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News and reports

April 7, 2006 | Pages 10 and 11

OTHER STORIES BELOW:
Stop sexual assault
Apartheid schools
Nazis out of Olympia

Fighting for immigrant rights

A NEW wave of protests took to the streets last week to demand justice for immigrants.

-- In New York City, at least 25,000 turned out April 1 at a demonstration called by the Chamber of Commerce and clergy members. The mainly working-class and Latino crowd began gathering at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge in the morning—and three hours after the march had begun, protesters were still crossing the bridge in a line that stretched for more than a mile.

"If you hurt immigrants, you are hurting America," read a sign held by one marcher. Others signs read, "We are your economy" and "I cleaned up Ground Zero." Popular chants included, "¡Queremos amnistía, ahora!" (We want amnesty now!) and "¡Aquí estámos, y no nos vamos, y si nos echan, nos regresamos!" (We're here to stay, and if we're kicked out, we'll come back!).

"We came to say that we're here," George Criollo, an immigrant from Ecuador told the Associated Press. "We have to speak, legal or illegal. We have to speak about this issue."

-- On the same day, in Costa Mesa, Calif., a suburb 40 miles south of Los Angeles, more than 1,500 people turned out in the rain in Costa Mesa.

They were there to rally against Mayor Allan Mansoor's racist proposal—passed last year by the city council—to allow the police officers to be trained by the federal government to enforce immigration laws. This would give police the power to inflict raids and instill fear into largely Latino, working-class neighborhoods.

The demonstration, called by Citizens for Constitutional Rights, brought together groups that included the International Socialist Organization, Service Employees International Union Local 1877, Mexica Movement, Green Party, Hermandad Mexicana, Korean Resource Center, South Asian Network and more. The chant "Sí, se puede" (Yes, we can) was heard throughout.

A tiny counterprotest by the Minutemen and Save Our State was successfully sent packing with the chant "Esos racistas, ellos son los terroristas" (Those racists, they are the real terrorists).

-- Two days earlier, in Los Angeles, approximately 125 people attended a forum hosted by the International Socialist Organization at East Los Angeles College. Plans for a national day of protest and a workers' strike were announced for April 10 and May 1, respectively.

Nativo Lopez of Hermandad Mexicana and the Mexican American Political Association expressed hope that the May 1 strike would spark a revival of the May Day spirit in the U.S. March organizers are calling for a day without work, buying or selling—and for every person to come out to march.

Other speakers included Mohamed Galal, of the University of California-Irvine Muslim Student Association; Coyotl Tezcatlipoca, a grassroots student organizer against the racist Costa Mesa city council; and Rufina Juarez, an organizer with the South Central Farmers.

Calling the growing fight for immigrant rights a "new civil rights movement," Justin Akers Chacón, a professor at San Diego City College and member of the ISO, reminded the crowd that immigrants are forced to come to the U.S. "because of U.S. economic terrorism in the form of NAFTA and CAFTA that has been forcing workers off their land and into the maquiladoras and sweatshops."

"We had over a million people marching in Los Angeles last weekend," he added. "With that show of strength, we should settle for nothing less than full amnesty and civil rights for all immigrants."

Katie Miller and Jennifer Roesch contributed to this report.

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Stop sexual assault
By Kevin Prosen

DURHAM, N.C.—A racist sexual assault by members of Duke University's lacrosse team has sparked a wave of activism here.

The team hired two dancers for a house party on March 13—and then subdued and separated them. One was assaulted and gang-raped by at least three men for 30 minutes.

Both women are African-American and students at historically Black North Carolina Central University. One of the women reported that a player yelled, "Thank your grandfather for my nice cotton shirt," as she left. Neighbors backed up her claim and said they heard other racist epithets during the evening.

Activists from the neighborhood where the incident occurred organized a vigil, and the next morning, more than 150 people gathered outside the offending house beating drums and chanting loudly. The demonstration then marched to the house of the Duke's provost, chanting and continuing to strike their pans until he came out to face the community.

Duke students held a March 27 speakout, the Black Student Union staged a sleep-in on campus the next night, and a previously scheduled Take Back the Night rally March 29 drew 500.

The university, for its part, has done its best to sweep the incident under the rug. When the issue made it into Duke's student paper 11 days later, the team's coach, Mike Pressler, was quoted as saying, "All our focus is on trying to beat the [Georgetown] Hoyas now," calling his players "very mature young men."

Police said the team members have been uncooperative with the investigation, and DNA samples were taken from all the white players—46 of the 47 team members.

The crime has escalated tensions between the elite private university, derisively called "The Plantation" by many residents, and the largely African-American community of Durham. This most recent outrage follows the burning of three crosses downtown last May.

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Apartheid schools
By Juliana Karr, Rochester Teachers Association

ROCHESTER, N.Y.—Jonathan Kozol, education activist and best-selling author, spoke at East High School March 27 about the sorry state of public education in the U.S.

"If you took a photo of a typical inner-city class, it would be indistinguishable from a photograph taken of an all-Black school in Mississippi in 1935 or 1940," he said as he opened his speech. The audience of more than 600 listened with rapt attention as he described his experiences researching his new book, The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America.

Earlier in the day, he addressed the annual conference of the Rochester Teachers Association. Kozol recalled how former Harvard classmates naively ask him if money can really buy a better education. "How can they ask me that question?" said Kozol.

Suburban school districts spend nearly twice as much money per student as urban districts. More funding improves school facilities like cafeterias and gymnasiums, provides field trips and experiential learning, and provides higher salaries for well-trained teachers.

The city of Rochester suffers from devastating unemployment, poverty and crumbling schools. However, we have dedicated teachers, a strong union with a leadership that is willing to fight and concerned parents and community members.

But as Kozol pointed out, what is needed is "nothing short of a mass movement" to fight for quality education for students and a decent standard of living for teachers.

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Nazis out of Olympia
By Brian Huseby

OLYMPIA, Wash.—More than 100 protesters shut down a demonstration of eight members of the Washington State chapter of the National Socialist Movement (NSM).

Many of the protesters were especially infuriated by a bogus claim on the NSM Web site that the demonstration was being held to honor Rachel Corrie, an Olympia native who was killed by an Israel Defense Force bulldozer in 2003.

The neo-Nazi group had announced an April 2 rally at a downtown park. This proved to be a diversionary tactic, and protesters received word an hour later that the Nazis had gathered at a state legislative building several blocks away. The protesters streamed to the building to find the Nazis in full uniform, waving swastikas and Confederate flags and protected by a line of state police.

Once antiracist protesters arrived, the demonstration lasted no more than 15 minutes, drowned out by chants of "Nazis out of Olympia!" At that point, riot-clad police were called in to escort the Nazis away in a state police van.

This strong counter-demonstration showed once again that the way to back fascists down is to confront them and get in their faces.

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