The United States is becoming everything we demonize countries like Cuba for. We are willingly allowing the silencing of media and civilians in Uvalde, Texas. Reporters and citizens alike have been threatened by police in various ways creating a chilling effect among Latinos in the city. Are they afraid the truth about local police and federal agents in the area will be told?
Sure seems that way.
At what point do we, as members of a so-called “free” society, stand up to the absurdity of arresting 14,000 peaceful civil rights protesters 2 years ago and the silencing of an entire community that is 80% Latino in Texas? Is it because both groups are equally a threat to the image police try to portray about themselves? Because they’re a threat to the oppressive police-state? Is this why most of the US has been silent about police brutality since 2020?
Much of society in the US is the same as it ever was. The questions asked here have been asked for decades. The reality is white America relies on the police to maintain their privilege and access to what makes the US tolerable to live in. Services that non-white people – along with many poor white people – don’t have access to. Left behind by an oppressive society.
Uvalde is such a place.
Power in the city is held by white people that use Latinos who are willing to uphold the structure of white supremacy. And it’s no wonder they want to silence the largely Spanish-speaking community. Don’t think for a minute people in Uvalde aren’t angry as hell about what happened when 19 children and 2 adults were killed in a terrorist attack; about the police’s failure to act under the leadership of school police Chief Pedro “Pete” Arredondo.
But, you don’t know about that anger because people are afraid to talk. I’ve heard it, others have heard it. Few reported on it. Legacy media hasn’t said a word about it. They seem content ignoring what’s happening. This isn’t an issue that should be left to local news. This deserves national attention. It’s not speculative anymore. It’s a very real story. And it’s scary.
Uvalde is one of the most overpoliced places in the country.
Like other Texas cities and counties along the border, Uvalde is policed by local and county cops, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. In addition, Greg Abbott’s bogus “Operation Lone Star,” unleashed thousands of Texas State Troopers and as many as 10,000 Texas National Guard troops along the Texas border.
“One, you know, that police are actively obstructing us from doing our jobs. And as you know, newsgathering is a constitutional right. So, at some point, this will cross into, basically, official oppression,” said Nora Lopez to Democracy Now. Lopez is the Managing Editor at the San Antonio Express-News and president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ).
“They are blocking access to get close to the cemetery or to the churches or to the funeral home. They have set up roadblocks so we can’t even get within a block away, Lopez continued. “You know, the motorcycle bikers were physically standing in front of photojournalists, preventing them from being able to get any kind of video or to see anything. And it’s just been — it’s unprecedented.”
Silencing dissent is what happens in dictatorships and police states. Many in the US would expect to hear stories like this in so-called third-world countries. While law enforcement spins stories about what happened, Lopez opened the door to another ugly side of the Uvalde story: residents are afraid to speak with reporters after threats were made against some of the parents of students at Robb Elementary.
“But then the other thing that’s equally concerning is that they are actually blocking people from — who want to talk to us, from talking to us, from talking to the media,” she continued. So, there is a chilling effect that’s going on in Uvalde. And the residents are seeing this, and they are now afraid to talk to us, as well. I’ve heard this from a couple of reporters who have told me that they’ve had people say, you know, “I’m going to get in trouble if I say anything.””
Despite Uvalde being a relatively conservative county that openly backs law enforcement, as anger with police grows, those views are subject to change. Another aspect to consider is that many CBP agents and cops are from Uvalde with Latino backgrounds and families in the area. It’s possible that residents might be afraid to speak because it may expose their relatives.
Others may not want to feed what they perceive as an “anti-cop” narrative. It’s a portrayal that was made increasingly popular during the civil rights protests of 2020. By using a misnomer that suggests an anti-police description, many bought into the far-right politics of the police brutality discussion by welcoming ideas from the Thin Blue Line and Blue Lives Matter movements.
Despite the stereotypical conservative values of places like Uvalde county, seeing white power structures turn on the community is typical of life in the United States. We see it happening across the board, whether politically or on the streets. White supremacy never fails in rearing its ugly head on the Latino community. Many Latinos who identify as white remain shocked at what happened in Uvalde. But, even more of us aren’t as surprised.
Without question, white supremacy made those cops wait.
I reached out to Nora Lopez at the San Antonio Express-News to ask about current relations with police in Uvalde. While she says the situation has improved between reporters and law enforcement, she also suggests that the damage had already been done. Residents in Uvalde still dear talking to reporters even today.
“The situation has gotten much better in Uvalde, she said. “At least in terms of police harassment. We’ve heard from the city manager, who apologized, and the Dilley police chief who is overseeing the police visiting from other jurisdictions. He instructed them to stop harassing us, especially if we’re in public places like the sidewalk.”
While “things are a little better” between reporters and police, citizens have much to fear in terms of reprisals from law enforcement. Militarized police with backup from several counties across the state in a town with a population of about 18,000 people is more than intimidating. Adding all the other federal and state agencies already on the ground it’s even more so.
In the end, the failure to stop the shooter, the ensuing confusion by police, the continued efforts to withhold evidence, and the oppressive policing that occurs every day in Uvalde, will all play a role in how the residents of the city will view police in the future. Despite having family members as part of these forces, their leadership will likely remain in question for the long term.
The tremendous loss of life in Uvalde will not be forgotten. Neither will the police response. In time, we can only hope that residents in the community will eventually speak on life under so much heavy policing. Until then, we can only hope the grip on the community loosens up enough for people to grieve in peace and move forward as best they can.
“Still, I fear the damage has been done and they were successful in discouraging many families from talking to us, continued Lopez. “But the [San Antonio Express News] is in it for the long haul and we believe that in time, we’ll regain the communities trust.”