News and reports
February 13, 2004 | Pages 10 and 11
Bring the troops home now
NEW BRITAIN, Conn.More than 100 activists from around the state gathered at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) for a panel featuring Military Families Speak Out and U.S. Labor Against War. A student and army veteran from the CCSU Progressive Student Alliance started things off by drawing connections between the war at home and the war abroad.
Nancy Lessin and Charley Richardson of Military Families Speak Out shared some of the moving letters they received from members of the military and their families who are outraged by the war and occupation. "It's not easy for military families to speak out, because it's much easier to think your loved one is dying for a noble cause," Richardson said. "For every one of us who speaks out there are ten more who want to."
Panelist Rafael Rodriguez Cruz, who was arrested for acting as a human shield to stop military testing in Vieques, Puerto Rico, in 2000, urged antiwar activists to make broader connections. Stan Heller from Connecticut United for Peace emphasized the need for the antiwar movement to oppose the occupation of Palestine.
Perhaps the largest disagreement among those in attendance was on the question of the upcoming election. Many panelists argued that it was imperative for activists to support any Democrat against Bush. Heller, on the other hand, argued, "If you think anybody but Bush is the answer then you've forgotten about Clinton's Iraq, Carter's Afghanistan and LBJ's Vietnam."
The most inspiring part of the event was the presentation by David Bacon and Clarence Thomas from U.S. Labor Against War on the recent trade union delegation that traveled to Iraq. Bacon outlined the attack on workers rights under the occupation--including the fact that unions remain illegal.
The largest applause of the evening was in response to the video of U.S. workers talking to Iraqi workers, when one of the Iraqis was translated as saying, "workers of the world unite!"
OAKLAND, Calif.--About 150 protesters rallied at the courthouse here February 6 to protest the prosecution of the Oakland 25, the protesters who were arrested during a peaceful anti-war picket in April of 2003 at the Oakland docks. The picket made international news as one of the most violent reactions by the police against peaceful anti-war protesters.
Oakland police indiscriminately fired rubber and wooden bullets and concussion grenades, injuring several protesters and several dockworkers who were trying to go to work. Those 25 protesters now face criminal charges for their activities.
Protesters gathered not only to demand the right to free speech, but also to demand an end to police brutality against protesters and for the right of unions to organize pickets without police intimidation. Jack Heyman, business agent for International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10, faces trumped-up charges for resisting arrest.
Heyman had been on the scene trying to make sure that his co-workers were safe. Speaking at the rally, Heyman said, "The reason that they are going after protesters is to protect their interests. The companies that we protest here [like the Stevedoring Services of America] are the same ones that are oppressing people in Iraq."
Leonard Riley, from the International Longshoremen's Association in Charleston, S.C., also spoke. "This system of oppression and repression that prevents people from saying what they believe has to stop right here," he said. "This is exactly like what happened to the Charleston Five," the dockworkers put under house arrest after a police attack on their picket line. We had solidarity then and those guys were exonerated. We will come to Oakland every time we have to make sure that the protesters are exonerated."
NEW YORK--On February 7, 25 student activists from six campuses met at the National Organization for Women office to discuss mobilizing for the April 25 "March for Women's Lives" pro-choice demonstration in Washington, D.C. Students traded strategies for organizing and stressed how to build ties with other campus organizations, such as gay rights groups and Black student organizations.
Out of this meeting, a citywide abortion rights coalition was formed to continue the discussion and build for a citywide event later this semester. This is the first time in years that students have organized citywide to fight for abortion rights.
At New York University, student activists from different organizations formed a coalition to build for the April demonstration. At Columbia University, more than 50 students have turned out for Students for Choice meetings called to discuss organizing for the demonstration.
Columbia students decided to expand their clinic escorting program to two days a week and are hoping to take on a second clinic. In anticipation of the April 25 march, activists citywide have become more focused than ever on building a movement that can challenge the Bush administration's right-wing attacks on women's right to abortion.
GREENSBORO, N.C.--While CEOs celebrated the booming economy with $3,000 bottles of champagne, 100 to 150 activists and community members gathered here January 10 to protest the 10-year anniversary of the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The event was organized by the January 10th Coalition, a loose coalition of immigrants' rights activists, union members, students and other activists.
Participants included North Carolina Labor Against the War (NCLAW), Communication Workers of America Local 3607; United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America Local 150; the North Carolina Greens; the Farm Labor Organizing Committee; various Democratic campaigners; Greensboro Food Not Bombs and the International Socialist Organization.
Speakers included Richard Koritz, of the Greensboro Coalition Against U.S. War and Aggression, and Alejandro Galvez, an immigrant worker and activist who works with the Southeast Regional Economic Justice Network. This event, along with the formation of the January 10th Coalition, marks an important step for labor and the global justice movement working with the antiwar movement.
As one NCLAW coordinator said, "NAFTA and the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) are in the interests of big corporations and are the economic wing of the war against the workers of the world. At the same time, the military is trying to enforce these economic interests abroad." The January 10th Coalition serves as an excellent model of how activists can bring together the struggles of the global justice movement and the antiwar movement.