You've come to an old part of SW Online. We're still moving this and other older stories into our new format. In the meanwhile, click here to go to the current home page.
Views in brief

April 7, 2006 | Page 8

Police attack pro-immigrant students
A new fight for civil right
SW was too hard on sailors

Organizing a grassroots movement

ONE ANTIWAR demonstration that didn't get mentioned in Socialist Worker ("Bring them home now," March 24) was the one here in Portland, Ore., that drew at least 15,000 people--which seems to have been the biggest in the country over the weekend of protests.

People around the U.S. are asking how such a small city got the biggest turnout. The event was cosponsored or endorsed by 159 organizations, including the International Socialist Organization. The key work for getting out people was grassroots organizing with local groups.

The speakers reflected the diversity: Steve DeFord whose son was killed in Iraq; Jamila Wahab speaking on the pain caused by the war on Afghanistan; Ramon Ramirez linking social justice with peace issues; and the Rev Leroy Haynes speaking about how civil liberties are being eroded.

Just organizing the rally brought together many different groups from different areas of struggle with the aim of not just stopping the war and ending the occupations but also showing the world that the movement is growing stronger.

The numbers on the streets in Portland reflect the mood around the country and around the world. As one of the chants went on the march: "Sí, se puede. We can stop the war!"
Paul Dean, Portland, Ore.

Back to the top

Police attack pro-immigrant students

IN ESCONDIDO, Calif., on March 27, many high school students (and parents) walked out of classes to protest the racist anti-immigrant legislation which is currently being bandied about. These students exercised their right to protest in the streets, peacefully--and were greeted by police, pepper spray, arrests and general oppression.

The news reporting is spotty and pathetic, as usual, so it is really unclear what happened. Twenty-four were arrested, a few bloodied. They clearly had been forcibly detained. Many students were bussed back to their schools, and I cannot say what the current situation is for them.

It seems like whenever young people try to express their displeasure with the status quo, attempts are made to silence, belittle, criminalize and brutalize them. Most, if not all, of the students are of Mexican heritage and made comments about how what happened to them on Monday was no different then the actions normally taken against them in their communities: Repression, abuse and shifting the blame for violence on the shoulders of unarmed youth of color.

The Los Angeles Police Department never could have pulled that off on Saturday, March 25, when more than 1 million marched in the streets. Why? Because they were outnumbered.

The power that comes in numbers that high enabled the march to be loud, politically potent and unstoppable. Also, marches have continued all over the U.S. in response to the growing attack on immigrants in this country.

We have to show the San Diego Police Department, the Escondido Police Department and all police that the brutalization and criminalization of our youth is unacceptable. We need to outnumber them again, and demand that the right to dissent be protected for all of us, including youth of color in Southern California.
Laura Woodward, San Diego

Back to the top

A new fight for civil rights

I HAD just finished reading your article about the birth of a new movement ("The making of a new movement," March 17) when CNN reported on the huge turnout of immigrants in LA.

I am nothing short of astonished by the scope and size of this movement. Over the past two weeks, hundreds of thousands of American workers have left their jobs to join mass demonstrations composed of mostly other working-class folks.

This has got to be one of the most important developments for progressives in decades. Besides what this means for immigrant rights, the emergence of this movement has punctured a big hole in the atmosphere of fear that the government has been whipping up since 9/11. Keep up the good work.
R.B., Baltimore, Md.

Back to the top

SW was too hard on sailors

IN RESPONSE to "U.S. military crimes in Japan" (February 24): The sailors in the 7th fleet face a battle that few know about. The only time that their situation sees any publication is when one does something extreme, as in the case of Seaman William Oiliver Reese.

All it takes is one person of a higher rank to not approve of the attire they have on and they can be denied from even leaving their ships. These sailors live aboard these ships, in 2.5 foot by 2.5 foot by 6.5 foot "coffin racks" all year long. They are not even allowed, without special permission, to stay out past midnight.

This seaman Reese incident put even further restrictions on these sailors with already low moral. They have made a buddy system a requirement for any alcohol-related activities, and a 3 a.m. all hands curfew. That curfew greatly restricts sailors. It is now impossible for anyone living on the ship to leave the port town because trains stop at midnight and don't start until 5 a.m.

So instead of avoiding the place that they are trying to forget, they must stay near it. They must also watch the senior people get away with activities that would land them in cuffs.

These young men and women aboard the vessels of the 7th fleet stationed in Yokosuka, Japan, are some of the hardest working people in the Navy. The USS Kitty Hawk is the only forward deployed aircraft carrier in the Navy.

The workweeks that they enjoy in port are between 75 and 98 hours long. They stabilize more out to sea at about 84 hours. They get to watch their seniors take leave whenever they want and for as long as they want. However, they generally get one 14-day period a year to go back and see friends and family at home.

The senior people live among their friends and family. It's a cultural struggle there between people that want to avoid their wives at home and the junior people that just want to forget work for a while.

Yet despite all of this, these people are the closest-knit community I've ever been among. The junior people aboard these ships watch out for each other and help one another out. Yet they are made out to be criminals by everyone including their bosses whenever it's possible. They accomplish tasks in a fraction of the time it would take any other aircraft carrier crew to finish the same revolution.

I served aboard that ship for three years. I am proud to say that I know more people that were of the junior ranks that are of sound moral character than I've found in one place any were here back in the states.

Those people know and live core values that are only whispered on this side of the ocean: Brotherhood, solidarity, comradery--these are ideals that are the way of life for these people, yet even their superiors want to accuse them of being a group of criminals. Instead of making monsters of them, America should take a moment and look at how they live and learn from them.

The chain of command for the ship will continue to punish these people as hard as they can, but they will be fighting a symptom of a bigger problem, not the cause. I've yet to know a junior person that has not mentally cracked in some fashion in that place. Sailors live like prisoners, they are treated like criminals, and some of them actually begin to believe that they are, until they finally snap and do something that they regret.
Bryan Schaefer, Former IT2 aboard the USS Kitty Hawk, St. Louis, Mo.

Home page | Back to the top