News and reports
June 13, 2003 | Page 10
Repeal the Rockefeller drug laws
NEW YORK--Thousands gathered June 4 in City Hall Park to oppose the state's Rockefeller Drug Laws, among the harshest in the country. New York State prisons house 18,300 people on drug charges. An astonishing 94 percent of these prisoners are Black or Latino, even though government studies show that the majority of drug users and sellers are white.
One woman at the protest said that her son faces 15-years-to-life in prison if he is convicted in a pending drug case. That's the mandatory sentence in New York State for selling two ounces or possessing four ounces of drugs.
Another protester came to the rally partly because his brother recently finished a drug sentence. He brought with him about half the students in the eighth grade class he teaches because, as he explained, "this is something that affects their communities. The Rockefeller Drug Laws are like the California three strikes laws--they target poor communities and communities of color."
At a time when New York is slashing social spending to compensate for a massive budget deficit, repeal of the Rockefeller laws would save the state $245 million, according to Doug Greene of the Drop the Rock Coalition. Randy Credico, from Mothers of the Disappeared, made an analogy to earlier antiracist struggles. "We didn't fight to reform slavery," said Credico. "We fought to repeal it."
SEATTLE--Police used pepper spray, concussion grenades and rubber bullets to disperse a peaceful demonstration last week during the Law Enforcement Intelligence Unit (LEIU) conference, a gathering of intelligence agents from police departments across the country. This year's conference marks the first time that federal intelligence personnel have participated.
More than 700 demonstrators attended a rally in Westlake Park organized by the LEIU Welcoming Committee to protest the conference. Homeland Security czar Tom Ridge was scheduled to address the conference, which featured such topics as "International Terrorism," "Protecting our Borders" and "Domestic Terrorism: Left and Right."
In 1993, the San Francisco Chronicle revealed that local police secretly used the LEIU to preserve intelligence files that were supposed to be destroyed. The crowd began a nonviolent, permitted march toward the LEIU conference site where dozens of police waited in riot gear.
There, the police attacked the crowd without warning. Demonstrators were pepper-sprayed and shot with pellets as they were returning to the rally site to disband.
At least one undercover officer was filmed throwing punches before leaping to the safety of the police line when teargas was sprayed. Capt. Mike Sanford claims that police moved to disperse the crowd after being pelted with mason jars, ball bearings and other projectiles.
Yet police did not respond to a request from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer to display the projectiles that were allegedly thrown at them. A dozen protesters were arrested, and many suffered cuts, welts and contusions. Four were taken to the hospital.
The day after the attack, activists gathered outside City Hall to protest the police violence. We have to hold the police accountable for their actions--and build a movement that draws connections between the war abroad and the war on civil liberties at home.
NEW YORK--More than 200 people gathered June 1 in Union Square to demand stronger rent laws and a moratorium on rent increases. The rent laws that currently protect tenants are set to expire June 15 at midnight.
If they are renewed as is, rent regulations will slowly be killed. This would give a green light to landlords to raise rents to astronomical levels at a time when job security is fading and the price of public transportation just increased.
Protesters wore hats and T-shirts with the slogan "Stronger rent laws now!" and passed out leaflets with information about the crisis in rent control. Even under the current laws, the number of homeless people is on the rise.
Several city council members addressed the crowd, whose anger was evident. "New York City is becoming uninhabitable," said one protester. "They are on a campaign to push people out of New York!"
NEW YORK--About 40 activists rallied June 3 in the rain in front of Lincoln Center to protest the presentation of an award to Venezuelan billionaire Gustavo Cisneros by U.S. war criminal Henry Kissinger. Cisneros is the wealthiest man in Venezuela and owner of a majority of Latin America's telecommunications and media.
Cisneros was implicated in the failed April 11, 2002, coup against democratically elected president Hugo Chavez. "It's very alarming to see the connection between Henry Kissinger, the war criminal, and the wealthiest man in Venezuela," Omar Sierra, of the Venezuela Solidarity Committee, told Socialist Worker. "There is a clear connection here between the coup-backers in Venezuela, and some very right-wing characters in the United States."