Grandmothers and State Terrorism, Mothers and Police Brutality: a Shared Pain and Vision.

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A pregnant university student is arrested, gives birth while still detained and is then executed. The parents of the young woman are “fortunate” enough to receive her remains, but they don’t receive the baby. It would take more than thirty years for the then baby to meet his 83 year-old maternal grandmother.

Hundreds of children were born in prisons or concentration camps, and then given to families associated with the regime, which was carrying on a dirty war against the opposition. Their  grandmothers formed an association to help them find out the fate of the children. They started to hold a weekly vigil while the military was still in power.  This nightmarish experience took place in Argentina, during the 1970s.  The grandmothers were finally able to accomplish their mission once the civilian governments were reinstated. DNA was used to identify the remains of some of their disappeared relatives, and to find 114 of the abducted children.

Another group of women, in neighboring Chile, expressed their grief through the popular handkerchief dance of the country . It is danced with a partner, but they danced alone because their loved ones disappeared  during the military regime. This form of protest was immortalized in Sting’s “They Dance Alone”:

The military in both countries fully utilized the power of the State to inflict terror on their populations. It is well known crucial support was provided by the Nixon administration, and new evidences point out the influential role played by Kissinger in setting up or condoning brutal policies.

The courage of the grandmothers, who were dismissed as crazy women when they started their vigils, brought some closures to their losses. It also brought attention to the impact of  political decisions. Their experience, losing loved ones and fighting for recognition of their humanity and justice,  is a phenomenon  that occurs in diverse places and circumstances.

Although the degree and extent of the collective pain may not be the same, the personal pain of mothers who lose their sons due to the repressive actions of state apparatuses might be similar. Whether the mothers live in Buenos Aires and suffered the horrors of State terrorism, or live in Anaheim and lose their sons to police brutality, it is a pain that could have been avoided. It is a pain that raises many questions as to the politics of our societies.

Police brutality is not necessarily an expression of State terrorism, however it is a disturbing trend that police departments are increasingly acting  like soldiers occupying enemy territory, and having a pattern of discriminatory violence against the population. Ferguson, Missouri replicates many of the elements used by the APD, at a larger scale.  An analysis of the phenomenon of the militarization of the police , and the Pentagon’s role in this process, was recently done by the ACLU.

Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo and the mothers of Anaheim and many other cities converted their grief and sorrow in a quest for justice and change, so that tragedies like theirs are not repeated.  The grandmothers participated in bringing democracy back to their country, while Anaheim’s mothers are involved in movements for justice and social change locally.

When the APD stops its repressive practices, and when so many of our neighborhoods are no longer neglected, THEN maybe we can “make Anaheim a world-class city for tourists, composed of world-class neighborhoods for residents” 

Please see and sign this petition to stop the militarization of the police!


About Ricardo Toro

Anaheim resident for several decades. In addition to political blogging, another area of interest is providing habitats for the Monarch butterfly.