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News and reports

July 20, 2001 | Page 14

Rainforest Action Network
Justice for Palestinians
California power protest
Beat back Bush
Los Angeles immigrant rights
Stop the Klan
Stop police brutality--Prince George's County, Md.
Stop police brutality--Seattle
Stop police brutality--Chicago

Stop anti-abortion bigots


WICHITA, Kan.--The anti-choice bigots are at it again.

Ten years after thousands of anti-abortion crusaders shut down Wichita abortion clinics, they're returning to the scene of the crime for a week of actions beginning July 14.

When Operation Rescue launched its "Summer of Mercy"--a 45-day siege on Wichita clinics--in 1991, they took pro-choice advocates by surprise and terrorized abortion providers in the state. Today, Operation Save America--its new incarnation--expects a few hundred protesters to try and shut down Wichita's only remaining abortion clinic, run by Dr. George Tiller.

Their leader, Rev. Flip Benham, claims their actions will be peaceful. But zealous denunciations of abortion providers led some fanatics to bomb Tiller's clinic in 1985 and shoot him in 1993.

Outcry from Wichita abortion supporters has forced Attorney General John Ashcroft to provide federal marshals to protect Dr. Tiller and his clinic during the week of protests.

Death threats and protests outside clinics have reduced the number of Kansas facilities and deterred doctors from providing abortions. Today, abortion is unavailable in 95 percent of Kansas counties, despite a 22 percent increase in the number of abortions performed in the last decade.

As Socialist Worker went press, it appeared that pro-choice activists far outnumbered the bigots.

This activist wing of radical right has failed to mobilize the numbers they rallied a decade ago--a blockade of Buffalo, N.Y., a few years ago brought out a pathetic dozen protesters. But some are probably getting a boost now that an abortion opponent is in the White House.

Some abortion rights activists are mobilizing in Wichita to defend the clinics, though none of the national women's organizations have put out a call to mobilize large numbers. But the 15,000 who turned out in Washington, D.C., last April for the Emergency Action to Save Women's Lives showed a new movement can be built.

Pro-choice activists in cities like Chicago will have the opportunity to rebuild abortion rights activism in mid-July when area bigots plan to hold up huge posters of "aborted" fetuses along main avenues.

Those interested in counter-protesting the anti-abortionists can click here to send an e-mail.

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Rainforest Action Network

SAN FRANCISCO--Right wingers are cranking up a campaign to pressure the U.S. government into going after the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and other environmental groups.

The so-called Frontiers of Freedom Institute has petitioned the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to strip RAN of its nonprofit status. The right-wing think tank is using the fact that RAN members have been arrested for misdemeanor trespass during protests to claim that the organization is engaged in criminal activity and should therefore lose tax-exempt status.

"It's outrageous," Sierra Club Director Carl Pope told the San Francisco Chronicle. "By the standard Frontiers of Freedom is trying to apply, the NAACP and other civil rights groups would have lost their tax exemptions because members participated in protests."

Unfortunately, RAN's opponents have friends in high places. Frontiers of Freedom was founded by former Sen. Malcolm Wallop, a guru of the anti-environmental "wise use" movement and good buddy of fellow Wyoming Republican Dick Cheney. The institute's biggest contributors include Philip Morris, Exxon Mobil and RJ Reynolds Tobacco Holdings.

RAN members say that logging company Boise Cascade--which the group has targeted for clear-cutting old-growth forests--is also behind the attack. The company has already sent threatening letters to a number of environmentalist foundations that fund RAN, accusing the group of "reckless, unlawful and untruthful attacks."

"Boise Cascade is attacking RAN because we've exposed its destruction of the world's last remaining old-growth rainforests," said RAN Executive Director Chris Hatch.

Write a letter of protest to Boise Cascade. Mail to: George Harad, CEO, Boise Cascade, 1111 W. Jefferson St., P.O. Box 50, Boise, ID 83728. Fax to 208-384-4912. E-mail to [email protected]

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Justice for Palestinians


NEW YORK--One hundred people protested the appearance of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at a fancy fundraiser held here June 25.

Chanting "Remember Sabra and Shatila"--in reference to the massacre of 2,000 Palestinians that Sharon orchestrated during Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982--the protesters attracted the attention of thousands driving down Fifth Avenue during rush hour.

But police moved in to keep demonstrators away from the site of the fundraiser, moving them two blocks away.

Three days later, 40 people showed up to a forum to discuss why the U.S. supports Israel and what activists can do to broaden the fight for Palestinian rights.

Activists are discussing plans for protests in September on the 19th anniversary of Sabra and Shatila. And in California, students are planning to hold a conference in mid-October to discuss pressuring universities to divest from Israel.

More demonstrations and teach-ins like these can counter the media's lies about Palestine and bring more activists into the solidarity movement.

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California power protest


LONG BEACH, Calif.--Some 150 people celebrated the Fourth of July by demanding their independence from greedy energy corporations.

Protesters marched to a power plant in Los Alamitos owned by AES, which has been accused of creating artificial shortages to jack up energy prices. At the rally, organized by People for Community Empowerment, people dressed in Revolutionary War-era garb read their own declaration of independence from the big energy companies.

"Services essential to our lives should be owned by the people, not by giant corporations," said Gene Ruyle, a professor at Cal State-Long Beach. Calling for the development of renewable energy sources, he said, "Texas oil is the past, California sunshine is the future."

John Donaldson of Citizens for Utility Reform said that when the energy shortage began last year, he spoke to friends who worked at the plant who said that they got orders from AES headquarters to turn down production.

"If we don't speak up, they're going to continue to screw us," Donaldson told the crowd. "We need to take the power plants back."

