NOTE:
You've come to an old part of SW Online. We're still moving this and other older stories into our new format. In the meanwhile, click here to go to the current home page.








News and reports

March 18, 2005 | Pages 10 and 11

OTHER STORIES BELOW:
Defending the right to dissent
Free Bernard Baran
Fight for immigrants' rights
California's education crisis
End the occupation of Iraq

Stop the witch-hunt
By Dylan Stillwood

NEW YORK--More than 200 students, professors and community members came to a March 9 debate about the witch-hunt of Middle Eastern studies professors at Columbia University.

Members of the Columbia Antiwar Coalition and Stop McCarthyism at Columbia took on the students behind Columbia Unbecoming, the film that started the witch-hunt.

Displaying their contempt for the truth, the right-wing students said they were only concerned about "intimidation" and "students' rights," not politics. But their film was funded by the David Project, a pro-Israel group with a history of attacking Arab professors. And just three days before the debate, they co-sponsored a racist conference featuring Israeli right-winger Natan Sharansky, torture advocate Alan Dershowitz and Campus Watch founder Martin Kramer.

The antiwar students explained what's really at stake. Already, one Columbia professor has lost a job with the New York City Department of Education, and another is under investigation by a special university committee.

The real people being intimidated are students and professors who criticize Israel and the U.S. government. As debater Monique Dols put it, "It shouldn't be called the David Project, it should be called the Goliath Project!" This debate was a huge success, and it gave confidence to the growing movement against war and McCarthyism at Columbia.

Back to the top

Defending the right to dissent
By Dave Florey

NEW YORK-- Lynne Stewart was the focus of a solidarity press conference March 7 held by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) of New School University.

The diverse list of speakers included Stewart herself--as well as representatives from the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition NYC; New York University Students for Justice in Palestine; the Ossining, N.Y., NAACP; the International Socialist Organization; and the Campus Antiwar Network. The speakers also expressed solidarity with Ward Churchill, the University of Colorado professor under attack for academic freedom, and death row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Stewart was recently convicted of "aiding and abetting terrorism" while carrying out her duties as an attorney--an outrageous development and a major blow to human rights everywhere.

Many speakers made it clear that the three attacks are part of a broad-based campaign against dissent in the U.S. Mainstream analysts have stated that she simply "crossed the line," but in Stewart's words, "the government redrew the line."

Stewart is not allowed to leave New York State at this time, but she continues to speak out. She told the crowd about the tremendous outpouring of support she has received since her conviction--in the form of letters, phone calls, even strangers who see her walking down the street. Stewart remains optimistic and eager to continue to fight for justice in any way she can.

For information on how you can support Lynne Stewart, go to lynnestewart.org.

Back to the top

Free Bernard Baran
By John Osmand

WORCESTER, Mass.--Bernard Baran, a man jailed for being gay, is closer to winning his freedom, thanks to the efforts of supporters who drew national attention to his case. On February 28, around 40 people came here to support Baran in a court hearing for a new trial.

More than 20 years ago, Baran was convicted of five counts of child molestation while working as a teacher's aide. But Baran is no child molester. He is a victim of the antigay hysteria that was rife in the 1980's.

The only evidence against Baran is the questionable testimony of pre-school children who were seemingly coerced and manipulated by their paranoid parents and a bigoted prosecution. The first family to accuse Baran had earlier objected to the decision of the Early Childhood Development Center, where Baran worked, to employ an openly gay man.

Teachers there say Baran never had the opportunity to commit abuse, and his behavior was not suspicious, yet he received three life sentences to be served concurrently.

Prosecutor Dan Ford grilled Baran in court about his sexuality, including his relationship with his partner. In closing arguments, he likened Baran to "a chocoholic in a candy store" and implied that child molestation was natural for gay men, clearly expressing in the courtroom his personal hostility to gays. Baran was offered a plea bargain in exchange for a seven-year sentence before the trial started.

Even though Baran has been beaten and raped in prison and tried to kill himself out of despair, he does not regret pleading not guilty. He knew his only crime was his sexual orientation, and he refuses to compromise his integrity or to be silenced.

