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News and reports

March 10, 2006 | Page 11

Stand up for immigrant rights
Solidarity with Venezuela
End the occupation of Iraq

Fighting racism at Cornell University
By Héctor Tarrido-Picart

ITHACA, N.Y.--Angry student groups and faculty held a February 27 rally of 300 people in response to the stabbing of a young Black man visiting Cornell University.

On the morning of February 18, a Black student from Union College was stabbed in the chest after confronting a white Cornell student screaming racial slurs at him and his two friends.

Though the Cornell administration tried to claim the incident had nothing to do with race, a number of anti-racist groups quickly drew the connections between the incident and the racial tension on campus and began pressuring the administration.

Students and faculty pointed to the administration's persistent inaction regarding issues of racism on campus. For example, Cornell allows the publication of a racist newspaper that encouraged people to arm themselves with "Smith & Wessons" against Blacks and minorities. This newspaper--and the fact that Cornell even funds it--set the stage for the February 18 stabbing and the subsequent campus-wide anger.

The rally's central question was how to battle racism not only on campus but also nationally and internationally. Speakers and the audience recognized that the problem behind the hate crime was broader than Cornell. Speakers drew connections to other struggles, including the issue of immigrant rights in the U.S, the racist scapegoating of Arabs and Muslims in the Western world and the fight to end the death penalty.

In the end, the student groups--which included the Prison Activist Coalition, Cornell for Peace and Justice, Black Students United, Cornell United Religious Works, Farm Workers Advocacy Coalition, Campaign to End the Death Penalty and the ISO--put forward a set of demands to force the administration to take the issue seriously.

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Stand up for immigrant rights
By Paul Dean

PORTLAND, Ore.--A very lively and spirited multiracial crowd of 4,000 marched to protest the Security and Immigration Enforcement Act (known as the Sensenbrenner Bill) on March 4.

The organizers of the march included Piñeros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN, which stands for Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United), which is Oregon's union of farmworkers, nursery and reforestation workers, and Oregon's largest Latino organization.

The bill, which the U.S. House of Representatives passed in December, will have harsh consequences for immigrant workers. It will criminalize as smugglers anyone, including relatives, who help undocumented immigrants enter the U.S.; make undocumented immigrants currently in the country ineligible to gain legal status; force police to act as immigration agents even when dealing with victims of crime; and force employers into screening new employees.

Chanting "Sí, se puede" and " El pueblo unido jamás será vencido," the crowd showed their solidarity and demanded amnesty for undocumented immigrants.

The march stopped by the campaign office of Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron Saxton, who has threatened to deny driver's licenses and benefits to undocumented workers, creating fear in Oregon's immigrant community. "This bill is an attack, not an answer," said Ramón Ramírez, president of PCUN. "It targets hardworking immigrants, who are the backbone of our economy."

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Solidarity with Venezuela
By Nihar Bhatt

WASHINGTON, D.C.--More than 400 activists gathered at George Washington University March 4-5 for the first ever Venezuelan Solidarity Conference.

The goal of the weekend was to form a national solidarity network to respond to the growing threats to the administration of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez from the U.S. government. Conference participants attended more than 40 workshops on issues such as "Venezuela History: First to Fifth Republic," "U.S. and International Labor Solidarity," "Venezuela's Alternative: Challenging Corporate Globalization" and more.

A theme of the weekend was arming activists with facts to debunk the many myths and distortions about Venezuela spread by the U.S. government, the mainstream press and Venezuela's elite.

Many participants had previously visited Venezuela on delegations or for international gatherings such as the recent World Social Forum. Among the many speakers at the conference were Bill Fletcher of the Trans Africa Forum, Alberto Gonzalez of the Southwest Voter Registration Project, former Global Exchange director Deborah James, and Green Party leader Peter Miguel Camejo.

On March 5, approximately 200 conference attendees gathered to create a national Venezuelan solidarity network to oppose U.S. government intervention in Venezuela and to facilitate delegations to Venezuela of American activists, as well as speaking tours of Venezuelans in the United States.

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End the occupation of Iraq

AS THE third anniversary of the U.S. war in Iraq approaches, activists in cities and on campuses across the country have begun stepping up antiwar actions with an aim to revitalizing the movement against the war in Iraq.

-- In New York City, approximately 200 people attended a March 1 panel discussion in New York City intended to bring together different sections of the counter-recruitment and antiwar movement.

Endorsed by 16 different organizations, the panel included representatives from Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace (VFP), the Campus Antiwar Network (CAN), the YaYa Network, and a student from the Muslim Student Association (MSA) at Borough of Manhattan Community College, among others.

Keynote speaker Todd Chretien, the Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate in California and author of the successful College Not Combat initiative barring military recruiters from public schools in San Francisco, pointed out what is possible when activists organize popular opposition to the war and recruitment in schools. Chretien also focused on the role the Democrats have played in politically disarming and demobilizing the antiwar movement.

Jim Murphy of VFP shared his experience of going into high schools to educate students about the lies recruiters tell.

A local high school teacher shared how her school was able to block recruiters from campus as the result of getting 100 percent of students to sign opt-out forms. Speakers from CAN and the MSA urged the antiwar movement to take a stand against the racist scapegoating of Muslims.

-- In Rochester, N.Y., more than 120 people turned out to hear Vietnam war resister Lee Zaslofsky and antiwar activist Stan Goff at "Not Your Soldier," an event sponsored by Rochester Against War (RAW) on February 22.

Zaslofsky, who sought refuge in Canada during the Vietnam War, helped found the War Resisters Support Campaign, a network that is assisting Iraq war resisters currently seeking refugee status in Canada.

Goff, a member of VFP, is currently helping to build "Walkin' to New Orleans," a five-day caravan of veterans, military families and hurricane survivors to mark the third anniversary of the war and tell the world that "every bomb dropped in Iraq explodes over the gulf coast."

More than 30 people attended RAW's follow-up meeting, and the group voted to hold a demonstration to mark the anniversary of the war.

-- In Austin, Texas, approximately 35 antiwar activists were on hand when retired war criminal Gen. Richard Meyers spoke on "leadership" at the University of Texas at Austin March 2. The "unwelcoming" committee included members of the Campus Antiwar Movement to End the Occupation (CAMEO), VFP and the International Socialist Organization (ISO).

Activists paraded and chanted outside the building as people arrived, then held signs and booed while Meyers--a chief architect of the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq--refused to look at them.

Two days later, 50 members of various antiwar groups protested Navy and Air Force recruiters at the University of Texas at Austin during "Explore UT"--which is designed to show off the strengths of the university to elementary and middle school children. Protesters passed out antiwar literature, and picketed and chanted in front of the military tables until recruiters left.

-- In San Diego, Calif., approximately 100 protesters came to the University of California-San Diego (UCSD) to protest the war in Iraq on March 3.

Later that evening, a forum organized by the UCSD College Democrats and the Progressive Democrats of America drew nearly 450 people. The event featured activist Cindy Sheehan, veteran and retired State Department official Ann Wright, "After Downing Street" co-founder David Swanson and The Road to Falluja filmmaker Mark Manning. Panelists spoke of the importance of immediate withdrawal.

Unfortunately, the conclusions of some panelists included voting "good" Democrats into office so that the antiwar movement can "take back Congress" and "impeach Bush." But voting a pro-war party into office is not going to end the war in Iraq. It is only when activists take to the streets that real change occurs.

Cindy Beringer, Mike Iannacone, Zakiya Khabir, Robert McDonald, Chelsea Miller and Afsaneh Moradian contributed to this report.

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