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March 17, 2006 | Page 4

Defend the right to protest

A GROUP of young people--white, Latino and Muslim--is facing outrageous, trumped-up charges and up to four years in jail for an October 15 protest in Arlington Heights, Ill., against the Minutemen, a group of armed vigilantes who hunt immigrants along the U.S/Mexico border.

We need you to join in demanding that the charges be dropped against the "Anti-Minutemen Five." You may not have heard of the Minutemen--but if you are an immigrant, or if you are someone who speaks out for immigrant rights or provides them with social services, the Minutemen have plans for you.

They are popular among white supremacists and militia types. They patrol the border, armed, hunting for immigrants. And they hunt immigrants within the U.S, harassing immigrants who are trying to find backbreaking work as day laborers. They enforce patriotism and jingoism by mounting political attacks on teachers who teach their students about Mexican Independence Day.

The Minutemen call their opposition "terrorists"--lies that are picked up by the Associated Press and given national exposure. They hold rallies right on the White House lawn, getting national press coverage.

On October 15, a group of activists held a peaceful protest on the public sidewalk in front of the building where the Minutemen were holding a conference, portraying the unity of different nationalities in a symbolic show of solidarity with immigrants. They chanted and spoke out against the Minutemen and in favor of immigrant rights.

In response, the police called a high-level attack squad: police from surrounding areas, dogs, riot gear and heavy artillery.

Five people who were the most active and vocal, or who fit a profile of looking like "troublemakers"--including the only woman at the protest wearing a hijab (Muslim head scarf)--were singled out and arrested on trumped-up charges of resisting arrest and battery against the police officers. Some are facing potentially four years in jail.

The state has shown their determination to prosecute this case: When the defendants showed up for a court date on December 1, three were arrested for a minor violation of their bail terms and taken to Cook County Jail. Two women were released literally seconds before a forced vaginal exam.

On February 14, at a minor evidentiary hearing, the state's attorney attempted to force the defendants to go to trial that very afternoon--with no notice and therefore no time to prepare a case, track down witnesses, or gather evidence. They go to trial on March 24 in Rolling Meadows, Ill.

This attack on a peaceful protest is outrageous and is part of overall moves to criminalize dissent in the name of the "war on terror." In January, a group known as the "St. Patrick's Four" were given four months in jail for performing the symbolic action of pouring blood on a recruiting station (they had been facing up to six years.) This is intolerable. Every time charges like these are allowed to stand, it sends a message: Don't protest. don't resist.

When people stand up, at great personal risk, to fight for justice and to defend the rights of others, they must be supported. And when they are attacked, they must be defended. Charges like this must be defeated--and they can be!

Funds are needed very urgently. We are being forced to go to trial, and need to raise close to $10,000 in a few weeks. Send contributions and make checks out to: Law Office of Jim Fennerty (Attn: anti-MM5), 36 S. Wabash, Suite 1310, Chicago, IL 60603.

Send letters now to the judge, asking that the case be immediately dismissed: Rolling Meadows Courthouse, Dept. 107, 2121 Euclid Ave., Rolling Meadows, IL 60008. Come to the Rolling Meadows courthouse from 8 a.m. onwards on March 24 to demand that the charges be dropped.

Spread the word and build support. Write about the case in your local newspaper, post this letter on blogs and Web sites, or arrange for one of the Anti-Minutemen Five to be interviewed by your local radio or TV station or newspaper.

For more information, e-mail [email protected].

Prisoners against war

THANK YOU for your interview with prisoner Stanley Howard and your coverage of Prisoners Against the War (PAW). (February 24)

PAW is a network to build and provide outreach and solidarity between antiwar prisoners. Other prisoners who wish to communicate with PAW or learn more about how to start a chapter may write to: Prisoners Against the War, P.O. Box 121, Champaign, IL 61824.

Please note: Illinois prison regulations forbid inmates from receiving mail directly from other prisoners. If you are incarcerated, the contents of your letter will be summarized and your message will be sent via the help of volunteers in Illinois. Persons not in prison at this time may also write directly to PAW or to Stanley Howard at: Stanley Howard, Reg. # N-71620, P.O. Box 112, Joliet, IL 60434.
Martin Smith, PAW volunteer, Champaign, Ill.

Nuclear hypocrisy

AS THE U.S. and its European allies increase pressure on Iran over its nuclear program, I'm surprised more attention hasn't been paid to French president Jacques Chirac's recent statement that France reserves the right to use nuclear weapons to retaliate against terrorists.

The Washington Post reported on January 19 that during a visit to a nuclear sub base in Brittany Chirac said, "The leaders of states who would use terrorist means against us, as well as those who would envision using...weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they would lay themselves open to a firm and fitting response on our part. This response could be a conventional one. It could also be of a different kind."

According to the article, France has nearly 350 nuclear weapons--but still Chirac condemns "the temptation by certain countries to obtain nuclear capabilities in contravention of treaties."

And even though Chirac's government has led the way in attacking Arabs and Muslims, he warns that "a confrontation of civilizations" is at hand, fueled by "radical ideas." We can expect to hear more rhetoric like this, as more governments in Europe line up with Bush to get their share of anything that happens in Iran.
Andrew Jagunich, New York City

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