Ferguson & Guatemalan women copy

Ferguson & Guatemala: Fighting the same enemy?

Last week I wrote about 1,000 indigenous Kaqchikel women in Guatemala who risked their safety to protest the militarization of their community. For years, their rural community has been fighting the development of a cement factory and dealing with threats and violence from the factory owners. After a particularly violent attack by factory workers, the Guatemalan government put their town of San Juan Sacatepequez under a “State of Prevention,” or a military occupation. And this week, protestors in Ferguson, Missouri are facing a similar “State of Emergency.” Could these two vastly different communities be facing a common enemy?

In San Juan Sacatepequez, meetings, protests and any kind of organizing is now banned, and the 2,000 police and military members now installed to “keep the peace” intimidate local residents so much that they fear going to work. In Ferguson, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has brought in the National Guard — that’s right, the army — to “protect” local citizens. Meanwhile, the Klu Klux Klan has been threatening protestors with lethal force, and Ferguson gun sales are through the roof.

In both Guatemala and Missouri, women are playing a unique role as victims of sexual violence and agents of change. In San Juan Sacatepequez, over 68 cases of sexual harassment have been reported (among other human rights violations) since the State of Prevention was announced, and in Ferguson, patterns of sexual violence within the police force are emerging.

Image of a tweet reading: JFK didn't want the March on Washington to happen, worried Black folks would be violent. Now we have @GovJayNixon doing same. #Ferguson

In spite of the gendered violence they face, women in both communities continue to stand up to governments and institutions that have killed them in the past. In Guatemala, the 1,000 Kaqchikel activists traveled from their community to the heart of a government that once murdered hundreds of thousands of women like them. Joining the Ferguson struggle, black women spear-headed the #BlackLivesMatter meme, leading some crucial conversations around race and state violence, and sat on the frontline of the protests. These women remind us that though police violence often kills more men, women (particularly trans women) victims too often go unnoticed. Vero touched upon this exact trend soon after Mike Brown’s death, writing, “I stand with the people of Ferguson. I see and share their rage. And I want to also see national rage for the deaths of women of color.”

The cases of San Juan Sacatepequez and Ferguson make us consider: Who are the police there to protect? Certainly not local citizens.

For black protestors in Ferguson or indigenous residents in San Juan Sacatepequez, the enemy is the same. The police serve as an arm of the state, which represents capitalism and white supremacy, and sees gender-based violence as a tool of war. Knowing that, ultimately, the enemy remains the same across region, language, and culture, how can we work collectively to demand justice for all of us?

(Header image credit 1 and 2.)


Bay Area, California

Juliana is a digital storyteller for social change. As a writer at Feministing since 2013, her work has focused on women's movements throughout the Americas for environmental justice, immigrant rights, and reproductive justice. In addition to her writing, Juliana is a Senior Campaigner at Change.org, where she works to close the gap between the powerful and everyone else by supporting people from across the country to launch, escalate and win their campaigns for justice.

Juliana is a Latina feminist writer and campaigner based in the Bay Area.

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