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News and reports

September 24, 2004 | Pages 14 and 15

Fight for immigrant rights
By Freddy Garcia and Karl Swinehart

THE CALIFORNIA coalition for Immigrant Rights and Against the Raids is organizing a demonstration for October 16 to bring attention to the recent racist raids on the immigrant communities of Southern California conducted by federal and local authorities. The October 16 date was chosen to commemorate the 100,000-strong march against anti-immigrant Proposition 187 that happened on that day a decade ago.

On September 12, immigrants rights activists took their message to the annual Mexican Independence Day parade in East LA. The Latino caucus of Service Employees International Union Local 660, representing county workers, secured the coalition a space in the parade.

The contingent included bilingual signs with messages such as "Stop the racist raids" and "One world without Borders." At one point, police in riot gear tried to force coalition members to put down their signs, claiming that "political messages" weren't permitted in the parade. This in a parade in which no fewer than 37 politicians participated!

The confrontation enraged bystanders, who shouted at the police. Ultimately, the contingent was allowed to continue, without signs.

Unfortunately, divisions within the movement are creating difficulties and confusion organizing for the October 16 event. The Coalition emerged out of a grassroots response to the raids, which includes a 10,000-strong march from Ontario to Pomona and a statewide conference in East LA.

The organization ANSWER, together with the former head of the group One Stop Immigration, Juan José Gutierrez, is calling for a competing demonstration on the same day. Some activists refuse to work with Gutierrez because they say he was involved in a union-busting effort at the now-defunct One Stop.

Those interested in unity in both initiatives would like to see the two marches be feeder marches to one unified event. Disunity sends the wrong message to the anti-immigrant bigots, who are all-too-unified in their attacks.

Fernando Ramírez contributed to this report.

News from the Nader Campaign

MORE THAN 700 people turned out September 14 at Chicago's Loyola University on three days' notice to hear independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader speak. The speech by the country's only significant antiwar candidate delivered more substance in two hours than all the speakers at the Republican and Democratic National Convention combined.

Nader called for organizing a movement, developing civic responsibility and fighting injustice instead of speechifying vague notions of hope, freedom and democracy. Nader also spoke about the horrendous conditions faced by coal miners trying to unionize in an era where there was no social safety net, no unemployment insurance and virtually non-existent labor laws-- stating that if such a victory can be won under those conditions, then it's possible to find the courage to vote your conscience in 2004.

Pittsburgh--Also on three days' notice, more than 300 gathered to hear Nader speak at the First Unitarian Church on September 11. Rather than spending the day whipping up fear and blind patriotism like Kerry and Bush, he raised all the real issues that affect most people in America and the world.

Nader called for bringing the troops home from Iraq, saying that the grossly swollen military budget could provide education and health care for all. He talked about how layoffs and unemployment are hurting people in places like Pennsylvania, where industries have left to seek low-wage workers elsewhere. He accused both Kerry and Bush of catering to corporate interests, and he demanded a living wage for all.

Nader was asked during the question-and-answer period about voting Kerry to oust Bush. "The Democrats are trying to out-compete the Republicans on the same agenda," he replied. "Kucinich and Dean were the litmus test of how bad the Democrats are doing...Kucinich questioned the war, and they handed him his head."

Nader explained how it was actually Nixon who signed into law compensation for coalminers suffering from black lung disease--not because Nixon cared for coalminers but because he heard the "rumbling of the people" and had no choice but to appease them.

After the rally, Nader cancelled a fundraiser in order to join a picket line of striking nurses at Western Psychiatric Hospital and Clinic, who face low wages and forced overtime. Afterward, a number of nurses commented on how much more relevant Nader's comments were than anything they'd heard from Kerry or Bush.

Iowa City--At the University of Iowa (UI), Nader drew a crowd of about 400, and at the University of Northern Iowa, another audience of 150. At UI, a Students for Nader group grew out of organizing for Nader's appearance, with 30 to 40 more students signing up to join the Nader campaign in Iowa City.

In particular, the crowd was enthusiastic about Nader's criticism of corporate control of Washington, Kerry's "Bush Lite" agenda and Bush's squandering of $200 billion on an illegal war at the expense of domestic services and higher education.

Leighton Christiansen, Josh Gryniewicz, Michal Myers and Courtney Smith contributed to this report.

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