News and Reports
June 22, 2001 | Page 14
by CHUCK STEMKE and SARAH McCLAIN
SAN DIEGO--Thousands of protesters from all over the country are expected to converge here on June 22-27 to expose the reckless greed of the biotechnology industry.
The target is BIO 2001, the Biotechnology Industry Organization's biggest trade convention ever.
Gene giants like Monsanto, DuPont and Dow Chemical plan to come together to display their latest developments in genetically engineered (GE) foods and genetically modified (GM) organisms.
These corporations plan discuss how they can establish and maintain intellectual property rights for information such as the genetic code of living creatures.
BIO claims the gene industry holds the answers to all the world's problems, from sickness to hunger--but protesters tell a different story.
Many GE foods produce their own pesticides.
It is widely believed that these foods could cause severe allergic reactions, and they're known to stunt growth in laboratory animals.
In the past year, GM corn that was only permitted for cattle feed contaminated the "people-food" supply, including taco shells from Taco Bell!
Nobody knows what effects GMOs will have on the environment, ecosystems and food chains, but the industry is willing to risk it for one reason: profit.
The protest--BioJustice 2001--will bring together activists, farmers, scientists and many concerned intellectuals for four days of activities, ranging from teach-ins, demonstrations and direct action to GE food-labeling brigades and organic potlucks.
Global justice advocate Vandana Shiva and author Jim Hightower are highlighted speakers.
Call 619-239-9130 for more information.
Money for schools!
by JON VAN CAMP
PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, Md.--More than 150 teachers, students and parents showed up at a rally in June to protest budget cuts in the county's schools.
The protest, sponsored by Stand for Children, came after the superintendent of Prince George's County schools called for cuts, which include a reduction of 150 teachers and the elimination of several programs.
After the rally, protesters packed the school board meeting.
Dozens of students, teachers and parents told the board about class sizes of up to 45 children and a lack of services.
The proposed cuts would mean even larger class sizes.
And administrators want to eliminate a peer mediation program at some schools, which has led to sharp drops in fights and suspensions.
County officials had announced an unprecedented school budget of more than $1 billion, but the superintendent claimed that teacher pay raises this year and new school construction meant there would still need to be cuts.
Two days after the board meeting, the superintendent announced that she was reducing the cutback to 75 teachers.
But activists aren't satisfied.
They are planning for another large turnout when the board votes on the budget June 21.
by TODD CHRETIEN
SAN FRANCISCO--More than 150 people rallied on the steps of City Hall, kicking off the campaign to take over Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) and make it into a publicly owned Municipal Utility District (MUD).
"This is a fight between money power and people power," San Francisco Labor Council Secretary-Treasurer Walter Johnson told the crowd. "We've committed our Labor Neighbor program to put people in the streets to make sure the word gets out. Is people power going to beat money power on November 6?"
"Yes!" shouted the rally.
President of the Board of Supervisors [city council] Tom Ammiano promised that MUD would "provide cheaper rates and cleaner, renewable energy."
The number of elected officials who now back MUD reflects the huge shift in public opinion since the start of the California energy crisis last year.
California Senate president John Burton and U.S. Congressperson Carole Migden--both San Francisco Democrats--recently announced their support for the public takeover.
The battle to take over PG&E will be an uphill battle.
The company spent $200,000 to defeat MUD before it even began, and it's funding several anti-public power groups like "Citizens for Affordable Energy."
However, the recent 40 percent hike in residential rates and threats of blackouts this summer have PG&E over a barrel.
PG&E is one of the most powerful corporate forces in California and a leader in pushing deregulation in the electrical industry across the country.
Beating them on their home turf will send a signal that, when activists say "people before profits," we mean it.
Repeal New York drug laws
by ROSIE CAMPOS
NEW YORK--Activists here are stepping up efforts to mobilize the growing opposition to the state's racist Rockefeller drug laws.
Passed in 1973, the Rockefeller drug laws are among the harshest in the country, requiring a minimum sentence of 15 years to life for minor possession.
The laws were supposedly passed to target major drug kingpins, but in reality serve to imprison largely first-time, low-level drug offenders, most of them poor Blacks and Latinos.
The latest activity follows on a March protest in the state capital of Albany that drew 2,000 people.
Now activists are gearing up for a June 30 rally at the state office building in Harlem.
