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News and reports

December 5, 2003 | Page 11

Shut down the School of Assassins
Justice for Ryan Matthews

U.S. out of Iraq
By Matt Ivey, Sid Patel and Khury Petersen-Smith

ACTIVISTS ACROSS the country are continuing to build opposition to Washington's war on Iraq. In Winston-Salem, N.C., about 750 protested George W. Bush's November 7 $2,000-a-plate fundraiser lunch to raise money for his campaign.

In response, activists set up a Depression-era soup line, where protesters could line up and get a free hot meal. After the rally, protestors marched to the convention center, where they protested for about an hour, chanting "Feed the needy, not the greedy."

On November 17, approximately 400 people marched through downtown Rochester, N.Y., to protest a $1,000-a-plate campaign fundraising luncheon featuring Vice President Dick Cheney. Dozens of high school students skipped classes to attend the rally and march, which was sponsored by a coalition of community- and campus-based organizations.

Dave Dashefsky, a member of the coordinating committee of the Campus Antiwar Network, got a round of applause when he said that the U.S. should withdraw and "let the Iraqis decide how to spend $87 billion to rebuild their country." Protestors marched through downtown, gathering bystanders along the way. Paul, a Vietnam veteran, joined the march when he realized that it was against Cheney and the war.

"The United States doesn't get into a war unless its going to get something out of it," he said. "People are starving over here, and they're spending billions on this war and a $1,000 a plate on that lunch."

In Berkeley, Calif., the Stop the War Coalition has been organizing solidarity for the "Berkeley 3"--three student antiwar activists who have been punished by the University of California-Berkeley administration for protesting against the war. At a recent event with Democracy Now! journalist Amy Goodman attended by several hundred people, the coalition leafleted about the case and encouraged people to send e-mails and call the administration.

Goodman commended the three activists and asked them to stand so that they could receive a big round of applause from the audience, and emcee Lynn Savio--the widow of Free Speech Movement founder Mario Savio--asked people to support the activists. We have to stand up to UC-Berkeley's attack on political activism.

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Shut down the School of Assassins

FORT BENNING, Ga.--More than 10,000 activists turned out November 22-23 for the annual protest at the camp where the U.S. army trains Latin American dictators. For the last 14 years, thousands have gathered at the gates of the School of the America (SOA)--recently renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation--to take part in peaceful civil disobedience organized by the human rights group SOA Watch.

Every year, protesters are arrested as they attempt to "cross the line" into the camp. But in recent years, the government has used new powers granted it by the Bush administration's "war on terrorism" to terrorize protesters.

Activists face ever harsher prison sentences. And this year, authorities barricaded the protest area along Fort Benning Road and searched protesters--the majority of whom are members of religious groups--with metal detectors.

And at the gates of Fort Benning, activists taking part in a peaceful, permitted protest were blasted with anthems and martial music played from loudspeakers at high decibels. SOA Watch plans to sue Fort Benning for violating the civil rights of demonstrators.

"Prison will not deter us," said Kathy Kelly of Voice in the Wilderness, who was among those arrested at the protest. "We intend to close this school and to change the foreign policy that this school represents."

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Justice for Ryan Matthews
By Stephanie Schwartz

NEW YORK--The New York chapter of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty (CEDP) held a Day of Justice for Ryan Matthews on November 18, gathering signatures and showing films to raise awareness of his case.

The injustice suffered by Ryan Matthews embodies all of the problems with the death penalty system. Ryan is a mentally retarded, Black man who was only 17 at the time he was convicted of killing a grocery store owner in Louisiana. Now, there's DNA evidence that points to the true killer.

As part of the Day of Justice, CEDP activists tabled at Columbia University and City College to compile signatures and help launch an ad campaign to publicize Ryan's case in New York and New Orleans newspapers. About 70 people attended the CEDP's film screenings of The Road to Justice about Ryan's case and The Farm about Angola prison, where Ryan is behind bars.

Emily and Sarah Kunstler, co-producers of The Road to Justice, spoke about the need to get the word out about Ryan's case. Liz Garbus, director of The Farm, spoke about the importance of using film to promote social justice.

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