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Coast to coast...
Protest the FTAA!

April 13, 2001 | Page 18

THE VERMONT Mobilization for Global Justice in Burlington is gearing up for hundreds of protesters passing through on their way to Canada. They've set up a convergence center for incoming activists, established an Independent Media Center and will stage border actions to protest Canada's denial of entry to demonstrators. The Vermont AFL-CIO sponsored a teach-in April 7 with Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Harvard labor studies professor Elaine Bernard, and the AFL-CIO's Thea Lee which attracted dozens of trade unionists.

In Boston, about 100 attended a citywide teach-in on the FTAA April 1. Speakers included Katia Lemos of the General Amnesty Coalition, Pete Capano, executive board member of IUE/CWA Local 201, Payal Parekh of the Boston Global Action Network, Ahmed Shawki, editor of the International Socialist Review, and South African poet and longtime activist Dennis Brutus. "We are about building a humane, decent society, and in that process we have to reject the idea that profits are more important than people," Brutus said.

Elsewhere in New England, the Rhode Island Global Action Network (RIGAN) has kicked into gear selling tickets to buses, holding teach-ins at Brown University and the University of Rhode Island and organizing local demonstrations. In New Haven, Conn., student activists plan to support unions protesting Yale University the day before the Quebec action and then get on the bus to Canada for the April 21 actions.

In San Diego, the Regional U.S-Mexico Border Action Coalition is continuing to build momentum for the bi-national border demonstration against the FTAA April 21. The Coalition consists of activists from Tijuana and Ensenada in Mexico as well as San Diego, Los Angeles and the Bay Area.

Protests are planned at two points along the border, with delegations from both sides meeting directly for a show of joint solidarity. Several teach-ins at local San Diego/Tijuana universities have taken place, and a forum is planned for April 20 with Medea Benjamin and Domingo Gonzalez as well as representatives from unions and immigrant and indigenous rights organizations. Activists also plan a regional conference in Tijuana the following day with the aim of maintaining cross-border solidarity.

In Los Angeles, more than hundred people attended a teach-in on the FTAA March 31 sponsored by the Southern California Fair Trade Network at the Central American Resource Center. Gabriel Zamora Ruiz of El Colectivo Mexicali spoke of how NAFTA has caused environmental damage and a decline in the quality of life in Mexico.

Leone Hankey of the Fair Trade Network pointed out that since NAFTA was passed, a third of the people in Mexico have been forced off their land. Patrick Reinsborough of the Rainforest Action Network spoke of Colombia's U'wa people's fight against Occidental Petroleum. "The real drug coming out of Colombia is oil. Our society is addicted to it."

A capacity crowd of more than 300 people crammed into Judson Church March 27 for a teach-in organized by the New York City Coalition to Stop the FTAA. Speakers included Public Citizen's Lori Wallach, progressive author Mike Davis, UNITE organizing director Sam Luebke and ISO member Tom Lewis, who provided a first-person report of the recent World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

"This is just about a crisis situation for our union," Luebke said of the agreement. "We'll work with any union, any struggle, anywhere to fight." Davis echoed Luebke's urgency. "Free trade is not about eliminating borders, it's about imposing new borders on people and putting up new barriers to ideas," he said. "There is a direct contradiction between democracy and capitalism."

A series of student events in Chicago have built awareness for a local FTAA protest April 21. The Jobs With Justice Student-Labor Action Project organized a demonstration April 4. The following day, Kevin Danaher of Global Exchange spoke at Northwestern University on fighting corporate globalization.

A teach-in on the FTAA was also scheduled for the UNITE union hall for the evening of April 10, with a talk by maquiladora workers set for DePaul University the next evening. On April 21, USWA President Leo Gerard will be the keynote speaker at the Hendrickson Steel plant, which is slated to close and move production to Mexico.

Petrino DiLeo, Evan Kornfeld, Jon McCollum and Ashley Smith contributed to this report.

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