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News and reports

April 23, 2004 | Pages 10 and 11

Campaign to End the Death Penalty
Gay marriage is a civil right
No to war and occupation
Justice for Palestine

U.S. out of Haiti
By Sofia Alvarez

NEW YORK--Close to 2,500 people, mostly Haitians, gathered in Brooklyn April 7, for an event called "The Truth Behind the Haiti Coup" organized by the International Action Center and the Haiti Support Network. The crowd was electrified and often on its feet as the 20-plus speakers spoke about the two-century heritage of the Haitian Revolution, the plight of the Haitian people in the recent past and the U.S.-backed coup that ousted elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on February 29.

Rev. Luis Barrios of the Haiti Commission of Inquiry exposed the role that the Dominican Republic played in sheltering the forces that overthrew Aristide and providing them with American-made M16s. Human rights lawyer Brian Concannon talked about how individuals convicted for the massacre of hundreds of ordinary Haitians during the 1991-1994 military rule are now free to roam the streets.

Rep. Maxine Waters described how Aristide was forced by the U.S. military to leave the presidential palace and flown to the Central Republic in Africa, and radio journalist Amy Goodman spoke about Aristide's recent return to the Caribbean despite U.S. warnings to stay away.

Many speakers made connections with the role of the U.S. around the world, from Iraq to Latin America. For instance, Ben Dupuy, editor of Haiti Progrès, made important connections with the failed U.S.-backed coup against Venezuela president Hugo Chavez.

The event rightly lashed out at the Bush administration, but it was silent on Bill Clinton's refusal to admit Haitian refugees fleeing the 1991 coup that first ousted Aristide from power. The key challenge now is to link the struggle against the U.S. coup and occupation of Haiti to the struggle against the U.S. occupation of Iraq. This would give the Haitian struggle a bigger platform and unite it with other forces fighting against U.S. imperialism.

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Campaign to End the Death Penalty
By Jake Kornegay

NEW YORK --About 90 people attended an April 14 meeting in Harlem titled "Victims of Criminal Injustice Speak Out! From Police Brutality to Death Row" sponsored by the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. The meeting kicked off with a phone call from Monique Matthews, the sister of Ryan Matthews, an innocent man who just won a new trial after languishing for years on Louisiana's death row.

"There is a crisis in America," she said. "This is legalized murder. We need a revolution that can free our brothers...Thank you, Campaign to End the Death Penalty, for being the vehicle which brings Ryan's case to light." Other speakers included Ossie Davis, a longtime civil rights activist, actor and director. "We gotta work hard to change this country from what it is to what it should be!" said Davis.

"The racist death penalty is a horror, but it is only one branch of the struggle. We cannot change the whole system overnight, but the constant pounding of citizens with determination cannot be resisted...One day we'll proclaim, Hallelujah! We got it done!"

Other speakers included Shujaa Graham, a former death row prisoner and Black Panther; Bill Perkins, a New York City council member who sponsored a resolution calling for a moratorium in New York; Yusef Salaam, one of the five youths who was wrongfully convicted in the Central Park jogger case; and Raymond Ragues, a lawyer for the Central Park Five. "Victory comes to those who fight and organize for all of humanity," said Sharonne Salaam, Yusef's mother.

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Gay marriage is a civil right
By Lisa Barnes and Ann Coleman

MADISON, Wis.--On April 17, more than 200 people here turned out to demand "Civil Marriage Equality Now!" Protesters marched to the Capitol, holding signs that proclaimed "Marriage is a civil right" or simply asked, "What is the legal definition of love?" Speakers included representatives of the Civil Marriage Equality Coalition, the ISO, the Green Party, Action Wisconsin and several same-sex couples.

On April 15--Tax Day--supporters of same-sex marriage protested in several cities across the country:

--In Seattle, 40 activists demonstrated at the main post office under the banner, "No Taxation with Discrimination." The event was hosted by Demonstrators chanted, "Gay, straight, Black, white--Marriage is a civil right!"

