“DEFUND THE WALL, FUND OUR FUTURE”
New grassroots effort prioritizes needs of border residents over political border wall project
Laredo, TX – More than 100 masked volunteers took to the streets of Laredo over the weekend to send a powerful message to Washington DC: “Defund The Wall” and instead “Fund Our Future.” People of all ages, including a group of grandmothers and numerous children, celebrated on Sunday morning the completion of the monumental project. They called upon the U.S. government to stop pouring billions of dollars into a divisive campaign stunt, and redirect those funds in bettering the lives of our families.
The No Border Wall Laredo Coalition was inspired by the vibrant street murals that have appeared in more than 30 US cities to protest racial injustice and demand a more just, equal society. Our members felt it was important to pay homage to the empowering human rights message of the Black Lives Matter movement. The Coalition believes that the voice of border communities can play an important role in this moment, by challenging how the border wall is being used to stoke racial hostility across the country.
Residents in Laredo and neighboring Zapata County are holding the line against the Trump Administration, and its attempts to furiously seize private and public lands in Texas and waive dozens of environmental laws and other protections, in order to deliver a campaign promise to people who have never stepped foot in Laredo or understand the border.
As Laredo becomes the new Ground Zero in the battle over the border wall, a local movement has intensified, galvanized by a growing number of activists and everyday people who are appalled by the federal government’s treatment of residents as second class citizens – even if their families have lived here for generations – and their plans for this historic South Texas community.
The project entails a 30-foot prison wall, surrounded by a new 150-foot- wide security enforcement zone that would carve a path of destruction through the 265 year old riverside city, and almost completely cut off Laredo residents from the Rio Grande, the region’s No. 1 natural asset and source of life.
The Laredo City Council unanimously approved the mural on July 27. A team of local residents and artists designed the bright yellow project using vivid symbolism: the width of the letters, 30 ft, represents the height of the proposed wall; the yellow rose represents the state of Texas; and the mural’s placement in front of the U.S. federal courthouse on Victoria St. (“victory” in English) speaks to the group’s aim of sending a message to DC.
Like its counterparts across the country, the Laredo street mural is a message of hope. It’s about people rising up to protect their city and defend the river, and tell Washington that our way of life will be threatened no more.
To date, the administration has awarded $560.5 million to two out-of-state contractors to build 31 miles on land that the government does not even own. For the cost of a single mile of wall, Laredo could afford to build and operate a new trauma center for three years rather than airlift people to nearby cities for emergency treatment; one mile could also fund a $4,000 salary increase for all public school teachers in Webb and Zapata counties; or provide full tuition for an associates degree at Laredo College for all graduating Laredo seniors for the next 10 years. (Full “Fund Our Future” report here)
“The wall is not a done deal; the administration is rushing to make this happen before the election for obvious political reasons, but didn’t expect so much resistance,” said Maxine Rebeles, a military veteran and public school teacher. “This is nothing more than a high stakes poker game, but we hold the aces. This is about us taking back control of our own story, our lands, and our future.”
Veteran public artist Antonio “Tony” Briones III described the mural as “a message of love,” adding: “When the government tries to silence the people, art is what gives people a voice and platform to speak truth to power.”
No city funds were used in the mural. Funding for all materials, supplies, security, permits and fees are being raised from everyday people in the local community. COVID safety guidelines were strictly observed.
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WHO: No Border Wall Laredo Coalition
WHAT: Release of drone footage and visuals of first-ever giant street mural on the U.S.-Mexico border
WHEN: Monday, August 17, 2020
The #NoBorderWall Laredo Coalition is a network of residents, elected officials, & organizations who oppose the border wall.