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Letters to the editor

July 6, 2001 | Page 4

Bread and Roses is an inspiring story
U.S. spends more to kill than to heal

A juror's view of the justice system

Dear Socialist Worker,

I was recently called on to do my "civic duty"--and so I reported for jury duty at the Kings County Supreme Court.

I did get a civics lesson from the whole experience. I learned why it is that my brothers and sisters in Brooklyn are rightfully cynical about the criminal justice system.

First, the judge informed us that the jury system is the pillar of our democracy and that each defendant's guilt or innocence is judged by a jury of peers.

The judge then informed us that, while we would consider questions of fact, we would have no say over what the punishment would be. "No, no," we were informed, that was a matter of "the law" and therefore no concern of ours.

Some people in the jury pool had a little problem with that--of course, they were not selected for the jury.

The prosecutor told us that we couldn't have any sympathy for the skinny, 16-year-old hearing-impaired defendant who was peering around nervously at the people who would decide his fate. People who expressed concern about sending this kid to jail apparently weren't fit for jury service either.

In another telling moment, a police officer in the jury pool was asked if he ever knew another cop to do something wrong. As he paused before answering the question, a group of us broke out laughing, and a woman behind me murmured, "I take the fifth!"

My experience proved to me that the justice system is a farce.

First, anyone who is cynical about police is weeded out of the jury. Then the prosecution, which has far more resources than the defense, gets to line up a string of cops and present its one-sided case.

While it was good to see that many of my Brooklyn neighbors are very aware of these problems, the whole process was sickening.

Lucy Herschel, Brooklyn, N.Y.

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Bread and Roses is an inspiring story

Dear Socialist Worker,

A local movie theater used a June 5 showing of the new film Bread and Roses as a starting point for an audience discussion of immigrant rights, union organizing and ethnic stereotypes. The post-film discussion at the not-for-profit Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington was led by immigrant labor organizers Zoila Rodriguez and Carlos Canales.

Bread and Roses is a dramatic portrayal of the Justice for Janitors campaign in Los Angeles. The successful 1990s struggle by the city's building cleaners for union recognition and living wages was fought by a largely immigrant workforce.

Rodriguez and Canales are staff members of the Workplace Project in Hempstead, a Long Island group that helps immigrant day laborers, building cleaners and other low-wage workers fight for their rights. Rodriguez, a former undocumented immigrant and cleaning worker herself, said she admired the film's uncompromisingly pro-immigrant and workers' rights stance.

"We have the same rights as any other human being--with or without papers," Rodriguez told the audience.

Audience member Enzo Bard agreed. "When you think about it, we've all been illegals in this country since 1492," he said.

Kevin O'Neill, Long Island, N.Y.

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U.S. spends more to kill than to heal

Dear Socialist Worker,

Last week, the U.S. government promised $200 million to the United Nations to help fight AIDS.

Compare this with the $1.3 billion for weapons for Plan Colombia, $5.5 billion for Israel's war machine, $15 billion for NASA space missions, $29 billion for domestic police programs and some $300 billion in overall military spending.

AIDS kills millions--but if you look at the figures, you can see it's not about curing AIDS.

Mitch Lewis, Cambridge, Mass.

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