--In Seattle, more than 500 community members attended a town hall meeting on the struggle for gay marriage hosted by state representative Ed Murray and 15 lesbian, gay and bisexual and trangender (LGBT) organizations on April 13. Speakers from the ACLU, Lambda Legal and the Northwest Women's Law Center focused on the six recent law suits filed in support of marriage for same-sex couples in King and Thurston Counties. The discussion focused on a number of debates, including whether focusing on moderate politicians works, the need for community mobilizations and whether we should fight for civil unions or marriage equality instead of full marriage.

-- On April 17, representatives from 12 organizations met to debate strategic issues for the recently formed LGBT coalition, Discrimination Free Washington (DFW). DFW was formed to support House Bill 1809 known as the "Civil Rights Bill," which expand the anti-discrimination jurisdiction to include sexual orientation.

So far this year, the coalition's strategy has been to focus on five moderate Republicans to win the two votes needed to pass the bill and to keep the marriage demand separate from civil rights bill fight. The legislative session closed March 11 without passing the bill. Now, DFW is debating the best way forward.

Everyone in the coalition agrees that the struggle for gay marriage and the struggle for the civil rights bill should be combined, but many are unwilling to support mass protests. Only a broad, vocal, gay, straight community based movement can win the civil rights we all deserve.

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No to war and occupation
By Tiffany Paul, Hadas Thier, Conor Morey-Barrett and John Green

NEW YORK--On April 14, Democratic candidate John Kerry made a campaign stop at City College of New York. The City College Campus Antiwar Network along with activists from the International Socialist Organization came out to expose him as the pro-war candidate he is.

Before the event, activists leafleted outside with a list of questions for Kerry, such as, "Why does Kerry want to send 25,000 more troops to Iraq?" During the question-and-answer period, an antiwar activist and City College professor asked Kerry why he wanted to "stay the course" in Iraq--the same position as George W. Bush.

Activists used this opportunity to unfurl a banner that read, "Kerry, take a stand: Troops out now!" A few people helped hold up the banner, and others cheered. Kerry's security team eventually made us sit down, but the message had already come across loud and clear.

--In Boston, 250 activists turned out on April 16 for an emergency rally to call for an end to the occupation of Iraq and to bring the troops home now. Speakers included Howard Zinn and representatives from Military Families Speak Out, UFPJ and the American Friends Service Committee.

Bill Cunningham, a protester who has a son-in-law in Iraq, held a sign that read, "Victory to the Iraqi Resistance." "It's beneficial to both sides [soldiers and Iraqis] to support the Iraqi resistance who are doing the most to free themselves from their occupiers," he said.

--In Davis, Calif., dozens of students gathered to shout down a racist pro-Bush rally sponsored by the College Republicans on April 9. Counterprotesters were so loud that the Republicans asked us to quiet down because their amplified sound system couldn't be heard over our voices. We chanted even louder. "Today went great," said antiwar activist Katie McCort. "I feel energized."

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Justice for Palestine
By Monique Dols

NEW YORK--The Al-Awda Palestine Right to Return Coalition held its second annual convention here April 16-18 with more than 150 activists in attendance. The international convention came just days after George W. Bush announced his full support for Ariel Sharon's rejection of all United Nations resolutions mandating the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

The convention took up the issue of the right of return for Palestinians who had been exiled from their homes in Palestine in both 1948 and 1967. Delegates discussed how the right of return had been taken out of the mainstream negotiations by the Oslo process and strategized about how to reintegrate this demand into the Palestinian struggle as well as the wider peace and justice movement.

The convention also condemned Israel's apartheid wall and the U.S.-sponsored road map--and affirmed the right of Palestinians and Iraqis to resist their occupiers. As the convention concluded, participants marched to the Israeli consulate in protest of the recent assassination of Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi and the escalating war on the Palestinians.

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