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News and reports

February 18, 2005 | Pages 10 and 11

OTHER STORIES BELOW:
End the occupation
Stop police violence

Stop California's death penalty
By Kim Rabuck

BERKELEY, Calif.--Seventy people came to hear Kevin Cooper, an innocent African American man, speak live from San Quentin's death row on the one-year anniversary of the date he was scheduled to be executed. California came within three hours of killing Cooper on February 10, 2004.

Speaking via speakerphone, Cooper thanked everyone who had participated in the movement to stop his execution, and especially the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, without which, he said, he would not be alive today.

Stopping Cooper's execution involved multiple press conferences, a signature ad in the Sacramento Bee; public meetings with Jesse Jackson, Cooper's attorneys and witnesses who offered new evidence of Cooper's innocence at Oakland's largest Black church; and a march of hundreds of angry protesters to San Quentin on the evening of the scheduled execution.

Exonerated death row inmate Shujaa Graham flew out from Baltimore, Md., to commemorate the victory with Cooper. Graham has recently been fighting to keep New York from reestablishing the death penalty in that state.

Barbara Becnel, editor and publisher of Stan "Tookie" Williams' recent memoir, Blue Rage, Black Redemption, and co-producer of the award-winning FX cable channel movie, Redemption (starring Jamie Foxx as Williams), also spoke at the event. She addressed the racism of the recent Ninth Circuit Court ruling, which failed to grant Williams a new trial despite clear evidence that prosecutors had struck all African Americans from the jury in his trial, which is a clear violation of his constitutional right to a trial by his peers.

Former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and current Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have spent $990 million in the last 10 years to maintain California's death penalty. Today, as Schwarzenegger closes schools and denies health care to California's sick, he is spending $220 million more to add 400 more beds to San Quentin's death row.

The audience--made up of students, former Black Panthers, members of Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation and others--left the meeting with a renewed commitment to the struggle to stop California's racist death penalty.

For more information about how to join the fight to stop California's state-sponsored murder, go to www.nodeathpenalty.org.

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End the occupation
By Karl Swinehart

LOS ANGELES--Students at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) held a "An Hour of Resistance" on February 8 to protest the occupation of Iraq. Photos of Iraqi checkpoints, victims of war and destroyed homes were displayed in the campus' main plaza.

Some 150 students listened to speakers, including an Iraqi-American student, a speaker from ANSWER, Iraq Veterans Against the War cofounder Tim Goodrich and a speaker from the International Socialist Organization (ISO). They spoke out about the case of Pablo Paredes and encouraged students to sign and circulate his petition for conscientious objector status. The rally was followed by a march through the campus.

At Fremont High School in South Central Los Angeles, nine students were suspended for refusing to participate in a military recruiting activity.

Students were called in to take what was explained as an aptitude test, it was in fact the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, a military recruiting tool. When students saw the name of the test and the military personal proctoring the three-hour test, many began to protest. Students requested to leave, and the principal threatened anyone who left with suspension. Nine students left anyway.

Commenting on the fact that most of the nine were Latina, the principal said that they should feel lucky, given that "there aren't many options in our community...Most Latinas end up working as housekeepers or at McDonalds."

Students, parents and teachers are meeting and organizing to strategize how to confront this racist military recruitment.

On February 17 at East Los Angeles College, Navy war resister Pablo Paredes will speak at a counter-recruitment forum sponsored by the ISO. Other speakers include mothers of soldiers in Iraq, members of Esperanza para Familias Militares and ELAC students working to get military recruiters off their campus. For more information, call 213-309-2713.

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Stop police violence
By Nathan Hensley

AUSTIN, Texas--About 60 people met in front of the Austin Police Department (APD) headquarters on February 11 to protest the indiscriminate use of a Taser stun gun on activist Rene Perez during the January 20 counter-inaugural demonstrations. Perez was arrested after the attack, along with several other march participants.

Concerned Citizens of Austin, the Austin People's Legal Collective and the Austin Spokescouncil called for the demonstration at the APD headquarters to show support for Perez, and to call attention to the darker side of the "non-lethal" Taser. Since 2001, at least 80 people have been killed by Tasers in North America alone. It's not hard to imagine; the Taser delivers a 50,000-volt shock to its unlucky victims.

Who are those victims? In Austin, anyone guilty of verbal non-compliance with the police is eligible for a potentially deadly shock. This is hardly an alternative to the deadly force of firearms. Activists everywhere must be prepared to take on the police and their brutality, no matter how "non-lethal" it may seem.

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