News and Reports
August 31, 2001 | Page 14
Justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal
by NICOLE COLSON
PHILADELPHIA--"I'm here because the people are here...It's up to us to make sure the courts know that our will is justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal." That's what actor and activist Ossie Davis told a crowd of some 2,000 people who gathered in Philadelphia August 17 to demand justice for death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.
The demonstration--the largest for Mumia in Philadelphia in several years--was called in conjunction with a court hearing to decide whether or not new evidence of Mumia's innocence can be presented.
Speakers at the protest included Rev. Jesse Jackson and poet Sonia Sanchez. Others came to Philadelphia from as far away as Spain, France, South Korea and Belgium.
"Whenever young people participate in something like this, adults often say, 'You don't know what you're talking about,'" said demonstrator Josh Block. "But we do. We care. And for me, Mumia is an inspiration. Even though he's in jail, he talks about the real issues that affect us all."
According to Mumia's defense team, a man named Arnold Beverly has signed a sworn confession stating that he, and not Mumia, shot Officer Daniel Faulkner in December 1981. But the courts don't care.
In July, Federal District Court Judge William Yohn Jr. denied a motion by Mumia's lawyers to order the state of Pennsylvania to take a deposition from Beverly. Yohn said that it wasn't appropriate for a federal court to hear a new claim of innocence. So on August 17, Mumia's lawyers went back to the state courts to request that the deposition be taken.
Although originally ordered to be present, Mumia was later barred from attending the hearing when a city prison official claimed that there was "no room" for him in the city jail. What a joke!
"Today, I am banned from a proceeding in my name, in my defense, with no reason," Mumia said in a written statement. "At the first trial in 1982, I spent half of the proceeding outside the courtroom. I am being told once again that I cannot be in the courtroom even though it was ordered by the judge."
Defense lawyers have until September 7 to file a brief arguing for the new evidence to be heard, and prosecutors will get two weeks to respond.
Mumia activists are planning for a September 15 demonstration in Philadelphia to keep up the pressure. The size of the August 17 demonstration is a positive sign.
As Jackson told the crowd, "Talk to everyone about Mumia. Resist for Mumia. Resist and be against capital punishment."
by BRIDGET BRODERICK
CHICAGO--Parents and students in La Villita (Little Village) neighborhood in Chicago won a victory in their fight for a local high school. On August 20, the Chicago Board of Education pledged $5 million for a Little Village high school.
"I'm excited that we are going to have a school. Now my children won't have to suffer what we went through," said Alejandra Pérez, who as a student took three buses to get to her school.
The mostly Latino neighborhood of Little Village had been promised a high school before--in 1998--only to have the Chicago Board of Education spend the money on other schools. So this year, mothers declared a hunger strike and staged other actions as well.
After three weeks, Mayor Daley and the Board of Education felt obliged to promise two schools in the area. But Little Village residents know that $5 million is not enough to build the school, so they attended the August 22 Board meeting to let the new president, Michael Scott, know that they were expecting more.
"We have $5 million but we haven't seen one shovel move dirt for construction. When will we get our school?" asked Rubén Herrera at the meeting. President Scott was vague about details, and some parents left the meeting unsatisfied.
"This one issue is almost resolved, but we have many to resolve," said José Saldaña. "This [fight] will be a start to get us to work together."
by BEHZAD RAGHIAN
ANAHEIM, Calif.--Antiracists forced the white supremacist group Blood and Honor California to cancel a benefit concert on August 19.
About 50 antiracist demonstrators gathered outside the Shack, where the group planned to host a fundraiser for a White Power CD featuring various Nazi bands. But after phone calls and bad press inundated the bar in the days leading up to the event, protesters were greeted with a letter posted on the doors outside notifying them that they were closed for the day.
Antiracists stayed for two hours to make sure nothing happened and to let the community know about the Shack's actions. Protesters picketed and chanted, "Asian, Latin, Black, and white! To fight racism, we must unite!"
Passersby honked their horns in support and some stopped and joined the demonstration. Police harassed supporters by pulling them over for honking.
Meanwhile, the cops did nothing when Nazis drove by, yelling profanities and flipping off protesters. A carload of fascists, with a Nazi flag hanging from their window, made the sieg heil salute.
Upon leaving, a protester was pulled over for driving without a seat belt and detained for 30 minutes while police searched his vehicle
But antiracists won this day and chased off the Nazis.
by NOREEN McNULTY
CHICAGO--Victor Safforld, also known as Cortez Brown, phoned from Illinois death row to speak to the Greater Englewood Parish United Methodist Church's Family Day on July 28. The Campaign to End the Death Penalty helped to organize this "Live from Death Row" at the church on Chicago's South Side.
