News and reports
April 16, 2004 | Pages 10 and 11
The right to resist
THREE ACTIVISTS who faced years in jail over trumped-up charges stemming from the 2000 Republican convention in Philadelphia were exonerated last week. Judge William Mazzola threw out charges of property damage and assaulting police brought against Camilo Viveiros, Eric Steinberg and Darby Landy.
Former Police Commissioner John Timoney personally led this witch-hunt against the three and their right to protest. Timoney has since used his record of cracking down on the Republican convention demonstrations to grab to the top police job in Miami--where he supervised the police-state tactics used against peaceful protesters during last year's free trade summit.
Viveiros and the others were accused of assaulting Timoney and another officer with a bicycle. But lawyers for the three presented a videotape corroborating Viveiros' testimony that Officer Clyde Frasier punched him while he wasn't resisting arrest.
Testimony of all the cops involved was inconsistent and contradictory. With their trial date dragged out as long as possible, the Philadelphia Three were the last to come to court among the more than 400 protesters arrested during the convention.
None of those arrested is serving jail time, a further vindication of protesters' actions as peaceful. Supporters of Viveiros held fundraisers and support meetings for him in the months before the trial--including puppet shows depicting the "Terrible Tales of Timoney," which exposed Timoney's quest to make protesting all but illegal.
The judge's action is a big blow to police forces that want to keep protesters intimidated as the Republican convention approaches this year in New York City.
CHICAGO--Evidence that could blow the lid off of a 25-year-old police torture conspiracy is being kept tight under the rug by Chicago's "top dog" officials--Mayor Richard Daley and Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine.
"What have they got to hide?" was the question that exploded from an angry crowd on April 14 as the Enough Is Enough campaign against police torture and the Campaign to End the Death Penalty kicked off a campaign to demand that a special prosecutor, former Judge Edward Egan, release the results of an investigation into the police torture ring run by former Chicago police commander John Burge.
The Enough Is Enough campaign was formed because Burge and his detectives railroaded over 100 of their loved ones to prison--13 to death row--on the basis of confessions extracted under torture. "How dare they not release information that could help my son. He's innocent. He needs a new trial.
"With all this crap going on, where's my justice? Where is the justice for my son," Mary Ornelas, a member of Enough Is Enough and mother of Robert Ornelas, told reporters. "The cops that beat him and made him sign a confession were under Burge. Where's our justice?"
Mildred Henry, another member of Enough Is Enough gave an emotional account about her son Kilroy Watkins, and ended with a powerful message directed at the mayor and his henchmen: "You can run you can hide but we got justice on our side! We the taxpayers need to hold these officials accountable. Don't worry, Daley, we're coming after you next!"
CHICAGO--The Reproductive Rights Collective at the University of Illinois-Chicago hosted a conference April 10 with the theme, "Uprising Voices: Reproductive and Sexual Rights in the U.S. & Abroad." The conference, designed to create awareness around diverse, but interconnected women's rights issues, drew 115 participants and organized support for the April 25 "March for Women's Lives" in Washington, D.C.
The conference connected the dots between homelessness, poverty, sexual assault, abortion, health care accessibility, family planning and global justice issues. Workshops covered everything from the influence of foreign policy on HIV/ AIDS prevention to the effects of legally defining "family" on GLBT rights.
Natalie Smith, a social worker and rape victims advocate, attended session called, "Anti-Violence, Pro-Choice: Survivors' Rights." "I've been active in these issues for a few years," she said. "I always saw parallels between them, but wasn't clear on how connected they were."
One session focused on the unsolved murders of an estimated 500 women in Juárez, Mexico, and the subsequent political cover-up of the investigation. The issues taken up the conference can help form a new women's movement--one that represents concerns across racial and class barriers throughout the globe; one that demands not only accessible abortions, but broader access to health care; one that will march on Washington April 25 calling for action.
NEW YORK--A hundred activists turned out last week to a forum titled, "New York's Battle Over Same-Sex Marriage." The meeting, sponsored by Marriage Equality and the LGBT Center, centered around the issuance of marriage licenses in New Paltz, N.Y., 70 miles north of New York City. Green Party Mayor Jason West has been indicted on 19 accounts of solemnizing marriages without a license.
Two Unitarian ministers, Kay Greenleaf and Dawn Sangrey, spoke on the panel. The demand for gay marriage has been largely attacked as "not the right time," as Democratic constituents fear the issue will hurt their chance at winning the White House this November.
Greenleaf responded to this argument, referring to the Stonewall Rebellion that launched the Gay Liberation Front, "In 1969, we didn't ask if it was the right time. We knew it was the right time to take back the streets, whether it was the streets of New York or my farm in Indiana. "Gay marriage is happening, and we have to be a part of it."
Other panel members included Nyack, N.Y., Mayor John Shields, who is part of a lawsuit on behalf of 10 couples demanding the state to allow them to marry, and Billiam van Roestenberg, who was married in New Paltz. The fight for gay marriage will continue in New York. A march is being organized by Marriage Equality on May 23.
We demand gay marriage now!