Uvalde Massacre | URL Media/Palabra and Daily Beast

Survivors of the Uvalde massacre and the public still have not received a full accounting of the May 2022 mass killing. It was recently reported that a judge agreed to seal the autopsy reports at the request of prosecutors. We do know that immediately following the massacre and continuing for months statements about the events and actions of law enforcement made by Gov. Greg Abbott and representatives of the Texas Department of Public Safety (the state police) were untrue, contradictory and misleading.

For the Daily Beast I argued: Left to the state to police itself, we may never know [the full story about Uvalde]. And the federal government, which easily spends billions of dollars to police South Texas, must now prove it is willing to answer to South Texas.

I explained in the piece that prior to the massacre Texas law enforcement agencies and the governor had mounted policing campaigns in South Texas that were mired in secrecy and propaganda. For the previous year, with the assistance of the First Amendment Clinics at the Cornell and SMU school of law, I had waged an open records battle to obtain basic information regarding the state’s multi-billion dollar and highly publicized Operation Lone Star. The state had fiercely resisted releasing the records.

To anyone who has tangled with DPS in the pursuit of police information, as I have done over the last year with the help of two First Amendment law clinics, skepticism aimed at DPS and the governor is not only justified, it is urgently needed.

Read the piece here.

Authorities quickly began grasping for a motive and contributing factors behind the massacre. One factor was crucially omitted: the climate created by the border security apparatus. For URL Media and Palabra, I dissected the “dome” of border security created by the state and federal border security apparatus that has “converted South Texas communities into a real and symbolic theater, complete with armed agents and heavy weapons, to project an image of toughness and power” as a possible contributing factor in the killing.

Ignored in the speculative narrative was the possibility that a border security apparatus created by state and federal officials, powered by white supremacy and political vitriol, that peddles violence and subjects people migrating through the region to inhumane and brutal conditions, may have created a climate primed for a monstrous expression of toughness and power.

The immediate arrival of hundreds of agents and officers in a town of 15,000 reflects deep saturation of policing across the region. And political rhetoric associated with the border security apparatus is steeped in violence and inhumanity.

In the constructed war zone around Uvalde, violence and inhumanity are openly encouraged. Down the road from Uvalde, in Kinney County, the sheriff’s office has shared online posts that compared migrating people with hunting prey, according to a federal civil rights complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and the Texas Civil Rights Project. Local ranchers and state troopers, according to the complaint, have worked in tandem to subject migrating people, mostly Latino and Black men traveling through the region, to criminal trespass charges under the governor’s latest border security gambit, Operation Lone Star. Images of those arrests became, in the hands of the governor, trophies to broadcast on social media.  

Lost was any consideration of the effects of such a climate on a young mind, a troubled mind, or anyone. Its omission coupled with the fact that the gunman and the victims were all Latino led many people to conclude that race and racism were not a factor.

That the gunman was Latino and his victims were largely Latino children attending a historically segregated “Mexican school” does not reflect the absence of race and racism. On the contrary, it may well have been the consequence of an apparatus tinged with nativism and racism that stokes self-hatred.

“Immersed in a region targeted by the federal and Texas state governments to police Latinx people and migrants,” Minian and Paik wrote, “is it surprising that (Uvalde shooter, Salvador) Ramos took up violence on his own, against “his own?”

The piece was published by URL Media and Palabra and republished widely including in the Texas Observer. I later discussed the massacre and my piece on The Laura Flanders Show and on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s