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News and reports

May 19, 2006 | Pages 14 and 15

OTHER STORIES BELOW:
Remember Kent State
End the War tour
Aaron Dixon for Senate
Solidarity across borders

Students for immigrant rights
By Orlando Sepulveda

CHICAGO--More than 40 people attended the founding meeting of the Chicagoland Student Network for Immigrant Rights on May 8.

Students from both college campuses and high schools came together to discuss how to build on the momentum of the 600,000-strong immigrant rights demonstration in the city at the beginning of the month. Other organizations also attended, including representatives of Radio Arte (a student-run radio station serving the Spanish-speaking neighborhoods of Pilsen and Little Village), the Council of Islamic Organizations, UNITE HERE Local 1 and ChicagOtra.

The Network agreed on several political demands, including amnesty for all immigrants, confronting the Minutemen and opposition to the ongoing war in Iraq. Those who had attended the May 1 demonstration also expressed their frustration with how Democratic Party politicians took over the stage, watering down the political message and pushing aside the grassroots organizations.

Participants supported the idea of an ongoing educational component at meetings to continue discussion on these and other issues relevant to the growing immigrant rights movement. The network also formed committees for coordinating, education and organizing, and plans are already underway for a Festival del Inmigrante with workshops, cultural events and music on the weekend of June 2.

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Remember Kent State
By Allen Hines

KENT, Ohio--Three hundred people recently came together on the campus of Kent State University to remember the four students murdered by the Ohio National Guard on May 4, 1970.

Shortly before midnight, nearly 150 people gathered at a candlelight vigil in the parking lot where the students were gunned down. A local Jewish group held a prayer, and a few speakers talked about the enduring political significance of the event.

Starting at midnight, about 20 students took turns holding lanterns in the exact spots the four students died. The vigil lasted until 12:24 p.m., the time National Guard troops began shooting.

This year's commemoration, dubbed "The cost of war: Then and now," had a sharper political message than in previous years. Featured speakers at the two-hour event were Mary Ann Vecchio, who was captured as a 14-year-old girl in the famous picture of her crying out in horror as she knelt over Jeffrey Miller's body, and CodePink founder Medea Benjamin.

Vecchio told her audience to continue to fight against the unjust war on Iraq, just as she and others did during the Vietnam War. "The work never stops, and that's why I'm here today," she said. "This conflict has to be resolved quickly."

Benjamin spoke of the increasing costs of a college education and how cutting the bloated defense budget could help students afford to go to school. She also said students should take a more active role in government. "George Bush calls himself the decision-maker," she said. "I think we want to be the deciders in this country."

The Northwest Ohio Peace Coalition set up over 2,700 white markers in a field adjacent to the commemoration. Each marker bore the name of a soldier who has died in Afghanistan or Iraq.

During the commemoration, Black United Students and the NAACP held a silent march in protest of the recent expulsions of two Black students. The expulsions came after Malik Griffin allegedly hit another student with his car.

Kent policy allows the administration to expel students on suspicion that they committed a serious crime, but this policy is rarely used to expel white students. Since the expulsions, the student who was allegedly hit has dropped the charges, but the Black students are still barred from the university.

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End the War tour
By Lonnie Lopez

SEATTLE--As part of a week of Mother's Day Peace Events, antiwar activists Cindy Sheehan and Anthony Arnove spoke to a crowd of nearly 400 at Seattle's Town Hall May 8.

Proceeds from the event, organized by Mothers Day Original Movement Against War and Seattle's Code Pink, went to support the Revolutionary Association of Women in Afghanistan and Madre, an international women's human rights organization.

Arnove, author of Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal, reminded the audience "We're three years into the war and the antiwar movement was shown to be right while the press, the politicians, and the pundits were all wrong."

To contradict the Bush administration's claims that the U.S. military is bringing "democracy" to Iraq, Arnove reported that recent Zogby polls indicate that only 1 percent of Iraqis think America invaded Iraq to liberate them. "The military is currently facing the largest shortfalls in recruitment since the Vietnam War," he added, "and the largest deficits are among African American and Latino recruits."

