News and reports
April 2, 2004 | Pages 10 and 11
Confront the antigay bigots
NEW PALTZ, N.Y.--Antigay fanatic Fred Phelps is bringing his hateful message here April 4. He and his followers will travel to New Paltz to picket "fags and fag-enablers" of this small village where "homo-fascist" Mayor Jason West has been issuing licenses and performing marriages for gay and lesbian couples. The infamous Phelps, who celebrated the gruesome murder of Matthew Shepard, is known for such nauseating notions as the claim that the September 11 attacks were an act of "divine retribution" for America's "tolerance" towards homosexuality.
In response to Phelps' protest, New Paltz activists are planning a festival on the other side of town, arguing that a counterprotest would only give Phelps the attention and publicity he's looking for. But we need to confront this bigot head on.
Staging a counterprotest to Phelps' antigay gang is more than simply opposing an isolated case of religious fanaticism. Phelps' rally can give confidence to gay bashers and bigots who attend the rally, inciting them to dole out violence even after Phelps leaves.
By confronting Phelps, we can keep him from reaching his potential audience. We have to stand up to Phelps--and demand equal rights now!
GREENSBORO, N.C.--An anti-affirmative action bake sale held by the College Republicans was a flop, thanks to activists who confronted them and shut them down. The bake sale was part of "Morals Week," organized by the bigots in opposition to the pro-gay Pride Week.
A multiracial crowd of 60 students, including Unitarian Universalists and members of the International Socialist Organization, came out to challenge the reactionaries in the College Republicans. The heated debates ended with one Republican admitting, "We realize this is coming off as us being racist...!"
A flier distributed by the ISO outlined the reasons why affirmative action is necessary to address the imbalances caused by racism. The crowd took up chants of "Unite and fight! Together we can beat the right!"
The Republicans ended up shutting down their event early and left the cafeteria demoralized. They seem to have got the message--bigotry is not welcome on our campus. But if they didn't, we'll confront them again.
SEATTLE--Three members of a local Syrian family had a March 29 hearing at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals March 29 to determine whether they'll be deported. The Hamouis--Safouh, Hanan Ismail and their 20-year-old daughter Nadin--were arrested under Attorney General John Ashcroft's "Absconder Apprehension Initiative" in February 2002.
More than 300,000 immigrants--mostly Arab--have been targeted by this measure. Hanan and Nadin were detained for nine months, Safouh for 10 months. A campaign of weekly pickets for months outside the INS jail led by the Arab American Community Coalition were key to helping to win their release.
A decision could be handed down from within 24 hours to months from now. If the decision goes against the Hamouis, the deportation process could begin immediately. The struggle to keep the Hamouis from being deported needs to be supported by everyone.
Send donations to the Hamoui Legal Defense Fund, c/o AACC, PO Box 31642, Seattle, WA 98103. Call 206-601-1141 if you want to help with the campaign.
NEW HAVEN, Conn.--Around 50 people demonstrated against police brutality here March 27. Organized by People Against Injustice, the small but spirited group marched from the police station to the courthouse to the jail, chanting "What do we do when communities fail? Build schools not jails!" and "Same thing every time, being Black is not a crime!"
At each stop the group gathered to hear speakers, who talked about their experiences with police brutality, the prison system and the war on drugs. "This is not a war on drugs," said one speaker. "This is a war on poor people, a war on minorities."
Speakers pointed out that the prison system was a business in itself, profiting from a large supply of cheap labor as well as overcharging prisoners for basic necessities. Demonstrators also objected to the state's practice of sending prisoners out of state, where family members would not be able to visit them.
Following the march, protesters gathered to hold a public forum and strategy session for upcoming actions. The forum ended with plans to bring activists from around Connecticut to Hartford on April 14 to rally in support of prison and sentencing reform legislation.
ARLINGTON, Wash.--About 500 residents here marched and rallied against racism after a huge cross was burned on the lawn of one of the few Black families in this rural town. Two 16-year-olds who previously attended Arlington High staged the cross burning last week on the lawn of Pastor Jason Martin.
Racist harassment has been a problem at the high school, but after the cross burning, the town came together with one voice to say "Not in Our Town!" Many of the marchers were middle- and high-school students, who are classmates of Pastor Martin's children.
People of all ages participated. Marian Harrison, who was one of the first Black residents of Arlington and worked for Arlington Public Schools for 22 years, said, "We're not going to let fear come into our community."
The unity of the town was on display. Middle-school students made dozens of signs. A flower shop donated orange balloons. A hardware store donated orange tape for ribbons. Though the perpetrators of the racist act have turned themselves in, residents of the town expressed determination to prevent future hate crimes.
NEW YORK--About 150 people packed into a small room at the Queens College Extension Center to hear Peter Camejo and Howie Hawkins of the Green Party speak on "Anybody but Bush? What Should Progressives do in 2004?" The event was part of a national speaking tour by Camejo, who ran for governor of California in 2003.
Both speakers argued for the need to build an independent electoral alternative to the left of the Democratic Party. Howie Hawkins, who is the chair of the Onondaga County Green Party in New York, argued that "Kerry might be able to beat Bush, but he won't beat Bushism."
Camejo spoke about the Green Party's growth in California, including the party's impressive showing in the gubernatorial recall race and the San Francisco mayoral elections. Both speakers favored endorsing Ralph Nader's campaign for president.
When asked about the prospects for working inside the Democratic Party as a progressive, Camejo responded that "the AFL-CIO went into the Democratic Party with a small organization of 15 to 20 million people. They went from 37 percent of the U.S. [working population] to 13 percent." The event was co-sponsored by a number of left groups, including the ISO, Solidarity, Socialist Alternative and half a dozen local Green Party chapters.