The struggle to free Bernard Baran continues, with the next court date in mid-March or April.

Joe Siegel contributed to this article. For more information or to donate funds, visit www.freebaran.org, or call Bob Chatelle at 617-266-5827.

Back to the top

Fight for immigrants' rights
By Tamar Szmuilowicz and Ariella Cohen

NEW YORK--More than 200 vocal protesters marched through the working-class immigrant neighborhood of Jackson Heights in Queens on March 5 to demand that immigrants' driver's licenses not be taken away.

"This is about criminalizing immigrants," a member of New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE) said at the rally. The group was among the 40 different community organizations, elected officials and supporters represented at the protest.

Since March 2004, the state Department of Motor Vehicles has cracked down on immigrants unable to prove their immigration status. This has resulted in the suspension of 7,000 immigrants' licenses, but advocates said the number of people affected could reach 300,000.

The rally expressed the need to stand united in protecting immigrant communities. However, there was a strong emphasis on supporting local Democratic politicians, despite Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's support for restrictions on immigration in last year's campaign. Also, these attacks on immigrants are directly connected to the prosecution of the so-called "war on terror," which is used to justify a racist crackdown on civil liberties and dissent.

The suspension of driver's licenses in New York will hurt many working-class immigrants whose jobs require driving and who depend on their cars to get around. While the fight for immigrant rights is still small, events like these play an important role in building a movement and should be supported.

Back to the top

California's education crisis
By Nicholas Lustig

BERKELEY, Calif.--A crowd of approximately 75 students, activists and union members gathered March 10 to discuss the crisis in public education. Speakers included Peter Camejo, an independent candidate for vice president in 2004; Oakland Education Association (OEA) member Bob Mandel; and Catherine Lybarger, a University of California (UC) groundskeeper and organizer for AFSCME.

Camejo gave sobering statistics concerning California's tax scheme and its devastating effects on the financing of public education. He explained that the richest people in California pay the lowest tax rate--and if they were to pay a tax rate equal to the one paid by the working and lower classes, there would be ample funds for education.

The chair of the meeting, Jesse Muldoon, an OEA site representative for Roosevelt Middle School, said that teachers are fighting the impact of the federal No Child Left Behind law as well as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's attempts to dismantle public education. The OEA has called for demonstrations, civil disobedience and a strict work-to-rule policy among all its members--and, Bob Mandel said, "will probably be forced to strike."

Also, for the first time in 29 years, AFSCME members recently took a strike vote throughout the statewide UC system. So while "the university will not negotiate," said Lybarger, AFSCME has awoken from a "29-year coma" and is ready to fight. AFSCME has demanded fair workloads for janitors, non-sweatshop-produced uniforms and the dropping of UC support of charter schools.

The discussion that followed the speakers was informative--and full of hope for further solidarity among the groups present.

Back to the top

End the occupation of Iraq
By Kate Johnson

SEATTLE--Independent journalist Dahr Jamail spoke to a captivated crowd of 100 students, activists and community members at Seattle Central Community College (SCCC) as part of a national speaking tour to report his accounts from war-torn Iraq.

Jamail is an "un-embedded" U.S. journalist from Alaska who has been covering the war in Iraq since November 2003. He is one of the few foreign correspondents traveling through Iraq--and almost the only Western journalist reporting extensively from inside Falluja. With mainstream media and many liberal publications cheerleading the Bush administration's "spreading of democracy" in the Middle East, eyewitness accounts like Jamail's are invaluable to rebuilding the antiwar movement on a strong political footing.

In his presentation, Jamail demolished the idea that the U.S. could ever be a progressive force in Iraq. Armed with graphic photos and personal accounts, he revealed the deplorable conditions Iraqis face today.

Drawing on the history of U.S. intervention in Iraq including the most recent destruction of Falluja and the January 30 elections, Jamail brought a much-needed sense of the reality of U.S. imperialist aims in the Middle East. Jamail's presentation kicked off a week of antiwar activity at Seattle Central Community College, leading up to the local protest that's part of the March 19 international day of action.

Jamail's reports can be found on the Web at www.dahrjamailiraq.com.

Home page | Current storylist | Back to the top