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News and reports

March 19, 2004 | Pages 10 and 11

Stop the war
Defend abortion rights
Immigrant rights
Free Ansar Mahmood

Fight racism at Columbia University
By Jonah Birch

NEW YORK--More than 150 people attended a rally at St. Mary's Church in West Harlem March 5 in solidarity with students protesting racism at Columbia University. The event, which was sponsored by the Harlem Tenants Council, addressed Columbia's pending 17-acre expansion into West Harlem as well as recent campus events such as an "anti-affirmative action bake sale" held by the Columbia College Conservative Club.

For the past three weeks, an ad-hoc coalition called Columbia University Concerned Students of Color has led protests and speak-outs demanding that Columbia's administration effectively deal with the racist climate on campus. Columbia's president, Lee Bollinger, has ignored the coalition's actions.

Many speakers at the Harlem rally connected Bollinger's silence about the issue of racism on campus to the university's racist history in Harlem. "The treatment of students of color at Columbia University parallels [Columbia's treatment of people] in Harlem," said Nellie Bailey, director of the Harlem Tenants Council.

Bill Sales, an African American professor at Seton Hall who was a student at Columbia during the struggles of 1968, noted that the current climate of racism at Columbia is similar to what Black and Latino students faced then. And Brenda Stokely, co-chair of New York City Labor Against War, discussed the need for students to search for community allies in their fight against racism on campus.

Students from Vassar College and Sarah Lawrence College came to the rally to offer their support to the Columbia students and discuss struggles against racism on their campuses. As many speakers pointed out, Columbia isn't isolated, and we have a large pool of potential allies across New York City.

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Stop the war
By Ragina Johnson

SAN FRANCISCO--About 50 people attended a March 11 antiwar panel sponsored by Mission for Peace, a grassroots, neighborhood antiwar group in the Mission district. Titled "From Iraq to Palestine: Making the Connections," the event brought people from about a dozen organizations to discuss and debate questions facing the antiwar movement.

Jess Ghannam, a Palestinian solidarity activist, spoke of the horrors of the current conditions in Gaza, and Toufic Haddad, from the English-language magazine Between the Lines and a member of the International Socialist Organization, spoke about the goals of U.S imperialism in Palestine and Iraq.

The main point of debate centered on the question of self-determination and resistance. One speaker compared the Palestinian resistance to Native Americans resisting U.S. colonialism. "When the Native Americans were resisting their colonial occupiers, it did not look pretty, but we do not criticize their resistance!" she said to a round of applause.

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Defend abortion rights
By Nick Burt and Nicole Colson

DOZENS OF students and activists from around Chicago and Evanston, Ill., mounted two successful demonstrations in support of abortion rights March 10. They confronted Joe Scheidler's Pro-Life Action League (PLAL) as it invaded Northwestern and Loyola Universities as part of a campus "Face the Truth" tour.

The PLAL, a fanatical right-wing Christian group renowned for its practices of abortion clinic intimidation and stalking, uses enormous placards graphically depicting what are supposedly abortion "victims." Approximately 75 pro-choice demonstrators turned out at Northwestern University in Evanston to greet PLAL with vociferous chants of "Racist, sexist, antigay--born-again bigots, go away," firmly asserting that they were not welcome.

Later in the day at Loyola, a Catholic university, approximately 15 pro-choice protesters turned out--roughly equaling the size of Scheidler's group. "Get off my campus--get out of my uterus" and "Oppose women's oppression--abortions safe, legal, free" were two of the dozens of colorful handmade posters and banners that lined both sides of the street.

Evanston police arrested Jack, a student from Northeastern Illinois University--after he confronted an anti-choice demonstrator who purposely ran into a banner that friends were holding. "This is basically an attack, not only on women's rights, but on the right to stand up to this kind of garbage," Jack told Socialist Worker after being released.

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Immigrant rights
By Matias Marin

RIVERSIDE, Calif.--About 300 people came together to discuss the fight for immigrant rights February 28. The event combined food, raffles, music from politically active bands and information and discussion about current immigrant issues.

A panel of immigrant workers addressed drivers' licenses, the effects of "terrorism" on immigration and unconditional amnesty for all immigrant workers. "Bush's proposal is no different than the bracero program," said José Calderón, an organizer of day labor centers for immigrant workers, of Bush's proposal for new immigration guidelines.

Calderón made it clear that the only acceptable solution for immigrant workers is unconditional amnesty. Javier Valladares also had a message for Bush. "Stop using us! Bush and the politicians in Washington and Sacramento use us for votes then discard us when we are not needed."

Valladares also expressed his concerns over Bush's proposal as a vehicle to provide American employers with cheap labor. If immigrants sign up with this program, it is easier for big brother to keep tabs on them, Valladares said. The event was a big success and drove home the message that the only solution is to help stop the criminalization of human beings and to fight for immigrants' right to unconditional amnesty.

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Free Ansar Mahmood
By Josh Karpoff

BATAVIA, N.Y.--More than 50 people gathered outside an immigration detention center March 13 to demand the release of Ansar Mahmood, a Pakistani immigrant detained since shortly after September 11. Ansar was arrested after asking a park employee to take his picture in front of a scenic hill in his town of Hudson, N.Y. Only it turned out that the hill had a reservoir on it.

He was arrested, but no charges were filed when it became clear that he had no links to terrorism. Instead the INS detained him, even though he had his green card. He faces deportation because he violated a little-known statute by helping friends pay their first month's rent, even though they were not here legally. By aiding this couple, Ansar has now spent over two years in captivity.

The protest included chants of "No justice, no peace, till Ansar's released," and "Don't give in to racist fear, immigrants are welcome here." Ansar conveyed a message to the rally via some who had met with him earlier, expressing his gratitude and the message that this is a bigger issue than his case alone because many others are being unjustly detained as well.

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