On June 9, 30 people came to an all-day organizers' meeting at Harlem's St. Aloysius Church to prepare for the rally.
Jovanka Fairly, an activist with the group JusticeWorks, described how, after her imprisonment, the state made it impossible to get her children out of foster care.
"I've done everything they've asked me," she said, "and I still can't get care of my children."
The growing pressure has forced politicians to take notice.
Two proposals to change the drug laws are up for a vote in the state legislature, and Gov. George Pataki promised to "dramatically reform" the laws.
But while Pataki's plan would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for major drug offenses, it makes penalties stiffer for some low-level drug offenses--Class B felonies, which is the most commonly charged offense.
We need to keep up the pressure to expose Pataki's con job--and win support for a repeal of the drug laws, sponsored by Assemblyperson Jeffrion Aubry.
Seattle police brutality
by NAT GIBBONS
SEATTLE--After another death of a Black man at the hands of a cop, forces are mobilizing to hold police and city government accountable.
About 300 people attended a community meeting called by the People's Coalition for Justice.
Police stopped Aaron Roberts on May 31 for a traffic violation.
It is still unclear how Officer Greg Neubert's arm got stuck in the car as Roberts drove away.
What is clear is that Roberts was stopped by a bullet fired at point-blank range from the gun of Neubert's partner, Craig Price.
Testimonies at the May 31 meeting made it clear the officers are notorious in Seattle's Central District, a predominantly Black neighborhood.
A neighbor of Roberts described two instances in which Neubert used unnecessary force--leaving one man crippled and another dead. Both men were Black.
The People's Coalition has drafted a list of demands, including the formation of an independent, elected civilian review board with disciplinary power and patrol car video cameras and the immediate firing of Neubert and Price.
Earlier in the week, 500 people turned out for a rally.
Protesters marched to the intersection where Roberts was killed, and half of the group occupied the street, while the rest marched to the 12th Precinct.
On the police station steps--with cops in riot gear visible through the windows--members of the community spoke out.
The Coalition is calling for a boycott and picket of all businesses in the Central District that won't agree to work with their demands.
A picket was called for a Starbucks on June 13 to protest police who protect property while they brutalize Blacks in the neighborhood.
Justice for Palestinians--Boston
by FRANÇOIS LAFORGE
BOSTON--About 100 activists rallied in defense of Palestinian rights June 10.
The demonstration was organized to protest a rally, held by Zionist groups, of 53 years of "Israeli independence."
The multiracial crowd of protesters chanted "Free Palestine" and "Shame on you, USA! Funding Israel this way!"
True to the U.S. government's bias against Israel, police cracked down on demonstrators, pulling from the crowd a leading Palestinian activist and arresting him.
He was later charged with assault with a dangerous weapon--a complete frame-up.
This incident shows how the authorities in this country work together to deprive Palestinians of their right to free speech.
Support the struggle for a free Palestine!
Justice for Palestinians--Washington, D.C.
by JON VAN CAMP
WASHINGTON--More than 100 demonstrators marched in June in solidarity with Women in Black, an Israeli organization that protests the occupation of Palestine.
The demonstration occurred during rush hour and was well received, ending with a picket in front of the White House.
The crowd, dressed all in black, united Jews, Arabs, Blacks, Latinos and whites around the messages painted on signs in English and Arabic: "No to the Occupation" and "Stop Israeli terror."
Stop racism at the Seattle Times
by PETER HRANEK
SEATTLE--Last week, Carol Marshall, a printer at the Seattle Times, found a noose near her locker.
Marshall, who is Black, reported the incident to management, feeling that the noose was a death threat.
Their response? The noose is merely a tool!
The Times says that it's using the noose for lifting and will acquire another, despite Marshall's complaints.
At a small protest, Carol Marshall and others spoke of the abuse they have suffered at the Times.
One transsexual employee spoke about how he was not allowed to use the bathrooms at work and about discrimination against gays and lesbian at the Times.
Marshall described how her sexual harassment complaint was laughed at and that her reports of racial slurs were ignored.
There has also been harassment of workers--including Carol Marshall--who struck in solidarity with the Writers' Guild.
A number of the Times protesters also attended a candlelight vigil for Aaron "Smokey" Roberts, a Black man killed by Seattle police.