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News and reports

November 18, 2005 | Pages 14 and 15

Hands off Dave!
No to war and occupation
Justice for Palestine

Campaign to End the Death Penalty
By Eric Ruder

CHICAGO--More than 90 people gathered here for the fifth annual convention of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty (CEDP) November 12-13. The event brought together anti-death penalty activists, former death row prisoners and family members of those on death row from across the U.S. for discussions about how to advance the movement against capital punishment and the injustices of the criminal justice system.

Especially powerful were speeches by former death row prisoners such as Darby Tillis, Billy Moore, Shujaa Graham and Alan Gell. "Exonerated like us, we don't have a choice to fight when people are still beaten down and suffering by the system," said Gell, who has tirelessly campaigned against the death penalty since his release in early 2004. "How many times does it have to happen for there to be something done about it?"

Capital defense attorney Bryan Stevenson also addressed the convention, calling the death penalty the continuation of "the terrorism of Jim Crow" and the legacy of lynching in the South. "The emergence of the civil rights movement showed just how much power people have to fight against racism," said Stevenson.

A recurring theme throughout the convention was the urgent need to fight the execution of California prisoner Stan Tookie Williams, who is scheduled to be killed on December 13. "Stan's case represents an opportunity to shine a national spotlight on the death penalty for the first time in many years," said CEDP national director Marlene Martin.

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Hands off Dave!
By Nikki Robinson

KENT, Ohio--Thousands of phone calls and letters from all over the U.S. and abroad have poured into the Kent State University administration offices on behalf of Iraq veteran and Kent State student Dave Airhart. Airhart faces possible expulsion for climbing up a military recruiters' rock wall in October to hang a banner that read "Kent, Ohio, for peace."

Students, faculty and staff at the university are preparing for Airhart's November 16 disciplinary hearing with an immense "Hands Off Dave" campaign. Symbols of support for Airhart now litter the campus--including flyers, chalkings and signs in dorm and library windows that read "Hands off Dave," "Stop the war," "Military out of our schools" and more.

The administration has not called off the hearing, but is feeling the pressure. In a recent meeting requested by members of the Kent State Anti-War Committee (KSAWC), the dean of students, Greg Jarvie, attempted to downplay the administration's role in the case.

But when Kevin Heade, a member of KSAWC's steering committee, asked Jarvie, "If the administration wanted to drop the charges against Dave Airhart, could they?" Jarvie was forced to answer that indeed they could.

A speakout has been planned for November 16, where statements of solidarity from activists including Howard Zinn, Cindy Sheehan and others will be read. And other area chapters of the Campus Antiwar Network will travel to Kent State to stand in solidarity with antiwar students, faculty and staff. Following the speakout, activists plan to march over to the hearing. Those who can't get in plan to stand outside, chanting and demanding that all charges be dropped.

Supporting Airhart, and assuring that he will be able to continue his education and his antiwar activism, is a small but important fight that can help build a strong antiwar movement here at home.

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No to war and occupation

CHICAGO--Retired Chicago police officer Leon Bowens, now a security guard at Harold Washington College (HWC), forcibly dragged two students out of a November 9 job fair for the "crime" of asking questions.

Antiwar students attended the job fair to alert other students that they may not be getting a truthful pitch from military recruiters increasingly desperate to overcome recruiting shortfalls. We attended holding no banners or signs and asked polite questions of the recruiters. In fact, when campus security told the antiwar students to leave, one recruiter defended our presence there.

Bowens dragged student Jenell Holden out of the fair by his arm when he began videotaping the guard's threats. Then Bowens and his assistant Herbert Wilson went for Angie Haban, another student, each grabbing her by an arm, dragging her outside and elbowing her in the chin.

This manhandling of individuals engaged in polite conversations is part of a campaign of hostility toward antiwar students wishing to exercise their freedom of speech.

Call HWC President John Wozniak at 312-553-5834 to demand the firing of Bowens for his unprovoked assault.

--In Baltimore, the University of Maryland Peace Forum, a chapter of the Campus Antiwar Network, hosted a pre-Veterans' Day panel at the College Park campus. Michael Hoffman, the founder of Iraq Veterans Against the War; Frank Corcoran, a Vietnam veteran; and Tariq Khan, a counter-recruiter at George Mason University and a recent victim of police brutality, spoke about the need to end the war now.

Hoffman told students he joined the military because he "genuinely wanted to help people." However, he soon found out he would be fighting an illegal war. "One hundred thousand Vietnam vets took their lives after the war," said Corcoran. "How many more need to die in Iraq before this administration realizes the repercussions of their actions?" Khan explained that the military is an abusively authoritarian institution and that each person should counter-recruit the best way he or she sees fit.

-- In New York City, Some 50 students, teachers and others united outside Hunter College to support the counter-recruitment force of the nationwide Campus Antiwar Network. Several students led the action, listing the reasons why military recruiters were not welcome. Speakers also challenged the military's discriminatory "don't ask, don't tell" policy toward gays and lesbians as well as the oppression of women and racial minorities in the ranks.

Lauren Fleer, Rayyan Ghuma and Mustafa Shukur contributed to this report.

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Justice for Palestine
By Jesse Zarley

MADISON, Wis.--Some 70 people turned out to the University of Wisconsin (UW)-Madison's Board of Regents annual public hearing on trust fund investments on November 10 to demand they divest from companies that provide weapons and equipment to Israel.

UW-Madison faculty and students and community members filled the chambers. They were joined by members from the Association of University of Wisconsin Professionals and UW-Platteville who had already passed resolutions in support of divestment from companies like Caterpillar, Lockheed Martin and General Electric.

Nearly all of the 20 speakers supported the initiative. Members of al-Awda, Stop the War, the Arab Student Organization, the International Socialist Organization and others pointed out the clauses in UW's investment policy that require divestment from companies that practice or condone discrimination or employ persons in a nation whose government supports discriminatory policies. Jewish and Palestinian students argued that Israel must be held accountable for its actions, drawing parallels to apartheid-era South Africa from which UW divested based on its human rights violations.

The divestment campaign, said Al-Awda member Mohammed Abed, "lays the groundwork for a just and enduring peace and is an expression of the hope for a free and secure future for every Israeli and Palestinian currently suffering under the burden of the conflict."

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