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News and reports

January 27, 2006 | Page 15

Remember Martin Luther King
Stop the Nazis
End executions

Stop the school closings
By Somerset Stevens

SAN FRANCISCO--About 600 parents, educators and students packed the Board of Education meeting January 19 to oppose the closure of their neighborhood schools. They pointed out how the schools slated to close were disproportionately in communities of color and working-class areas.

The mass attendance of the board meeting was mobilized in less than three weeks.

Ann Coulton, an activist and parent, explained that about 15 percent of relocated students from past closures never return to school. She also said the board claimed that the demographics would "sort themselves out."

Community members were allowed minute-long remarks before being cut off--to which the crowd responded with jeers, hisses and shouts of "let her speak." "You see real estate, we see schools," said grandparent and arts educator Meagan Bierman. "These children are not data. They are people."

Amos Brown of the NAACP, like many speakers, compared the closings to school segregation. Others took issue with the school board asking each neighborhood to defend its school--rightly characterizing this as an attempt to pit communities, which are frequently settled along lines of race and national origin, against each other.

The board published information about the closures in English only, despite the fact that San Franciscans speak a multitude of languages. Organizers of the community response printed their materials in three languages and sought translators for other languages before the meeting.

The board voted in favor of some of the school closures, but activists pledge an ongoing fight against this callous attack on the city's working-class and poor residents. As one parent said, "The children of San Francisco are all our children."

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Remember Martin Luther King
By Lonnie Lopez

SEATTLE--More than 2,000 people packed the Garfield High School gymnasium to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Now in its 23rd year, the event culminates in one of the largest and most diverse political events in the Pacific Northwest. Dozens of local grassroots, labor, minority and progressive community organizations and volunteers make up the Martin Luther King Celebration Committee that organizes the event.

In the morning, local leaders presented workshops on racial inequality, economic justice and the antiwar movement. Teacher Jesse Hagopian; president of the Garfield High School Parent, Teacher, Student Association Amy Hagopian; and student Anna Hagopian spoke on the counter-recruitment movement and the launching of a Seattle College Not Combat initiative to a interested and diverse crowd of more than 50 parents, teachers, students, and grassroots community activists.

The thousands in the gymnasium joined another 500 outside in the drizzle to march almost two miles to the Federal Building downtown. The theme for this year's rally and march was "Racism, poverty, war: Iraq, Katrina, no more!" The counter-recruitment movement also held a prominent place in the march as the parade route passed a local recruiting station.

At the rally, speakers called on county officials to replace the image of the imperial crown on the county seal with an image of Dr. King, the county's namesake.

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Stop the Nazis
By Lonnie Lopez

SEATTLE--With three days' notice, more than 150 local activists gathered at the base of the Space Needle to protest a rally planned by Nazis from the Oregon-based National Socialist Movement. They are trying to organize a chapter in the Seattle area.

The exact location of the rally was not identified on the Nazis' Web site, but resourceful local activists had narrowed the likely location down to two possibilities--the Space Needle and the state capital of Olympia, an hour to the south. Antiracist activists stood watch in these areas, prepared to meet them wherever they decided to show.

When the Nazis failed to show at the Space Needle, the protest turned into a victory rally, with activists from several organizations chanting, "No Nazis, no KKK, no fascists in the USA!"

In Olympia, however, a small group of 10 Nazis finally arrived with flags waving, but were met by almost 100 vocal and angry activists. After an hour, the Nazis rolled up their flags and were led to safety in the backs of police cars to chants of "Go home!"

By preventing the Nazis from holding their planned rally and limiting their ability to organize in Washington's largest city, antiracist activists showed that building a unified front is an effective way to stop the spread of this kind of hate.

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End executions
By Justine Prado

SAN QUENTIN--One minute past midnight on January 17, more than 500 people stood outside the gates of San Quentin State Prison as the state took the life of 75-year-old Clarence Ray Allen.

It was only one month earlier that many of these students, activists and religious leaders were at the prison to protest the execution of Stan Tookie Williams.

At the time of his death, Allen was in very poor health--legally blind, suffering from diabetes and confined to a wheelchair. The recently scheduled February 21 execution date for death row prisoner Michael Morales led one woman in the crowd to say, "They're going to try and turn California into another Texas!"

Barbara Becnel, close friend and advocate of Stan Tookie Williams, told the crowd that Gov. Schwarzenegger is a "coward for what he did to Stan, and for what he is doing to Clarence Ray Allen...We do not give our votes away and our power away, be it to Schwarzenegger or Democrats."

Michael Wyman, Green Party candidate for State Attorney General, said, "We don't just need a moratorium on the death penalty. We need a moratorium on building new prisons."

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