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News and reports

August 5, 2005 | Pages 14 and 15

Defend the rights of Arabs and Muslims
Troops out of Iraq
The fight for bilingual education

Stop police brutality
By Jeff DeToro

ROCHESTER, N.Y.--Activists are demanding justice after a Rochester police officer shot 13-year-old Lashedica Mason July 10 after her family called 911 because she was threatening suicide with a knife.

According to witnesses, upon entering the home, the officer fired five shots at Lashedica, hitting her three times and narrowly missing her 3-year-old sister, said Rev. Joy Powell, who interviewed the family. Lashedica, who is African American, was taken to the emergency room with critical, but not life-threatening injuries.

The family's account of the incident says that Lashedica posed no threat to the lone officer, and was trying to get out of the house when he burst in.

Mayor Bill Johnson also claimed the shooting was justified before any investigation had taken place. Johnson, himself African American, claimed that the shooting could not have been the result of racism "because the officer is Black." He then criticized protesters for not speaking against "Black-on-Black violence" and focusing unfairly on police brutality.

But residents of the city, like longtime activists Rev. Powell, Howard Eagle and others are building a coalition to organize a fightback.

A group of 25 protesters marched to City Hall to call out the mayor, the police chief and the systematic racism they've defended. Mayor Johnson was forced to speak outside with protesters and agreed to meet with the organizers.

Activists are planning a simultaneous rally outside City Hall during the meeting. Broad, grassroots organizing will be the key to bringing these people into activity to win victories against racism and police brutality in Rochester.

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Defend the rights of Arabs and Muslims
By Manijeh Moradian

NEW YORK--About 250 Pakistani immigrants and supporters gathered last month to renew the struggle against detentions and assaults on civil liberties that have ravaged the South Asian community since 9/11. The event was sponsored by the Coney Island Avenue Project (CIAP), one of the first groups to organize against the attacks.

In a 10-block neighborhood near Coney Island Avenue alone, between 60 and 80 men were disappeared by authorities--many who were later freed only through months of protests. Bobby Khan, director of CIAP, told the crowd, "The U.S. government doesn't care about keeping working-class people safe. That is just an excuse for repression. Our job is to stand up against that repression."

Other speakers included Norman Siegel of the New York Civil Liberties Union and Rachel Meeropol from the Center for Constitutional Rights. Rep. Major Owens (D-N.Y.) denounced random bag searches on subways as racial profiling--but offended many when he called for diverting money from the war in Iraq and to pay for increased camera surveillance on public transportation and to hire more translators to decipher taped messages picked up by Homeland Security spy operations.

Monique Dols of the Campus Antiwar Network got applause when she argued that "the threat to our safety comes from the U.S. government, not from Muslims and South Asians."

Dozens of people signed up to march in Washington, D.C., September 24 in the College Not Combat contingent that CIAP has endorsed. The rally showed the potential to build a multiracial antiwar movement that takes a firm position in defense of immigrant rights.

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Troops out of Iraq
By Abbott Ikeler

PROVIDENCE, R.I.--An audience of more than 80 gathered here July 27 to hear Cindy Sheehan, mother of an Army specialist killed in Iraq, speak out against "American imperialism" in the Middle East.

The event was sponsored by the Rhode Island Community Coalition for Peace and co-sponsored by the International Socialist Organization, American Friends Service Committee, Green Party of Rhode Island, R.I. Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice and East Bay Citizens for Peace.

In the wake of her loss, Sheehan founded Gold Star Families for Peace, and now tours the U.S. in an effort to raise the level of active protest against the war. Borrowing a line from Martin Luther King, she took as her main theme, "What kind of extremist will you be?"

Her indictment of politicians, both Democrat and Republican, was uncompromising. "[George W. Bush] should be tried as a war criminal," Sheehan said, while reminding us that former president Bill Clinton was responsible "for the death of 500,000 Iraqi children" during the sanctions of the 1990s. Her son, she said, was "in a grave in Vacaville, Calif., and George Bush and his murderous policies put him there."

She urged the audience to take action to get U.S. troops home, so that no other mother, whether of an Iraqi or an American, has "this hole in her life."

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The fight for bilingual education
By Eva Woods Peiró and David González

NEW YORK--About 80 students, parents, teachers and community supporters demonstrated in front of Gregorio Luperón High School June 9 to demand a new building for the bilingual school.

Luperón prides itself on giving an education to those students who are rejected by other public schools. Its success is evident in its outstanding levels of attendance and grades, some of the highest in the city, and the fact that nearly all of its students--93 percent--graduate and attend college.

For 12 years, students, parents and teachers have been demanding a new space for Luperón, which has been forced to hold classes in an old furniture warehouse that lacks a gym, science labs and an adequate cafeteria. But local City Councilman Robert Jackson has been working to block Luperón from obtaining an old private high school building in Inwood that the city has offered to buy and remodel.

A hostile group of white residents from the area have joined this racist campaign, opposing the school on the grounds of potential vandalism, traffic and the threat to property values.

Students, parents, and teachers, however, are fighting back. The confidence, clear sense of unity and purpose of the students' rally were an inspiration.

Jonás De León, a math teacher at Luperón, said that protests are important because "it helps these students, who are all new immigrants, realize that just because they deserve something it doesn't mean that it will be given to them." As one student said at the June 9 rally: "We deserve the same rights as others and if they don't give us money for a new school, we'll keep protesting."

Wilson Spencer, a substitute teacher at the school and member of the group Fuerza de la Revolución, said, "This march serves as a vehicle for parents, students and teachers to achieve objective goals and not have to depend on politicians...A community like one this has everything to gain from mass struggle; traditionally this is the only way that Latino communities have historically won their demands."

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