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Reports from the struggle

May 23, 2003 | Pages 10 and 11

Defend civil liberties
Arundhati Roy on war and occupation
New York City housing protest

Antiwar teach-ins

ANTIWAR ACTIVISTS are organizing teach-ins to discuss the issues raised by the American occupation of Iraq.

More than 300 attended a conference May 18 at the University of California—San Diego with the theme, "One World, One Future: Without War!" The event began with a keynote presentation by Blowback author Chalmers Johnson on "U.S. Foreign Policy and the Shape of Things to Come." Discussions were lively as activists grappled with how to shift from antiwar to anti-occupation mode.

Also in Southern California, some 400 people gathered at the First Baptist Church in Los Angeles May 10 for an antiwar conference sponsored by L.A. ANSWER. Workshop speakers included Jim Lafferty of the National Lawyers Guild, who outlined the trampling of civil liberties in the USA PATRIOT Act and the proposed Domestic Security Enhancement Act. A workshop on economic attacks at home featured Sarah Knopp of United Teachers Los Angeles and the International Socialist Organization and Wendy McPherson of the librarians' union and the Los Angeles chapter of U.S. Labor Against the War.

On the East Coast, students in the newly formed Anti-War Coalition at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven hosted a May 6 event titled "Why the Antiwar Movement is Still Right!" The audience of 70 heard from Zaid Shakir, an imam at a local mosque and a professor of Arabic at SCSU; Ashley Smith of the ISO; Stanley Heller, co-chairperson of the Middle East Crisis Committee; and Mike Alewitz, the socialist muralist. All the speakers called for the unconditional withdrawal of U.S. occupying forces from Iraq and supported the right of self-determination for the Iraqi people.

Events like these will help to solidify a core of activists against the occupation of Iraq and will lay the groundwork for a bigger and politically stronger movement against the U.S. government's next war.

Meredith Kalman, Gillian Russom and Balmore Alvarenga contributed to this report.

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Defend civil liberties

By Ellie Fingerman

SEATTLE--Though you've probably never heard of it before, there's a good chance that your local police department knows all about the Law Enforcement Intelligence Unit (LEIU). This year, the LEIU is holding its annual, week-long seminar in Seattle, complete with a golf tournament and guest speakers such as Department of Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge.

So what is the LEIU? It's a network of law enforcement agencies--established nearly 50 years ago--from all over the country, including the FBI, CIA and local police departments.

Though taxpayers pay for LEIU membership fees, the LEIU is classified as a "private" organization and is therefore not obligated to tell the public anything about what it does or what it knows. But this year, the LEIU apparently feels emboldened, setting up a Web site ( where you can find out about seminar topics ranging from "criminal protest groups" to "domestic terrorism, left and right."

The LEIU's newfound arrogance shouldn't be surprising, given the Bush administration's assault on civil liberties. And the decision to hold the conference in Seattle--where police atrocities were broadcast internationally during the 1999 World Trade Organization protests--is especially insulting. But Seattle activists are fighting back, organizing a June 2 rally and march to put a spotlight on the current attack on civil liberties in general and the LEIU in particular.

To find out how you can get involved, call 206-963-0775.

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Arundhati Roy on war and occupation

By Amy Muldoon

NEW YORK--More than 3,000 packed Riverside Church to hear Indian author and activist Arundhati Roy speak on globalization and the war in Iraq.

Roy outlined how the current occupation of Iraq is an extension of the war, and the so-called "spreading of democracy" to Iraq is a cover for U.S. imperialism. "Democracy," Roy explained, "has become capitalism's euphemism for free-market neoliberalism." She attacked the Bush administration for proclaiming itself the protector of women and the oppressed overseas while 28 percent of African Americans will spend some part of their adult life in prison.

Describing the worldwide march on February 15 as the "greatest show of public morality ever seen," she called for ongoing resistance to the U.S. occupation and empire building. Her main strategy, however, was calling for a "regime of people sanctions," or boycotts, of all the offending contractors and multinationals getting fat off U.S. intervention. But it's not clear how ordinary people can boycott an oil services corporation like Halliburton.

She briefly pointed to a more effective strategy, calling on Americans to use our "power of refuse to fight, refuse to move missiles, refuse to wave that flag."

Her speech was followed by a brief dialogue with Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States. They debated patriotism and nationalism, with Zinn suggesting that the movement against war is in the best sense American, and Roy saying we need to reject national divisions altogether.

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New York City housing protest

By Joe Cleffie

NEW YORK--As if the budget cuts hitting working-class and poor New Yorkers weren't enough, the Rent Guidelines Board voted to allow a staggering increase in rent for the 1 million rent-stabilized apartments. The board ruled that rents could be raised as much as 5.5 percent on a one-year lease and 8.5 percent on a two-year--the largest increase since 1989. Living in rent-stabilized apartments is often the only way that working people, particularly people of color, can live in areas where they'd otherwise be driven out by high rents.

The board meeting turned into a militant rally, with people chanting, "No justice, no peace" while the meeting was going on. "We need to make the rich pay some taxes," said one woman, summing up what most people were thinking. "That way we wouldn't have to pay more rent."

This increase shows that the city administration expects workers to pay for its crisis, but we're not going to accept these attacks on our living standards without a fight.

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