And most famously, it was the year that Tommie Smith and John Carlos took the 200-meter medal stand at the Mexico City Olympics to raise their black gloved fists in a demonstration of pride, power, and politics. Smith and Carlos were part of the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) and they made their stand because of what was happening outside the stadium: the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King; the growth of the Black Panthers, the May strikes in France, and most recently in their thoughts, the slaughter of hundreds in the country where they were being feted with gold.
On October 2, 1968, right before the start of the games, Mexican Security police murdered as many as 400 students and workers at La Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco, Mexico City. Today we remember that violent echo of 1968. We remember those put down like dogs for the crime of peaceful assembly. We can remember at long last, without tears, because of news Monday that a measure of closure may finally be coming for the families that have waged a 37-year quest for truth, justice, and a pound of flesh. Mexican prosecutors announced that they were finally acceding to a four-decades-long campaign, and filed long-awaited charges against former President Luis Echeverria for ordering the Tlatelolco bloodbath. Echeverria was interior minister and head of national security at the time of the massacre. "It has been almost 37 years of impunity and justice denied," prosecutor Ignacio Carrillo told Reuters. "Now for the first time it is possible that the justice system may perform its duty." The Tlatelolco killings were fatally intertwined with the oncoming Olympics. Student strikes had rocked Mexico throughout the year. This was a time of mass struggle from the Yucatan to Tijuana. But the students and their supporters, despite previous clashes with the state police, could not have foreseen the fanatical desire of Mexico to "make their country secure" for the coming Olympic games.
Echeverria's Olympic clean-up, not the actions of panicked police, rogue officers, or indiscriminate trigger happy shooters, were responsible for the deaths. Recently declassified documents paint a picture of a massacre as cold and methodical as Echeverria's instructions, and the blood in his veins. As Kate Doyle, director of the Mexico Documentation Project describes, "When the shooting stopped, hundreds of people lay dead or wounded, as Army and police forces seized surviving protesters and dragged them away. Although months of nationwide student strikes had prompted an increasingly hard-line response,"no one was prepared for the bloodbath that Tlatelolco became. More shocking still was the cover-up that kicked in as soon as the smoke cleared. Eye-witnesses to the killings pointed to the President's 'security' forces, who entered the plaza bristling with weapons, backed by armored vehicles. But the government pointed back, claiming that extremists and communist agitators had initiated the violence. Who was responsible for Tlatelolco? The Mexican people have been demanding an answer ever since."
Dave Zirin is the author of "'What's My Name Fool?': Sports and Resistance in the United States" (Haymarket Books). You can contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.edgeofsports.com