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Loken: Support Mecha’s Vital Anti-Oppression Work

Hypocritical Depictions of Mecha Stand in the Way of Anti-Oppression Work.
Cecilia Acosta
(Design by Cecilia Acosta | The Daily Utah Chronicle)


Controversy came in a flurry over a student organization’s use of an image depicting a woman of color bearing arms. The image was for a September event called “Queer Resistance” that was held by Mecha de University of Utah, an anti-imperialist, anti-colonial and socialist organization at the U, with the Armed Queers of Salt Lake City.

But Mecha aims to educate people to organize for a better campus and a better world — now and in the future. Their purpose was not to teach about guns but to teach the important ways people resist oppression, which includes unfair disadvantages based on identity. The Queer Resistance event addressed anti-transgender and anti-queer violence. Breakout sessions within the lecture event vitally addressed how people can push back against oppression collectively by coming together and planning.

We need Mecha and should advocate for their visibility. We should not shame or silence organizations that further anti-oppression work at the U.

Organizing Focus, Not Just Guns

Mecha did not promote the presence of guns or center the event on gun use. Instead, part of the lecture led by Mecha’s education secretary focused on informing audience members about the history of queer activism, protests and resistance. The other part, led by the Armed Queers, focused on the present need for resistance, which highlighted anti-transgender violence standing at an all-time high.

Adelaida Salmerón-Cortés, an audience member, was impressed by messages from the main speaker for Armed Queers, Ermiya Fanaeian, who helped organize the #NeverAgain movement.

“It was just interesting to see how [Fanaeian] understands guns to be absolutely necessary — not only for revolution but for the protection of her identity and people in her community,” Salmerón-Cortés said.

Queer people often don’t have the same privileges of safety as their cisgender and heterosexual counterparts, and not everyone gets to feel safe daily as they go about their lives. The fight for liberation and the work to organize is “all-encompassing. We are not free until all of us are free,” said Salmerón-Cortés.

Violence towards queer and transgender people dominates and inspires fear. Fanaeian’s influence empowered the audience in knowing “there’s a group out there willing to protect [queer] individuals,” Salmerón-Cortés said.

What Mecha Stands For

Gabriela Merida, the Education Secretary for Mecha, believes that all people must be in thriving liberation for us all to be free. She said that looks like “people being guaranteed housing, education, food, work and political power.”

Young America’s Foundation labeled the anti-oppression goals of Mecha and the Armed Queers destructive. In the face of gun controversy, Merida responded by saying, “These right-wing groups love their guns and are very supportive of the Second Amendment. I think [the controversy] goes to show that the second amendment was not made for us.”

The first attempt at gun control in the United States took place when the revolutionary group, the Black Panthers, armed themselves for protection. The second amendment was “made for white people — specifically white cis-hetero people, and I think it was also made for them to commit acts of terror against our communities,” Merida said.

The origins of the Second Amendment rest in settler colonialism and violence against Indigenous peoples in America. Even recently, the colonial agenda of patriarchy continues as a bookstore owner in Utah received bomb threats that forced them to shut down their drag story time. The lecture condemned this unacceptable terrorism, and Mecha and Armed Queers oppose all forms of oppression.

Mecha welcomes everyone and seeks to organize and create a movement that centers the oppressed lives of Black, Indigenous, queer and femme people.

What Went Wrong?

The audience received Mecha and the Armed Queers of Salt Lake City well. The full room buzzed with energy, and the event organizers continuously added chairs to the congregation. Like-minded people had the opportunity to talk about problems on campus and in the local community.

Because Mecha dared to demonstrate on a flier for Queer Resistance that queer people can bear arms, the U’s Student Affairs “pressured” them to change it. Instead, they featured an image of two transgender activists standing next to each other. The original empowering image? Banned.

Merida said that the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion office sent out a statement that said any EDI employees who attended Queer Resistance would be terminated. An office whose business is inclusion should see the irony of banning an event opposing oppression.

Keep Anti-oppression Work Alive

Painting anti-oppression groups as destructive only stands to benefit the side of oppression. Anti-transgender legislation, anti-queer violence and the silence of the U’s administration in the face of queerphobia speak volumes. The school only cares about its image in the conservative mind — not the safety of its students.

We need organizations like Mecha to oppose hypocrisy and represent oppressed people.

Only when we live in thriving liberation can we say we have freedom. Supporting Mecha only enhances this vision, and anyone opposing their existence fails to see the care they embody for the world. Mecha keeps anti-oppression work alive on campus.


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About the Contributors
NingLi Loken, Opinion Writer
(they/them) NingLi Loken works as an Opinion Writer for the Daily Utah Chronicle. They are pursuing a degree in sociology and minoring in ethnic studies. NingLi is a first-generation Chinese immigrant from early childhood and grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas. They enjoy lyrical analysis, racism resistance, and eating dessert.
Cecilia Acosta, Designer
Cecilia is excited to be at the University of Utah studying Graphic Design and Animation. She's grateful to be a part of a team of such creative individuals here at the Chronicle. Although originally from Mesa, Arizona, she has been loving the gorgeous scenery, snowy winters, and fun activities that Utah has to offer. Besides art and design, she also enjoys hiking, boba tea, dancing, and journaling.

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