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News and reports

June 9, 2006 | Page 11

OTHER STORIES BELOW:
Aaron Dixon for Senate
More funding for AIDS treatment

Stand up for immigrant rights

ACTIVISTS ACROSS the country have been organizing to send a message to politicians and anti-immigrant bigots that immigrants are welcome here.

-- In San Ysidro, Calif., 200 demonstrators organized by the Sí, Se Puede (Yes We Can) Coalition turned out June 3 to protest George W. Bush's plan to militarize the border. Speakers called for amnesty for undocumented workers, and opposed the immigration bills now under consideration in Congress.

Nativo López of the Mexican American Political Association called on demonstrators to reject both the Democratic and Republican parties' immigration strategies, and spoke of the relatively low turnout at the rally as an indication of the need for more grassroots organizing.

Later, protesters marched to the San Diego-Tijuana border crossing, passing a counter-demonstration of about a dozen anti-immigrant Minutemen supporters along the way. During a verbal confrontation between the two sides, police pushed immigrant rights marchers, and one anti-racist protester was attacked by police and arrested.

The march continued to the border crossing, winding through a busy shopping area, where several pedestrians joined in the march. After returning to the rally site, a smaller group of demonstrators moved to the San Diego Police Headquarters for an impromptu protest in support of the arrested activist.

-- Elsewhere, racist anti-immigrant groups have been on the march, feeling emboldened by the recent legislative attacks on immigrant rights.

In Fremont, Calif., a group calling itself the East Bay Coalition for Border Security has said that it plans to hold bi-weekly rallies this summer in support of its right-wing agenda. But when the group turned out on June 2, pro-immigrant forces turned out to counter their hate, outnumbering the racists by a five-to-one margin.

And in New York City, with only two hours notice, dozens of anti-racist protesters turned out to confront about 50 anti-immigrant racists holding a demonstration outside the Mexican consultate June 3.

Organizers of the racist rally--called by the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps and the newly formed New Yorkers for Immigration Control and Enforcement--refused to publicize their actions except through a press release published the day of the demonstration. Counter-protesters from the International Socialist Organization, Pachamama, Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, CecoMex and the CUNY Coalition for Immigrant Rights quickly pulled together an emergency response.

Despite pouring rain, the numbers of anti-racists quickly swelled, and within an hour, the number of pro-immigrant rights activists matched the number of racists. Shouting "Racists go home!" and "Sí, se puede--immigrants are welcome here," the anti-racists forced the anti-immigrant protesters to leave after only an hour, and later confronting a small group that had set up shop on a nearby street corner.

Meanwhile, activists in Chicago met to debate and discuss the next steps for the immigrant rights movement at the first annual "Festival del Inmigrante" (Immigrant Festival). Sponsored by Latino Organization of the South West (LOS), the March 10 Coalition and the Chicagoland Student Network for Immigrant Rights, the three-day Festival drew 500 activists and included music, art and political forums covering topics such as labor rights, Mexican politics, and globalization.

Jonah Birch, Ketty Burgos, Richard Greenblatt and Michael Smith contributed to this report.

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Aaron Dixon for Senate
By Jesse Hagopian

SEATTLE--Malik Rahim, a founder of the Louisiana chapter of the Black Panther Party and cofounder of the post-Katrina "Common Ground" relief collective in New Orleans, visited Washington state last week to raise money for New Orleans relief efforts and to support the Aaron Dixon campaign.

"Thirty-five years ago, a lot of young people got together in the Black Panther Party to fight for justice for everyone--regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation," said Dixon, the Washington Green Party's candidate for U.S. Senate, as he introduced Rahim. "Today, we are coming back--and when Hurricane Katrina hit, Malik Rahim stepped up to the challenge."

Rahim gave a powerful eyewitness account of the days following Katrina and made the connection between the struggles of African Americans in New Orleans and immigrant workers.

"After the hurricane, who were the most exploited workers?" asked Rahim. "Who did they send into these mold-infested houses in toxic waters, without training and proper safety equipment? Mexican immigrants. And now they are talking about using the National Guard to protect the border--they weren't worried about protecting the border when they needed this work to be done!"

Rahim's grassroots relief organization Common Ground has served meals to more than 80,000 people, established three health clinics and organized thousands of students to help the people of New Orleans prepare for the coming hurricane season--without a dime from the government.

Not a single politician has met with Rahim or other Common Ground organizers, but the effort to bring justice to Katrina survivors continues as they are currently organizing a bus tour around the country that will return displaced people to New Orleans to mark the anniversary of the hurricane.

"We can transform America," Rahim said. "But you must get involved beyond just this meeting--I urge you to support Aaron Dixon, to organize and to fight injustice everywhere."

For information about Common Ground, visit commongroundrelief.org. To learn about Aaron Dixon's Senate campaign, go to dixon4senate.com.

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More funding for AIDS treatment
By Mitch Day

NEW YORK--More than 1,000 people demonstrated at the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York City on May 31 to demand more funding for global HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention.

A day before the conference, the UN issued a report documenting a decrease in the rate of HIV infections in 10 countries, with one spokesperson calling 2005 the "least bad year" of the AIDS epidemic--but the emphasis should be on the word "bad."

In the five years since the last UN General Assembly meeting on the issue, 15 million people have died from AIDS, and an additional 25 million have become infected with HIV. The UN estimates that 38.6 million people are now infected with HIV globally, and the overall infection rate has shown no sign of decline, with the epidemic spreading to new countries.

The Bush administration hasn't lived up to its promise to give $10 billion to the Global AIDS Fund, and its unwillingness to fund initiatives at the international level is matched by its unwillingness to fund AIDS initiatives at home.

The demonstrators at the rally were overwhelmingly Black and Latino, which reflects the fact that more than 65 percent of new HIV infections in the U.S. are within these communities.

Yet as Waheedah Shabazz of ACT UP-Philadelphia pointed out at the rally, the 2006 federal budget left no funding for the Minority AIDS Initiative. The budget also made cuts to Medicaid--the single largest provider to people living with HIV/AIDS.

Demonstrators at the rally had a good idea of where all the money is going, with several holding signs saying, "Money for AIDS, not Iraq!" Ending this epidemic will mean taking on a system that puts drug company profits and war before millions of human lives.

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