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News and reports

May 13, 2005 | Pages 10 and 11

Military out of our schools
Chicago Social Forum
Schools not jails
Defend affirmative action at NEIU

Fight for immigrant rights
By Sarah Knopp

LAGUNA BEACH, Calif.--About 40 people demonstrated against the anti-immigrant group Save Our State, which called for a May 7 picket at the state-sanctioned Day Laborers Hiring Center here.

With a goal of intimidating people from stopping to hire workers, members of Save Our State gathered with signs reading "Arrest the employers." They were joined by the Minutemen, the racist vigilante group that targeted immigrants along the Arizona border in early April. When cars pulled into the hiring center, the protesters snuck up behind the cars to take pictures of the drivers and license plates--and yelled at drivers to "hire Americans."

Organized by the Southern California Human Rights Network (SCHRN), the counterprotest confronted the racists with signs and chants of our own. The vast majority of people driving by showed support for our signs, like "Work is a human right," "Hire here" and "Queremos un mundo sin fronteras (We want a world without borders)."

We were able to physically stop the racists from intimidating day laborers, and, according to workers at the hiring center, the number of workers hired was normal for a Saturday.

Chris Hernandez, who helped to organize the counterprotest, told Socialist Worker that since the Minutemen came to Arizona, "the racist vigilantes are on a power trip, targeting people who just want to exercise their human right to work." The Minutemen have announced plans to target the California border in August.

-- In San Francisco, about 50 people gathered in font of the California State Building for a May 5 rally to denounce Gov. Schwarzenegger's support for the Minutemen coming to California. Several organizations sponsored the rally, including La Raza Centro Legal, San Francisco Day Labor Program, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Chinese Progressive Association and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee of San Francisco, among many others.

"[Bringing the Minutemen here] means death, it means shootings, it means violence, it means lynchings," said Van Jones of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. "We have a governor who is stooping to scapegoating immigrants instead of facing the real issues."

Amanda Maystead contributed to this report. To get involved with organizing efforts in Southern California, contact [email protected].

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Military out of our schools
By Jonah Birch

NEW YORK--Antiwar students at Columbia University won a major victory May 6 when the University Senate overwhelmingly rejected a proposal that would have allowed the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) back on campus. The vote halts, at least temporarily, a campaign by a small group of pro-ROTC students to bring the program--which was kicked off campus during the student revolts of 1968--back to Columbia.

In early April, a task force appointed by the University Senate to study ROTC deadlocked 5-to-5 on whether or not to recommend that Columbia allow the program to return. In recent weeks, however, the Ad-Hoc Coalition Against ROTC mounted an aggressive campaign, including collecting 1,100 signatures from Columbia students and faculty for a petition demanding that the military remain barred from our school.

The petition pointed out that the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy openly violates Columbia's non-discrimination policy. Left-wing students also argued that Columbia should not be in the business of training soldiers to kill and die in the U.S.'s imperialist wars.

The anti-ROTC movement culminated in a rally the day of the Senate vote attended by 100 students. Demonstrators held signs reading "Stop ROTC," chanted, and spoke out against the war, sexism and homophobia--while just four pro-ROTC students waived American flags on the other side of the walkway.

Anti-ROTC students were vindicated when the Senate voted 51-to-11 to bar the military from returning to campus. The victory at Columbia is an important step forward for the counter-recruitment movement that has been sweeping campuses across the country.

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Chicago Social Forum
By Nick Burt

CHICAGO--More than 500 community activists converged around the slogan "Another Chicago Is Possible" at the second annual Chicago Social Forum May 1.

Local organizations involved in struggles around women's rights, environmental protection, opposition to war and a host of other causes sponsored a total of 55 workshops throughout the day. Workshops included "Art, Activism and the Chicago Housing Crisis," "The Struggle Against Police Torture and Wrongful Convictions in Chicago," "Immigrant Rights and Globalization" and "Ending the Occupations: Rebuilding the Anti-War Movement." A mid-day visit to Chicago's new Haymarket Square memorial also took place.

The aim of the CSF was to make the connection between local and global involvement and to foster cooperation among local groups, said the forum's organizers. "Everyone has their own small issues. You lose sight of the many other important things everyone else is working on," said CSF volunteer Jared Conrad-Bradshaw.

Charmaine Bee, an intern with the media reform group Beyond Media, said the forum succeeded in connecting various struggles. "I'm a strong believer in coalition. [The CSF] was a great opportunity to build movements and move our work forward in Chicago," she said.

The Chicago Social Forum was first held in January of 2004 to serve as the local complement to the World Social Forum. Whereas the World Social Forum was a venue to encourage dialogue about grassroots global justice, the CSF brought the matter home with discussions about public housing in the city and the fight to prevent a military takeover of Chicago's Senn High School.

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Schools not jails
By Kurt Krueger

LOS ANGELES--More than 150 people gathered May 7 in Norwalk Park for a Mother's Day rally and march to the California Youth Authority (CYA), demanding the youth prisons close down. "The main goal...was to let the mothers know we are behind them in the struggle," said Frank Alvarez, an organizer for the Youth Justice Coalition, which organized the event.

Carrying signs and Mother's Day roses, the crowd chanted, "CYA, you're no good. Treat our children like you should!"

The CYA is notorious for being the most violent and abusive youth prison system in the country. Rather than educating and rehabilitating troubled youth, the CYA incarcerates nearly 4,000 youth state-wide in 23-hour-a-day solitary confinement. In 2004, four young people died inside the CYA due to neglect. Reports reveal that, inside the CYA, violence is often instigated by guards, there is rampant sexual assault, and chemical weapons are used on youths.

Constance Brewer, mother of Dyron Brewer, who died last year while incarcerated in the CYA, told the crowd, "I don't want another mother to go through what me and my family are going through. I will never hear my child tell me 'Happy Mother's Day' again. That's why we need to shut CYA down."

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Defend affirmative action at NEIU
By Kyle Gilbertson and Craig Althage

CHICAGO--Forty students, faculty and staff members at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) protested against the college Republican Club's bigoted anti-affirmative action bake sale April 28.

The Republicans were selling cookies to white males for $1 and charging less for non-whites, women, and gays and lesbians--to show how affirmative action supposedly gives "special privileges" to minorities. They had a lot of nerve holding this event at NEIU--one of the most diverse campus in the Midwest.

Protesters lined up with their backs toward the sale, holding antiracist signs and banners towards onlookers. About five Republicans sat at a table behind a chain-link fence--while protesters chanted, "Racist, sexist, antigay, pack up your table and go away!" Activists from the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance and the Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Alliance have reported numerous incidents of harassment by members of the Republican Club throughout the semester, but administrators have done nothing about it.

In the end, the Republicans didn't sell many cookies. As one student shouted angrily, "For you to sell me this cookie for 50 cents--it's like you're telling me how much I'm worth. You can't put a price on my life!"

The Republicans are likely to try this again in the fall, and when they do, we will be ready for them.

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