Reports from the struggle
Stop Washington's war machine
IN THE days before the big marches in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere on October 26, antiwar activists carried off several other events.
The New York University (NYU) Peace Coalition signed up 300 students and NYU affiliates to get on the bus to Washington, D.C. On October 21, 13 NYU student activists from the "No Blood for Oil" coalition occupied the United Nations (UN) building. They were demanding an end to the sanctions, no invasion of Iraq, and a UN condemnation of the U.S.'s "pre-emptive strike" policy. The students ran off from a guided tour of the UN and locked arms and chanted from the balcony overlooking the General Assembly.
Six other activists who staged a sit-in outside the U.S. Mission were arrested later that morning. NYU students are planning a debate about the war and a "die-in" in Union Square November 1.
At the University of Texas (UT) in Austin--the nation's largest university--the student government passed a resolution on October 22 urging George W. Bush not to go to war with Iraq. More than 300 students packed the meeting and debated the resolution for hours.
A few days later, hundreds of students attended an outdoor speak-out on the war, organized by the Campus Coalition for Peace and Justice--an antiwar group at UT. Dozens of antiwar activists blasted Bush's case for attacking Iraq and challenged those who spoke out for the war.
In Greensboro, N.C., more than 50 people packed a room October 23 to attend the first Campus Antiwar Coalition teach-in. The room bustled with energy as people debated the issues related to the Bush's drive for war. A number of people signed up to attend the national antiwar protest in Washington, D.C. Greensboro activists are planning a speak-out and rally in early November and a series of informal discussions in dorm lounges to help build for the event.
Candice Amich and Warren Craig contributed to this report.
Abolish the Death Penalty
By Alice Kim
CHICAGO--About 450 people from around the country attended the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty's annual conference. The conference highlighted the injustices of the death penalty system--and the stories of exonerated death row prisoners who were wrongfully convicted.
Attendees also participated in a lively protest march down Michigan Avenue and rallied in front of the State of Illinois Building. Members of Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation spoke at the rally and organized a workshop.
Their message--that many family members of murder victims oppose the death penalty--sharply contradicted the daily media coverage of the Illinois clemency hearings. News reports of these hearings have given prosecutors free rein to use the tragic stories of family members who lost their loved ones to violent crime to make a case for more executions.
But the conference showed why this won't bring justice, only more injustice--by sentencing more poor and Black defendants to death row under a system that can't even guarantee that innocent people won't die.
Another conference highlight was a "Live from Death Row" meeting coordinated by the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. Via a live telephone hook-up, the audience got to hear from Illinois death row prisoners Stanley Howard and Ronnie Kitchen. Both men are members of the Death Row 10, a group of African American men tortured by Chicago police. Other keynote speakers at the conference included Justice Seymour Simon, actor Danny Glover, Sister Helen Prejean, and Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.
The movement to abolish the death penalty has taken important strides forward since Gov. Ryan declared a moratorium on executions in Illinois in January 2000. But now is a critical moment.
Pro-death penalty forces have grasped on to the clemency hearings and the arrest of the two suspects in the sniper shootings to make their case for executions. It will be up to activists to keep up the pressure and to push back--by putting the human face of the death penalty and its terrible injustices front and center in the debate.