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News and reports

July 4, 2003 | Page 10

Stop the attacks on civil liberties
Free Ryan Matthews

Stop Bush at home and abroad
By Elizabeth Wrigley-Field

NEW YORK--Several thousand people rallied June 23 against George W. Bush outside the Sheraton Hotel where he was holding a $2,000-a-plate fundraiser. The fundraiser made $4 million for Bush's 2004 presidential campaign at a time when he's pushing through tax cuts for the rich and cuts in social services for the poor. Gov. George Pataki, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani joined Bush for the occasion.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America called the protest, and other organizations jumped on board, including United for Peace and Justice. Especially prevalent were signs reading "Warning: Bush's policies dangerous to women's health."

Several speakers also connected Bush's attacks on abortion to his wars abroad. "Bush is waging a war against us, and in this case against poor women, working-class women and women of color, who need reproductive services most," said Jean Carey Bond, a speaker from the Black Radical Congress. "This is our answer to Bush's promise of endless war. Mr. Bush, we promise you we will not go back to illegal abortions, to all-white schools and workplaces, to McCarthyism."

Many protesters expressed anger at Bush's policies in general. "I can't imagine anyone doesn't feel things are going profoundly wrong in the U.S. I ask pro-war people, 'why did we go to war?' And there's never a satisfactory answer." said Thomas, who came to the protest with a large banner reading "Free Palestine."

City council member Charles Baron attacked Bush's war for oil and then announced: "I do hereby make you all sheriffs, and I charge you to arrest Bush for his war crimes." So when police began to arrest protesters, hundreds of people in nearby pens chanted "Arrest George Bush!"

In all, six people were arrested throughout the day. "[I want to tell people to] take sides," said protester Joe Carranza. "Speak out before you are gagged with the American flag. Silence is always to the benefit of the oppressor."

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Stop the attacks on civil liberties
By Peter LoRe

NEW YORK--About 80 people crowded into the southwest corner of Union Square June 14 to protest the attacks on our civil liberties and the recent deaths of Alberta Spruill and Ousmane Zongo. Spruill and Zongo--both unarmed and Black--became the two most recent of nine people killed by New York City police in the first sixth months of this year.

Armed with signs taking up a wealth of issues--"Repeal the PATRIOT Act," "Stop racist police," "End the death penalty"--protesters gave speeches for an hour and then marched from Union Square to Tompkins Square. Speakers talked about the assault on civil liberties as well as the deportation of immigrants rounded up by the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly known as the INS).

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Free Ryan Matthews
By Paul Grohman

SUPPORTERS OF wrongly convicted Louisiana Death Row inmate Ryan Matthews gathered June 20 at St. Mary's Church in New York City. The event, sponsored by the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, featured Ryan's mother Pauline Matthews, and his lawyer Billy Sothern.

Matthews was sentenced to die in May 1999 after a three-day trial for a crime he was arrested for when he was merely two weeks past his seventeenth birthday. Ryan, who is African American, has maintained his innocence in the murder of a white convenience store owner just outside of New Orleans. The prosecution of a juvenile offender like Ryan defies basic notions of human rights--and distinguishes the U.S. from nearly every other country in the world.

As with many death penalty cases, Ryan's case was infused with racism. His jury had 11 white members and one Black member in spite of the fact that he county where the trial was held was 30 percent minority.

Pauline Matthews spoke of her ordeal. "I felt that the courtroom was prejudiced and racist, the atmosphere reminded me of a lynching, and they lynched my son in that courtroom."

Speaking of the cruel treatment of her son, she said "Ryan has a seizure disorder and requires medication to control it--and he was not regularly given his medication in prison. Ryan is in his cell 23 hours a day, and is always handcuffed and shackled. They wanted Ryan to plea bargain, but Ryan said that he hadn't done anything, and wouldn't plea bargain. I felt like in doing this, we had won."

Evidence at the trial showed that two different DNA samples were found on the mask that was worn during the crime--but neither matched Ryan. Plans are in the works to protest at a hearing for Ryan in August in New Orleans. To find out more about Ryan's case and others and what you can do to help, check out

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