Arnove noted that the civil rights movement in the U.S. helped to end the Vietnam war by inspiring rank-and-file soldiers, and drew the connection today between the emerging immigrant rights movement and the antiwar movement.

For her part, Sheehan criticized politicians who voted against the war but continue to support funding it. "Why do you keep voting for war funding?" Sheehan angrily demanded of Congress. "They say, 'To support our troops,'" she told the crowd, "But how much of that money goes to the troops? Not much."

After being pressured not to run as an antiwar candidate against Democratic California Sen. Dianne Feinstein earlier this year, Sheehan admitted that "We don't have a two-party system here. We have a one party system."

Sheehan also emphasized the right of the Iraqi people to resist the occupation of their country. "The Iraqis have a right to defend themselves, even though my son had to die," she said, adding that her son was as much a victim of this war for oil and empire as the Iraqis who have died fighting for their country.

At heart, Sheehan's message was one of action and hope. As she told the crowd, "When are people of conscience going to draw that line in the sand and say we're not going to vote for you if you support the war?"

To learn more about Anthony Arnove's "End the War" tour, visit www.endthewartour.org.

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Aaron Dixon for Senate
By Steve Leigh and Jesse Hagopian

SEATTLE--By a resounding vote May 13, the Green Party of Washington State nominated Aaron Dixon, founding leader of the Seattle Black Panther Party, as its 2006 U.S. Senate nominee.

Aaron has been a community activist since the 1960s and has maintained resolute opposition to the corporate-dominated political system and its two political parties, the Democrats and Republicans. He is campaigning in opposition to the U.S. occupation of Iraq, for immigrant rights and gay marriage, and for the interests of the poor and workers.

His Democratic opponent, Maria Cantwell, supports the occupation of Iraq, various free trade agreements and the USA PATRIOT Act. Dixon already has speaking engagements lined up around the state and plans a vigorous campaign to build an independent political movement against both corporate parties.

The Green Party also elected two national coordinating committee delegates--Aram Falsafi and Mike Gillis--who are committed to keeping the Greens independent from the Democrats and want to democratize the internal structure of the Green Party.

The Greens also endorsed several important ballot initiatives, including "Washington won't discriminate" to defend the new state law that protects sexual minorities from discrimination in jobs, housing and credit. They also endorsed the campaign against Property Rights Initiative 933, which would gut land use and environmental legislation, and supported Clean Energy Initiative 937. The Greens also listened to a presentation on I-86, the College Not Combat initiative in the city of Seattle which the Seattle Green Party already endorsed.

In sum, the convention made decisions that will lay the basis for becoming a much larger, more active and vibrant party.

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Solidarity across borders
By John Osmand

OXNARD, Calif.--Approximately two dozen protesters held a candle-light vigil outside Wal-Mart in memory of 14-year-old Francisco Cortes, who was killed by police in the Mexican town of Atenca.

Protesters gathered May 10 in response to a call to action by the Comité Derechos Humanos de la Raza. Francisco Romero, who spoke at the vigil, described the alarming police repression in Atenca, including the rape of five women, the imprisonment of 200 people and the shooting death of one child.

Wal-Mart was targeted by the protesters because of the corporation's connection to the repression. The police crackdown occurred in response to popular resistance in Atenca to a plan to build a Wal-Mart store there.

The previous week, around 60 flower vendors were forced off public land by police. When the people of Atenca came to their defense, the police responded violently.

Protesters were not allowed in front of Wal-Mart, but activists chanted on the sidewalk and passed out flyers to pedestrians and drivers in the parking lot and on the busy street. The flyers explained the crisis in Atenca and asked the public to boycott Wal-Mart.

Several similar protests against Wal-Mart and the Mexican Consulate were also held the previous week in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Santa Ana, according to Romero.

For more information, contact the Comité at [email protected].

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