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News and reports

February 3, 2006 | Page 11

Stop Baltimore school closings
Stand up for the rights of Arabs and Muslims

Defend the St. Patrick's Fourr
By Brian Kwoba

FOUR ANTIWAR protesters have been sentenced to prison in New York for engaging in civil resistance to the invasion of Iraq.

The St. Patrick's Four--Danny Burns, Peter DeMott, Clare Grady and Teresa Grady--are Catholic Worker activists who poured their own blood on the entry hall and walls of a military recruiting station in Lansing, N.Y., on March 17, 2003, to protest the looming invasion of Iraq.

When they were originally tried in a county court, nine of 12 jurors voted to acquit them. Seeing that he couldn't get a conviction in the county court, the district attorney passed the case up to a federal court.

When the four were tried again in September 2005, federal prosecutor Miroslav Lovric leveled new charges of conspiracy in an effort to crack down on political dissent and make an example of them. The trial was filled with collusion between the prosecutor and the judge, who forbade any discussion of the Iraq war, the history of nonviolent resistance, international law and even the U.S. Constitution.

Although they were found guilty of trespassing and damaging property, the jury in the federal trial acquitted the four of the "conspiracy" charge.

Last week, the sentences for the minor charges were handed down. The four face prison terms ranging from four to eight months, as well as paying for the cost of cleaning up the military recruiting office.

In his statements during sentencing, the prosecutor said that the protesters showed no remorse, and that Danny, Clare and Teresa displayed "disrespect for the law" by going to Cuba last month to protest the government's torture of detainees at the U.S. Naval base in Guantánamo Bay. He even tried to brand Peter as having belonged to a "terrorist group" that damaged nuclear submarines during civil resistance actions at naval bases in Connecticut in the early 1980s.

Worst of all, the prosecutor claimed to be bothered that the St. Patrick's Four had "the attitude: 'We can do anything we want as long as it justifies our goals.'" With the pervasiveness of torture, occupation and illegal wiretappings, one might ask whether that "attitude" isn't a more accurate characterization of the Bush administration.

As if to underline this point, the same week that the four were sentenced to prison time, a military officer in Colorado who tortured and killed an Iraqi prisoner got no jail time at all.

As Peter said, "I look forward to the day when President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell and their associates stand trial and are held accountable for the crime of the genocidal war on Iraq, a war begun by the current president's father and prosecuted further by the Clinton administration with its sanctions and its bombings."

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Stop Baltimore school closings
By Laura Lising

BALTIMORE, Md.--For several weeks, more than 1,000 high school students here have been engaged in a walkout to protest the closing of several high schools.

Students at Lake Clifton-Eastern High School, for example, learned of their school closing just two days before they were scheduled to start classes at another school.

The students, many of whom had participated the year before in a citywide walkout and rally for better education funding, organized themselves at various schools by going from classroom to classroom, urging their peers to walk out. They converged in the afternoon at the school system office, chanting, "You think you can close our schools--but you can't!"

Teachers, parents and community members have also gotten involved in the struggle. Students have refused to go to the new schools and have continued to protest daily at the district offices, carrying signs with slogans and pictures of their schools.

The city claims that the buildings are badly in need of renovations, but the city also says that the schools need to be consolidated due to falling enrollment and in order to reduce costs. The targeted schools are those in some of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods, and the closings are happening as the city increases the number of charter schools and plans to sell off school real estate.

Jermaine Rose, a senior from Lake Clifton, says that the students understand the racism in this attack. "People feel like the white schools in the [surrounding suburban Baltimore] County get everything, but they have nothing for us," he said.

Returning from a recent rally against the death penalty, Rose also pointed out the contrast between a sparkling new juvenile detention facility and the state of his school building. Until the city responds, the students say that they have no plans of backing down.

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Stand up for the rights of Arabs and Muslims
By Steve Leigh

SEATTLE--More than 100 supporters of Majid al-Massari gathered January 21 to raise money for his legal defense and hear an update on his case.

Al-Massari is a Saudi citizen who came to the U.S. in 1993 as a student and later worked at the University of Washington School of Nursing. In July 2004, he was secretly arrested in Seattle by the FBI and the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for alleged terrorism.

Agents threatened his co-workers if they discussed his arrest, and Majid initially was held incommunicado for 11 days. He has been held in solitary confinement for 17 months, under threat of deportation to Saudi Arabia.

Supporters suspect that Majid has been targeted because of his support for the work of his father, Muhammad al-Massari, a Saudi dissident now in exile in London. Majid has a well-founded fear that he would be subjected to torture if sent back to Saudi Arabia.

Now, his case is being appealed to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Seattle-based Arab American Community Coalition is organizing a defense campaign.

At the forum, supporters learned about another disgusting example of the U.S. government's attack on immigrants. Sam and Mali Malkandi are Iraqi Kurds who fled persecution by Saddam Hussein. Their daughter, 17-year-old Nicole, was born in Iran, and their 8-year-old son Arvin was born in a refugee camp in Pakistan.

The government is now moving to deport them, because Sam supposedly lied on his application for asylum. Because Nicole and Arvin have no official citizenship, however, they may not be allowed into another country if they are deported.

We need to build the fight to pressure the U.S. government to allow them to stay.

To get involved, e-mail [email protected].

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