Victor spoke about what happened to him and other members of the Death Row 10--a group of Black men tortured by Chicago police and sent to death row on the basis of their coerced "confessions." Many of the Death Row 10 and their families are from this neighborhood where police commander Jon Burge and his brutal cops picked up Black men and tortured them--using such techniques as electro-shock, suffocation and brutal beatings.
Death Row 10 family members William Howard, Costella Cannon, Alfreda Day, Louva Bell and her sons; exonerated death row inmate Ronald Jones; and family members of exonerated death row inmate Anthony Porter all attended. About 50 adults and 30 youth attended the event, almost all of them African American.
The efforts of Death Row 10 mom Louva Bell, who recently joined the church, were key to the event's success. Victor's grandmother Eleanor Safforld is also a congregation member. She worked with church leaders and other Campaign members to build for the event.
In the lead up, Campaigners petitioned in the neighborhood, and church members did door-to-door canvassing.
Events like these are key to building a grassroots movement to abolish the death penalty for good.
by EVAN KORNFELD
LOS ANGELES--About 300 people attended a June 18 forum held by the Multi-Ethnic Immigrant Workers Organizing Network (MIWON) to announce a platform calling for recognition of immigrant workers' rights. Among its demands are decent wages and working conditions, drivers' licenses for immigrants and access to college education for immigrants' children.
A number of local politicians attended, including members of the state assembly and LA city council and a representative from the mayor's office. Several immigrant workers were invited to make statements.
Jenny Savedra, a factory worker, told how she works from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 7 to 12 on Saturdays. She receives no overtime pay, and if she is a few minutes late, she may be docked a day's pay.
Jung Hee Lee, a Korean restaurant worker, told about how she can't get medical treatment if she's injured on the job. Although her children speak fluent English, they're not considered U.S. citizens and have limited access to education.
Elizabeth Rodriguez, a daughter of immigrant parents, told about how she will not be able to attend college in California because she would have to pay out-of-state tuition fees.
Most of the politicians agreed to endorse MIWON's platform. Activists will have to keep up the pressure to make sure the politicians keep their promises and make real improvement in immigrants' lives.
by CINDY KAFFEN
WARRENVILLE, Ill.--More than 120 anti-nuclear activists rallied on August 23 at the opening of the new corporate headquarters of energy globo-corp Exelon, the largest nuclear utility in the U.S.
Eight protesters were arrested and later released as they attempted to deliver a statement to CEO John Rowe opposing Exelon's plans to keep Illinois' outdated nuclear reactors operating.
Activists also oppose Exelon's plan to build new "pebble bed" modular reactors--a design that's more than 30 years old and that has been rejected as unsafe, most recently in Germany.
Exelon--formed from the merger of PECO Energy Company and Unicom Corporation, parent corporation of Commonwealth Edison--already controls 10 percent of the world's nuclear power plants. But it hopes to increase its share of the industry with help from the Bush administration, which is calling for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to loosen its regulations for licensing nuclear power plants.
The protest capped a weeklong International Conference for a Sustainable Energy Future, attended by activists from 11 countries. "Even if they stopped today, generations would still be needed to clean up the waste," Corey Conn of the Nuclear Energy Information Service told Socialist Worker.
by WILLIAM FIGUEROA
LOS ANGELES--A dozen protesters gathered at the Mexican Consulate on August 20 to demand the freedom of Beatriz Chavez Perez, who is falsely imprisoned in Baja California, Mexico, for leading a group of land squatters.
She has become a victim of the corrupt state government, which regularly provides land grants to local workers and peasants, only to turn around and deny the agreements. The state would rather illegally sell the land to private interests than provide communal ownership.
The influx of maquiladora industries along with the increase of immigrant population around the border region has meant a constant struggle for land. This is accompanied by ongoing harassment and issuing of arrest warrants for the leaders of these communities.
The victims of these state policies are usually indigenous families that have migrated to the border region searching for work and shelter. Protesters also visited the Consul General to deliver reports documenting the history of corruption surrounding Beatriz Chavez's case.
Similar actions took place in San Francisco and San Diego, as well as in cities in Baja California, Mexico. The actions were called by the Globaliphobicos Network of the Californias, which brings together activists from both sides of the border around labor and immigrant issues.
This solidarity action provides us with organic links to activists' struggles in Mexico. Together, both sides are demanding the freedom of Beatriz Chavez Perez!
by STEVE LEIGH
SEATTLE--Thirty people, primarily from Asian American groups, picketed a speech by Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao on August 22.
Chao is a former fellow at the right-wing Heritage Foundation, a critic of affirmative action and supporter of many anti-labor policies.
Chao is the first Bush Cabinet officer of Asian descent, and she's trying to use this to win Bush support among Asians. But protesters saw right through this, chanting, "Affirmative action, yes! Chao, no!"
Chao responded with an irritated diatribe opposing government regulation and high taxes, claiming that "most" Asian Americans are small business people who support Bush. But the picket proved otherwise.
Build the movement to beat back Bush!