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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Forget Huppenthal's Recycled Auto de Fe: Remember May 3!

Forget Huppenthal's recycled Auto de Fe: Remember May 3! Questions that must be answered
By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

Once again, the state school’s superintendent of schools, John Huppenthal, who campaigned on the theme of stopping “La Raza” and eliminating Tucson’s highly successful Mexican American Studies Program (MAS) – per the unconstitutional HB 2281 - has ruled the program out of compliance (as supporters of MAS, we do not recognize it as a law).

No surprise in Huppenthal’s ruling, though it appears he pulled a Cheney on this one (the audit absolves MAS, but Huppenthal rules MAS out of compliance anyway).

The surprise in all this is that the Huppenthal report has been released amid a mind-boggling case of collective amnesia. On May 3rd, the Mexican American community and supporters of the MAS-TUSD program were assaulted on at a highly militarized school board meeting and everyone is proceeding as though this unprecedented assault [on democracy] did not actually occur.

Before responding to the Huppenthal report, we must understand the context that it is HB 2281 – not MAS – that has unleashed an unprecedented amount of hate, anger, resentment, retaliation, intimidation, harassment, show of force and use of force against the Mexican American community and against MAS supporters, and it has been spearheaded by lies and misinformation.

At the May 3 meeting, more than 100 officers were deployed. At least 50 law enforcement personnel were inside TUSD Headquarters, including tactical units, a bomb squad, a helicopter, helmeted/shielded officers, TUSD security officers, etc. Aside from 7 arrests, elders were forcibly removed from the meeting. Outside, youths were roughed up. Most of those present estimate there were between 150-200 officers, including those deployed inside the building, those surrounding the building, and those that blocked off all the approaches to the building.

Here are questions to both TPD, TUSD and the media:

* How many total officers/security personnel were deployed May 3? (Dr. John Pedicone says he asked for police presence & most were supposed to be out of sight).

* The trigger to ask for the police presence was due to threats to students, etc. Is there a report re threats, presence of guns, including bomb threats, prior to May 3 meeting? On June 6, a TPD report on the threats to the students (“Shoot them in the head” video) concluded that it was but a joke. On what basis was it determined that a video that is inciting people to shoot the students in the head constitute a “joke?”

* Were there other agencies involved on May 3rd other than TPD and TUSD? What were TPD and TUSD expenditures for May 3 and were monies used from other sources?

* Why did the helmeted SWAT units with riot gear conduct military maneuvers prior to the beginning of the meeting, marching in two by two up the middle aisle?

* Who made the decision that speaking (even speaking out of turn) constituted a criminal and arrestable offense at a school board meeting? Seven speakers were arrested for attempting to speak and nothing else.

* Who authorized use of force against elder Salamon Baldenegro, teacher Paula McPheters from Ochoa Elementary and KOLD cameraman, Edgar Ybarra . All three were physically tossed/thrown out of the TUSD building. That is not acceptable behavior. (At a subsequent May 23 meeting, TPD Chief Roberto Villaseñor said no force was used inside the building and that there but 50 officers deployed at any given time that night).

* Who authorized TPD to order everyone out of the boardroom or else? There were many witnesses to these orders by officers in riot gear. Chief Villaseñor said that TUSD authorized this, but that TPD recommended not ordering people out, but they did threaten to arrest people inside the building if they did not leave.

* On May 23, Chief Villaseñor said that officers were not supposed to be in riot gear at the meeting, that he gave orders to remove helmets/shields but that radios and cell phones were not working. During emergency, radios/cells not working? Everybody else’s cells were working. Is this accurate?

* Is there a report on the use of force outside of the building? We know many youths were injured, including high school students, but none were arrested.

* Was report done regarding the entire events of April 26th & May 3rd or only about possible charges against the students (April 26) and the seven arrests of May 3? Is it available to the public?

* Why is TPD continuing to pursue charges when it’s no longer the wish of TUSD?

* For Dr. Pedicone:

Being that no one could approach the building without seeing a massive police presence everywhere, including inside the building, why was meeting not cancelled or officers directed to stay out of sight)?

* Why was Mr. Sean Arce, director of MAS, placed under the direct supervision of an avowed opponent of MAS-TUSD, Lupita Garcia, creating a hostile and adversarial relationship.

* Will you declare your opposition to the unconstitutional HB 2281 and instead declare your full support for the director, the teachers and the MAS program?

* There are plenty of questions as a result of Huppenthal’s June 15 Auto de Fe, but lets get these questions answered first.

Rodriguez, a professor at the University of Arizona, is a member of the MAS-TUSD Community advisory board and can be reached at:

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