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News and reports

June 24, 2005 | Pages 14 and 15

Protest the war machine
Support GI resistance
Immigrants are welcome here

Stop police brutality
By Kevin James and Ben Dalbey

BALTIMORE--On June 14, a day so hot that the under-funded city school system closed two hours early, more than 100 people protested outside the Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center (BCBIC), to mark the one-month anniversary of the death of Raymond Smoot.

On May 14, Smoot was stomped to death by six officers. The death has been ruled a homicide, and eight officers have been fired so far, but the problems at BCBIC run much deeper than a few bad apples.

Protesters cordoned off the perimeter of the notorious facility with yellow police tape--signifying that Central Booking is itself a crime scene. Since 2002, a total of 27 people have died at BCBIC, which processes 45,000 people a year. As of 2004, there were as many as 100,000 individuals locked inside, with as many as 18 prisoners in cells meant to hold five to eight people.

BCBIC made headlines in April, when a judge ruled that inmates who fail to get court hearings within 24 hours of their arrest must be set free. The decision came amid publicity regarding Barbara Weber, a motorist jailed for two days at BCBIC. Pulled over for not wearing a seatbelt--while she was driving an injured child to the hospital--Weber disobeyed officers' orders to stay in her car and was maced and arrested.

Weber said she met several people inside BCBIC who had been detained in deplorable conditions for days. One woman was pregnant, had AIDS, and had been denied her medication for four days.

Mary R. Jackson, mother of Joey Wilbon, told Socialist Worker that the police tried to cover up her son's murder five years ago. When she went to identify the body, they callously told her, "This isn't like the movies or TV, you don't get to see the body."

Jackson likened central booking to a slave ship on the Middle Passage and called for real accountability. "No one's above the law," she said. "If we have to be tried so do they."

Family members and supporters, the majority of whom were Black, marched around the facility. Inmates cheered in solidarity with chants of "Tear down the walls," "Hey hey, ho ho, police brutality's got to go!" and "Stop the killing, stop the lie, Raymond Smoot didn't have to die!"

As Donnetta Kidd, Raymond Smoot's niece, told those in attendance, the best way to put an end to police brutality and get justice is to "keep on coming out here and fighting."

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Protest the war machine
By Julie Keefe

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--"Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo, U.S. torture's got to go!" More than 150 angry protesters raised this chant at an antiwar demonstration here June 14 as the U.S. Army tried to hold a ceremony to celebrate its 230th birthday on Cambridge Common--the site where the Continental Congress formally established the first U.S. Army.

Unfortunately for the U.S. military, this location was not a wise choice for its birthday celebration. On a couple days' notice, activists used e-mail lists to organize the protest, turning the event into a fiasco for the Army.

Despite their self-congratulatory stunts (including paratroopers dropped from a Blackhawk helicopter), the photo-op was ruined by protesters who could be seen and heard on every side on the ceremony. City officials and the military had tried to keep the news of the ceremony under wraps, even preventing it from coming up for discussion at the Cambridge City Council.

At first, protesters were unsure of themselves and intimidated by police, who seized all sticks from picket signs and told them that they would be arrested if they made noise. After Veterans for Peace led an impromptu march around the Common, protesters silently assembled in front of the Army's stage.

But police immediately attacked the demonstrators, pushing people down and using their batons to move people away from the stage. After that, protesters began loudly chanting and did not stop until the ceremony was over. The Army's pledge of allegiance was even ruined by jeers of "shame."

Protesters chanted, "Iraqis are dying, and Bush is still lying. Soldiers are dying, and Bush is still lying." Some protesters came dressed as Iraqis and U.S. soldiers covered in blood, and others wore shirts that said "You can't bribe me to die" and "You can't bribe me to kill."

Several protesters who attempted to enter the seating area on the Common were seized by police, carried to the edge of the Common and physically thrown out. Six people were arrested, including Joseph Gerson, head of the American Friends Service Committee in Boston.

Despite the heavy and aggressive police presence, they were unable to prevent the protest from ruining the Army's "special day" and giving a boost of confidence to the protesters who attended.

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Support GI resistance
By Mike Iannacone

ROCHESTER, N.Y.--More than 200 people attended an antiwar forum here in early June. The event--entitled "When resistance is right"--featured Victor Paredes, the brother of Navy seaman Pablo Paredes currently serving time for refusing to deploy to Iraq, and Veterans for Peace president Dave Cline.

Several local groups sponsored the event, including Rochester Against War, Metro Justice and the local Unitarian church where the event was held.

Both speakers showed, in a very concrete way, how war resisters can help to end the war and what we can do to support the soldiers who resist. During the discussion, all the major questions in the movement were addressed--from whether to demand immediate withdrawal, to the question of the Iraqi resistance, to the debate about the strategies of lobbying and direct action.

Many local veterans came to the meeting, exchanged information and began discussing further organization and action. The success of the event gives a glimpse of the great opportunities that exist for organizing in support of soldiers resisting the occupation--in Rochester and elsewhere.

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Immigrants are welcome here
By Max Clark

DANBURY, Conn.--Some 1,300 people held a silent march through the city to protest Mayor D. Mark Boughton's plan to deputize local police officers to enforce immigration laws. After the march, Boughton backed down from sanctioning mass deportation sweeps.

About 15,000 undocumented residents, mainly from Ecuador, Brazil and the Dominican Republic, currently reside in the Danbury area. Many of those marching wore brown armbands to represent the thousands more who didn't participate because of fear of deportation.

Activists were encouraged to carry the flag of their home country, but all other signs or displays required the approval of march organizers. The distribution of newspapers and chanting were not allowed. At the rally, patriotic music was played over the sound system, and the national anthem was recited before speakers took the stage.

But the strategy of appealing to conservative forces--imposed on the event by the pro-business wing of the movement--comes at the price of excluding other viewpoints and downplaying the working-class demands of most participants. The battle for an open and democratic movement is essential for expanding opposition to the war on immigrants of all nationalities.

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