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News and reports

January 28, 2005 | Page 11

Bring the troops home now
Abolish the death penalty
Bay Area Campus Antiwar Network

Fight for abortion rights
By Rebecca Drieling

SAN FRANCISCO--Thousands of pro-choice activists turned out January 22 to rally against anti-choice extremists.

Anti-choice forces tried to show their strength by holding the first annual "Right to Life March" in progressive San Francisco--on the 32nd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which legalized the right to abortion.

Despite the conservative climate set by the Bush administration, pro-choice activists would not let the right-wing bigots march freely against women's right to choose. With just two weeks notice, the San Francisco Area Pro-Choice Coalition organized a counterprotest that drew 3,000 to a rally featuring San Francisco city board supervisor Tom Ammiano, Luz Alvarez Martinez of the National Latina Health Organization, Linda Burnham of the Women of Color Resource Center, Linci Comy of the Women's Choice Clinic and more.

Protesters then marched down Market Street to confront the anti-choice bigots. Abortion rights activists held signs and hangers--a symbol of the days of back-alley abortions--and chanted "Not the church, not the state, women must decide their fate" as the anti-choice extremists began their march. The anti-choice protesters were allowed to march unhindered through the streets of San Francisco, until a group of activists blocked them at Fisherman's Wharf.

"We really wanted to send a clear message that they cannot roll through San Francisco, through the country, with their right-wing agenda without any resistance," commented Rahula Janowski, one of the activists who sat down to block the street, causing the anti-choice march to detour to an alternative route.

Despite the fact that the anti-choice extremists were allowed to finish their march to Aquatic Park, the fact that thousands of abortion rights activists showed up for a counterdemonstration on just two weeks' notice shows the willingness of people to stand up and fight for abortion rights.

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Bring the troops home now
By Tristan Brosnan

BURLINGTON, Vt.--The Burlington City Council recently voted 12 to 1 to put an advisory referendum on March's Town Meeting ballot that reads, "Burlington and its citizens strongly support the men and women serving in the United States Armed Forces in Iraq and believe that the best way to support them is to bring them home now." The vote will be held March 1, and a win would make Burlington the first city in the country to call for an end to the occupation.

The Burlington Anti-War Coalition (BAWC) launched the resolution campaign in early January. The group signed up dozens of activists to collect signatures to put the question on the ballot if the City Council failed to act on it.

In support of the campaign, an antiwar panel discussion was assembled, drawing a solid activist crowd of 60.

Anthony Arnove, co-editor with Howard Zinn of Voices of a People's History, spoke about giving confidence and hope to the activists working hard to get the resolution on the ballot. "This resolution is not just going to work towards ending the war in Iraq but will help to start building an alternative future where people come before profit," he said.

Colleen McCarthy, of the newly formed Vermont branch of Military Families Speak Out (MFSO), spoke of the urgency to bring the troops home now. "When Congress hands over complete power to a president with an imperialist agenda," she commented, "that's when we start fighting."

Days later, more than 100 unexpected signatures were handed over to the BAWC by new activists and concerned citizens who had heard by word of mouth and took up action. Activists collected two-thirds of the necessary 1,500 signatures in just two weeks. This quick-moving petitioning, along with strong statements at public hearings by many community supporters, helped persuade the city council to support the initiative.

There's lots of work ahead, but if this resolution is passed, it can give experience and courage to activists everywhere--building up the momentum that's needed to demand an end to occupation and to bring our troops home now!

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Abolish the death penalty
By Alice Kim

CHICAGO--To mark the five-year anniversary of the Illinois moratorium on executions, the Campaign to End the Death Penalty (CEDP) is bringing together the voices and talents of exonerated death row prisoners, their family members, activists and artists.

The event, entitled "Voices From Death Row," will take place January 30 at the Spoken Word Cafe. Featured speakers and performers include exonerated Florida death row prisoner and poet Delbert Tibbs, exonerated Illinois death row prisoner and musician Darby Tillis and pardoned Illinois death row prisoner Madison Hobley. Paintings by death row prisoners will be displayed and several prisoners will read essays and poems via telephone hook-up.

Since former Gov. George Ryan declared a moratorium on executions on January 30, 2000, no executions have taken place in Illinois. To date, 18 of Illinois' death row prisoners have been freed on the basis of innocence.

Although Illinois has received widespread national--and even international--attention as a result of this abysmal record and Ryan's actions, what is little known is that, since the commutations, six men have been sentenced to death in Illinois, several of whom are mentally ill.

Earlier in January, on a frigid and snowy night, about 400 people attended a special event at Harold Washington Public Library to listen to Sister Helen Prejean speak about her new book, The Death of Innocents. Prejean spoke about death row prisoners Dobie Gillis Williams and Joseph Roger O'Dell, whom she believes were wrongly convicted and executed. She urged the audience to actively oppose the death penalty by getting involved with abolitionist organizations.

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Bay Area Campus Antiwar Network
By Sarah Levine

SAN FRANCISCO--Approximately 30 students representing seven different campuses from around the Bay Area met January 20 for the first West Coast Campus Antiwar Network (CAN) summit of the new year.

The meeting was held to figure out how to re-launch student antiwar organizing on college campuses, while strengthening our connections with the larger antiwar movement and military families. Speakers at the summit included representatives from both CAN's coordinating committee and Student's Against War at San Francisco State University (SFSU).

The keynote speaker was George Johnson of Veterans for Peace. Johnson spoke of the importance of connecting student activists and Iraqi soldiers. "Be ready to welcome vets and vets families," he said, "and be ready to meet those on the other side of the wall that don't necessarily know about organizing but still want to be involved."

The summit's main objectives came down to three points: First, planning around the upcoming March protests of the two-year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq by making sure CAN is well represented by an organized student contingent. Second, connecting with colleges that don't have CAN chapters to help them get one started. Third, strengthening CAN's relationship with veterans and military families while, at the same time, campaigning to kick military recruiters off college and high school campuses.

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