CalPIRG's Susannah Churchill described how power companies are using the "energy crisis" to get the government to relax environmental laws.

Antonia Reyes, a member of a Long Beach citizens group, talked about how landlords are raising rents because of the energy hikes. "People burned draft cards in the '60's," she said. "Today, people are burning their power bills, because they can't afford to pay them."

The Green Party's Medea Benjamin held up a picture of Enron CEO Ken Lay. "This man is more powerful than George Bush or Dick Cheney," she said. "People all over the world are rising up and saying no to corporate greed. We the People will triumph."

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Beat back Bush


NEW YORK--More than 600 protesters gathered in midtown Manhattan July 10 to show President Bush what New Yorkers think of his right-wing agenda.

"The wrong person is in the presidency," said Nerissa McLarty who came out to protest Bush on her lunch break. "He wants to destroy the working class of this country."

Many protesters had been waiting months for a chance to make their voices heard as Bush cancelled one New York trip after another. The rally included Democrats, supporters of Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader, activists against corporate globalization as well as many people new to activism.

Some protesters focused on the lack of democracy that got Bush into the White House, while others came to protest his attacks on the environment and women's rights. "I object to almost every stance he takes, but when he reinstated the gag rule [forbidding organizations funded by the U.S. government to mention abortion], it fortified my dedication to activism," said Claudia Trevor, who works with the National Organization for Women.

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Los Angeles immigrant rights


LOS ANGELES--More than 300 angry protesters, most of them immigrant janitors and day laborers, picketed in front of Gov. Gray Davis' office on June 29. A delegation of workers and community activists entered Davis' office to present a letter demanding a public hearing on working conditions.

They also asked for additional funding for the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR), a state agency that oversees the enforcement of wage and hour laws.

During the immigrant-bashing reign of former Gov. Pete Wilson, the DIR's budget was slashed in half. Davis has yet to sign a new budget that would increase funding. He says the state needs to spend budget surpluses on the energy crisis.

Even if Davis signs, the increase will not make up for the money lost during the Wilson years. Protesters forced Davis' spokesman, Eric Bauman, to come out and address the pickets and media, promising a public hearing on July 26.

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Stop the Klan


CINCINNATI--Just weeks after police brutality sparked weeks of rebellion and protest, the Ku Klux Klan threatened to stage a white power rally here. But anti-racists--galvanized by recent struggles--organized to turn the Klan away.

In fact, the Klan never even showed up!

Instead of protesting the Klan, activists distributed leaflets, explaining how racial profiling by police that sparked the April rebellion hasn't been addressed.

If anything, police brutality has worsened. And when the Klan and other neo-Nazi groups have shown up for past rallies, the city has been willing to pay overtime wages so police can turn out in large numbers--to protect the white supremacists.

That's why the chant "Cops and the Klan go hand in hand!" connects with so many people. Blacks and whites must unite to fight racism wherever and whenever it shows itself.

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Stop police brutality--Prince George's County, Md.


PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, Md.--Top police officials here were running for cover after a media exposé in July that documented the brutal record of the county's killer cops.

According to the Washington Post, between 1990 and 2000, Prince George's police shot and killed people at rates higher than almost every other large department in the country. Yet every single shooting was ruled justified by department commanders.

The Post series also showed that police shot a shockingly high number of mentally ill people--at least a dozen, including seven who police had been called to help, according to the paper. The series also documented cases of three men who died in police custody, with coroner's reports showing that they had been brutally beaten.

The outcry follows a previous Post series in June that interviewed four innocent men who said they confessed to murders that they didn't commit because Prince George's detectives tortured them.

This latest publicity comes after years of pressure from county residents. One long-term struggle has been to get police to reopen the case of Archie Elliot III, an unarmed Black man who was shot 12 times while handcuffed and seat-belted in the front seat of a police cruiser.

Residents recently formed the People's Coalition for Police Accountability to campaign against police brutality. We need to keep up the pressure to stop these killer cops.

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Stop police brutality--Seattle


SEATTLE--A group of about 20 activists called attention to police brutality on July 7 at a gathering to promote the business community in Seattle's Central District attended by Mayor Paul Schell.

The rally took place at the intersection in this largely Black neighborhood where police shot and killed Aaron Roberts just over a month ago. Seven of the last 11 people killed by police, including Roberts, have been Black, and no police officer has been convicted of any wrongdoing in the past 20 years.

Activists are demanding the firing of Officers Craig Price and Greg Neubert. Witness accounts from cases Neubert has been involved in reveal that he has untruthfully testified to being assaulted with a vehicle--the justification he and his partner used for killing Roberts.

The People's Coalition for Justice is also demanding an ordinance against racial profiling, cameras in all patrol cars and an independent, elected review board.

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Stop police brutality--Chicago


CHICAGO--Nearly 50 people expressed their outrage July 11 as Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine was awarded the Abraham Lincoln Award from the Illinois Council against Handgun Violence.

The hypocrisy of honoring an official who has flatly refused to prosecute a single officer for misconduct was too much for protesters, who shouted "No justice, no peace. Prosecute the police!"

Many family members and friends carried pictures of their loved ones who have been murdered, beaten, tortured or framed by police officers in Cook County. Lorne Williams, from the Chicago Anti-Bashing Network and a close friend of beating and sodomy torture victim Freddie Mason Jr., denounced police and justice officials like Devine.

Members of Comité Exigimos Justicia (We Demand Justice!) are demanding that Devine and the federal Justice Department investigate the corrupt and brutal cops who have systematically framed their family members. They will rally at the Federal Plaza on August 3.

For more information, call Comité Exigimos Justicia at 773-480-4459.

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