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News and reports

February 6, 2004 | Pages 10 and 11

OTHER STORIES BELOW:
Another Chicago is possible
Abolish the death penalty

Defend the Oakland 25
By Sue Sandlin

OAKLAND, Calif.--Antiwar and labor activists are gearing up for an important rally to defend the right to demonstrate against the U.S.'s brutal war on Iraq. February 6 is the date of the next hearing for 25 antiwar demonstrators and an International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) business agent who were arrested after the police brutally attacked an antiwar demonstration last April.

Many protesters and nine longshore workers were injured when police fired "non-lethal" projectiles and tear gas at peaceful protesters and longshore workers who were honoring their picket line. Police also dragged ILWU Local 10 business agent Jack Heyman from his car as he was making his way to talk to union members.

Outrageously, Heyman and the antiwar demonstrators have been brought up on bogus criminal charges. There is a rally to defend their right to demonstrate and demand that the charges be dropped. All out to defend the Oakland 25!

Rally February 6 at Noon at Superior Court, 7th and Washington streets. For more information and to send solidarity greetings, contact the Committee to Defend ILWU Local 10 business agent Jack Heyman at 415-415-273-1649 or visit www.defendilwuba.com.

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Another Chicago is possible
By Gimena Gordillo

CHICAGO--More than 450 people gathered together January 31, to fight for a better world at the Chicago Social Forum (CSF). "I was inspired by the fact that there were so many people with similar mindsets coming together," said one participant.

The CSF brought together activists from the antiwar, global justice, labor, women's rights and various other social movements to discuss and debate the questions that are most pertinent in our society and in our movements. The connection to "the bigger picture"--the World Social Forum in India--was heavily stressed, and Chicago Social Forum was seen as a continuation of the same movement to bring the left together.

One workshop put on by the Center for Economic Research and Social Change, "Cross Border Solidarity vs. Corporate Free Trade" that included a panel of labor activists, drew around 60 people. Student organizing was also one of the key topics addressed in a workshop titled, "Students Organizing for Global Justice in the Era of Global War."

War, imperialism and resistance was a key theme of other workshops, including one entitled "The Globalization of Solidarity" by the New Chicago School and "Imperialism from the Iraq to the FTAA, IMF and World Bank," featuring Soren Ambrose of the debt relief group 50 Years is Enough and Paul D'Amato of the International Socialist Review.

A workshop by Gingarte Capoeira and the Freestyle Collective explained--and demonstrated--how Brazilian slaves created Capoeira as a dance and martial art to organize resistance. Other workshops highlighted the struggle of Palestinians, the Zapatista movement in Mexico, independent media, the rights of the disabled, the gay marriage debate, gentrification, public housing, AIDS and Africa and more.

More than 70 people attended the workshop on "Elections and Social Movements," also hosted by the Center for Economic Research and Social Change. The question of elections also came up for debate in the final plenary, which included Dr. Calvin Morris of the Community Renewal Society of Chicago, Dr. Quentin Young of Physicians of a National Health Program, Maricella Garcia of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Njoki Njehu of 50 Years is Enough and Ahmed Shawki of the International Socialist Review.

Some 45 different organizations participated in this event. Participating groups plan to keep meeting to help build the social forum in the U.S.

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Abolish the death penalty
By Eric Ruder

CHICAGO--More than 80 people gathered here January 31 to celebrate the fourth anniversary of the moratorium on executions in Illinois. The event--organized by the Campaign to End the Death Penalty--brought together anti-death penalty activists and family members of former Illinois death row prisoners.

There were plenty of reasons to celebrate--and yet still more to accomplish. Just a week earlier, anti-death penalty activists won a victory when the Illinois Supreme Court threw out Attorney General Lisa Madigan's petition to overturn clemency granted to 32 former death row prisoners by former Gov. George Ryan last year.

In a sweeping move, Ryan emptied Illinois' death row of its 167 prisoners, citing the errors, racism and arbitrariness that marked Illinois' capital punishment system. Since then, prosecutors have sent two more people to death row--both of whom are mentally ill.

So the celebration marked the great gains that have been won as well as the need to push for complete abolition of the Illinois death penalty. Speakers included exonerated death row prisoner Madison Hobley; capital defense lawyer Chick Hoffman; Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins, board member of Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation; and Alice Kim, Chicago organizer for the Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

Renaldo Hudson, one of the 167 prisoners granted clemency by Ryan, called in and spoke to the audience via speakerphone. "It's so important that we get the message out that even though they have their boots on our necks, we can still breathe," said Renaldo. "And if we can breathe, then we can get the word out that justice and mercy go together."

After the speakers, audience members--one after another--shared moving stories about loved ones languishing behind bars, denied a fair trial, abused and in some cases denied critical medical treatment.

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