping until we have the safety that every human being and young child deserves. That means taking away the threat of gun violence and addressing all the threats that we face in our lives — not adding to them. They can either vote for us or be prepared to be voted out.

I have faith that the students will make it happen, and I’ve been in it long enough to be ready to help.

Christell Cayaso is a member of the National Domestic Workers Alliance’s We Belong Together Campaign, which mobilizes women in support of common-sense immigration reform that will keep families together and empower women. 

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The Colombian City Where Body Parts Wash Up On The Shore So Often It’s Become Normal

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The Colombian City Where Body Parts Wash Up On The Shore So Often It’s Become Normal

Colombia has made incredible progress since the 1990’s when the country was a hotbed for international drug trafficking and guerrilla warfare. Today, modern bustling cities are home to shopping centers, museums, and hordes of international visitors.

However, despite the advancements, the country is still in a delicate peace deal with the main guerrilla oppossition – Las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) – and there are many other paramilitary groups that still operate across the country, including in the main port city of Buenavista.

The city of Buenavista is seeing an uptick in body parts washing up along its shores.

In mid-January, an arm washed up on the city’s shore. It was quickly assumed, by local media reports, that the arm belonged to one of three local fisherman who had most likely been rounded up, killed, and dismembered. The arm had a tattoo on it, connecting it to one of the missing men, Armando Valencia.

And it wasn’t the first time this has happened. According to residents, body parts washing up on beaches is a tragically familiar occurrence. “There were some reports of body parts washing up at La Bocana [a nearby tourist spot]. A head, a leg, an arm,” said María Miyela Riascos, a social leader from Buenaventura, in a statement to VICE News. “Also, they found a man and a woman dismembered in the rural area of Bajo Calima.”

Violence has been rampant in Buenaventura for decades. The city has some of the highest rates of forced displacement and homicide in the country. But seldom has it been confronted by the levels of brutality experienced in the past year.

Criminal groups have long terrorized the city but things seem to be out of control.

So many different criminal groups have terrorized the slums of Colombia’s main Pacific port that residents rarely bother to learn the name of the latest clan in control. They simply call the warring gangs los malos or the bad guys.

Three people have been killed or disappeared daily, and conflict between organized crime has displaced as many as 6,000 people. Videos on Twitter show people fleeing their homes and young men and women patrolling with assault weapons. #SOSbuenaventura has been trending.

Community leaders see darker interests behind the violence, saying the areas where most crimes occur are the same where plans have been laid for a waterfront project, an airport and seaport terminals. “I see the violence as a means of pressure to get us off this area so they can build their projects,” Armando Valencia told The Guardian.

Criminals use “chop houses” to dismember their victims.

Colombian navy special forces on patrol among stilted waterfront shacks in Buenaventura
Credit: Fernando Vergara / Getty Images

The criminals recruit children, extort businesses, force people from their homes and dismember live victims, scattering their remains in the bay or surrounding jungle. Dozens of wooden huts balanced precariously on stilts over the bay have been abandoned by terrorized citizens and taken over by the gangs for use as casas de pique, or chop houses, where they torture and murder their victims.

The chop houses are the most gruesome consequence of a deeply flawed attempt to dismantle rightwing militias, which originally emerged to combat leftwing guerrillas in collusion with state security forces and drug traffickers.

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Video Surfaces of QAnon Congresswoman Harassing Parkland Shooting Survivor David Hogg

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Video Surfaces of QAnon Congresswoman Harassing Parkland Shooting Survivor David Hogg

Screenshots via YouTube

As you may be aware, a woman named Marjorie Taylor Greene was just elected as Congresswoman of Georgia’s 6th congressional district.

Greene holds extreme and debunked beliefs that have convinced many that she is unfit for office, including considering QAnon conspiracies “worth listening to”, believing California wildfires are being started by space lasers and perpetuating the dangerous lie that certain school shootings are hoaxes.

Recently, an unsettling video surfaced of Greene following and harassing Parkland shooting survivor and gun control activist, David Hogg.

In the video, which she posted to her YouTube page, Greene (who was not an elected official at this point), follows Hogg around with a camera and a microphone, grilling him on his gun-control stance just weeks after he lived through the Parkland shooting that killed 14 of his classmates.

“David, why are you supporting the red-flag laws?” she asks Hogg. “If Scot Peterson, the resource officer at Parkland, had done his job, then Nikolas Cruz wouldn’t have killed anybody in your high school, or at least protected them.”

She continues as David Hogg continues to walk on, ignoring her. “Why are you supporting red-flag gun laws that attack our Second Amendment right and why are you using kids as a barrier?” she asks. “Do you not know how to defend your stance?”

As Hogg walks away from her, Greene turns and addresses the camera. “He’s got nothing to say,” she says. “Sad.”

“He has nothing to say because there really isn’t anything to say, you guys. He has nothing to say because he’s paid to do this.”

She then goes on to accuse Hogg of being bankrolled by liberal donors and lament the state of her funding and political connections.

“I have nothing,” she says. “And this guy [David Hogg], with his George Soros funding, and his major liberal funding, has got everything.”

Greene then goes on to attack Hogg’s bravery–literal months after he survived a school shooting. “And he’s a coward. He can’t say one word because he can’t defend his stance.”

The Hogg video isn’t the only controversy Greene has been embroiled in. Recently, CNN uncovered some disturbing comments Greene had previously made on her Facebook page about the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

Greene agreed with a Facebook user who accused the Stoneman Douglas resource officer of being “paid off” to “keep his mouth shut” about the “false flag planned shooting” at the school. To which Greene responded: “Exactly”

To make matters worse, since Greene has been appointed to the House Education and Labor Committee.

Needless to say, people aren’t too happy about a school-shooting conspiracy theorist having the power to make decisions about our children’s education.

Recently, David Hogg himself made his thoughts known about Rep. Greene being appointed to the Education and Labor Committee. “I think it’s absolutely horrific,” he told CNN.

“I think it’s disgusting. [Republicans] need to come out and say ‘I call on Leader McCarthy to come out and condemn the actions of Marjorie Taylor Greene.’ And prove that you’re actually able to put politics aside and work towards unity. Because if there’s anything we should be able to unify around, it’s that our children should not be dying in our schools.

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