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News and reports

June 30, 2006 | Pages 14 and 15

OTHER STORIES BELOW:
Protesting police torture in Chicago
Fighting racism in the U.S.
Stop Israel's home demolitions
End executions
San Francisco State University

Defend the South Central Farm
By Fernando Ramirez

LOS ANGELES--In the early morning hours of June 13, a swarm of police forcibly evicted farmers and community activists from the 14-acre South Central Farm. Some 50 people were arrested, 40 of whom had been camping out to protect the farm, which the police had been threatening for weeks. Local and national news stations carried live broadcasts of the events.

The farm's 14 acres are divided into hundreds of plots where more than 350 families from the community grow their own food to sustain their immediate and extended families.

After the police had done their dirty work, hundreds of supporters and activists gathered throughout the morning to show their support and outrage at the police repression. "People are here to protect the needy! Police are here to protect the greedy!" chanted the crowd. About a dozen activists held a sit-in on one of the busiest streets surrounding the farm, backing up traffic for miles during rush hour.

Police used their batons against the people while bulldozers hired by Ralph Horowitz, a multimillionaire developer from Beverly Hills, demolished part of the farm, bringing tears to the eyes of the farmers. Horowitz plans to destroy the nation's largest urban farm in order to build a warehouse.

In recent weeks, the support of several Hollywood figures, including Joan Baez, Daryl Hannah, Willie Nelson, Danny Glover and Martin Sheen, has put the spotlight on the eviction of the farmers.

But for months, farmers, community activists and environmentalists put pressure on city politicians to preserve the farm, which provides a livelihood and a welcome green space to countless people in the area.

During his campaign, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had promised to support green policies, but when push came to shove, he and other city councilors turned their backs on the farmers--and put the greed of a millionaire developer ahead of the needs of working class people.

For more information about helping the South Central Farmers, go to www.southcentralfarmers.org.

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Protesting police torture in Chicago
By Andrew Sisco

CHICAGO--More than 100 people gathered outside the Cook County Courthouse June 16 as part of a demonstration to demand the release of documents concerning police torture practices used for years on Chicago's Southeast Side.

Members of the Workship Coalition, the Campaign To End The Death Penalty (CEDP) and others turned out to protest the systematic targeting of young African American males with beatings by police in order to force confessions.

Exonerated death row inmate Anthony Porter stated that former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge, who lives off a healthy pension provided by tax dollars, should be "thrown in jail" for "allowing police to engage in those inhumane practices," not to mention Burge's own active participation in the torture itself.

One of the immediate goals of the CEDP and the Workship Coalition is to ensure that Burge is held accountable for his crimes. In addition, said the CEDP's Paula Carballido, "we need to abolish the death penalty." The "men still rotting in jail need to be released," she said, adding that Burge, as well as the current Mayor Richard Daley--who was the state's attorney at the time much of the torture took place--need to be held accountable.

After the demonstration, several protesters filed into the courtroom, only to learn that the case has been served another continuance until June 30.

The institutionalized racism of the criminal injustice system is being made apparent, not only through the stories of those who were targeted by the police, but also by the response from Chicago's administrators and politicians--which ranges from apathy to downright acceptance and support.

Jeanette Johnson, a mother of one of the imprisoned torture victims, said that we need to "keep fighting on the outside and support the boys on the inside."

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Fighting racism in the U.S.
By Michele H. Showman

NEW YORK CITY--One hundred people turned out to "The New Civil Rights Movement," a June 14 meeting to build multi-racial solidarity in the immigrant rights movement.

The meeting, which included members of the Harlem branch of the International Socialist Organization, together with the Harlem Tenants Council and Cecomex, a Mexican-American group in East Harlem, was held just four days after a demonstration protesting Columbia University's expansion into Harlem.

Among the keynote speakers were Cleo Silvers, a Service Employees International Union Local 1199 activist and former Black Panther, and Stanley Howard, a former Death Row prisoner and member of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, who called in from Illinois.

According to Silvers, the gains of the immigrant rights movement will benefit working people overall. Attacking immigrants, Howard said, "is about attention diversion. There's no immigration problem...For us to support the immigrants is almost like us supporting ourselves."

Nellie Bailey of the Harlem Tenants Council pointed out that, with male African American unemployment at 51 percent in portions of New York City and evictions taking place throughout Harlem, it is all-too-easy to scapegoat immigrants.

During the lively question-and-answer period, a young man from Families for Freedom, a New York defense network for immigrants facing deportation, spoke to many Caribbean African Americans facing deportation: "The immigrant rights movement in New York is a Black movement in a big way."

The meeting demonstrated the potential for a multiracial immigrant rights movement.

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Stop Israel's home demolitions
By Mark Dickman

CHICAGO--One hundred fifty demonstrators gathered here June 21 in front of the Northern Trust Company, where the Caterpillar Corporation was holding its annual shareholders' meeting.

Caterpillar Corporation sells bulldozers and other construction equipment to Israel, which is then used to demolish Palestinian homes, orchards and build Israel's apartheid wall. Caterpillar bulldozers are funded by U.S. military aid to Israel, which is itself funded by U.S. taxpayers.

A small counter-demonstration of flag-waving supporters of the state of Israel turned out on the far side of the street.

Protesters against Cat held signs reading: "Don't let Caterpillar ignore human rights!"; "End the occupation. Free Palestine"; "Stop the wall! No land confiscation"; and "In memory to Rachel Corrie--martyr for peace".

A press conference also was held, at which Rachel Corrie's parents spoke. Cindy Corrie talked of Cat's responsibility for violations of human rights and international law. Cindy also spoke of how her daughter was killed by one of Caterpillar's D-9 bulldozers. She stated that she had personally witnessed home demolitions by Caterpillar's bulldozers and their equipment being used to build the apartheid wall.

After the news conference, the Corries attended the Caterpillar Corporation's annual shareholders' meeting, where they presented 6,000 signed postcards protesting Caterpillar's sale of equipment to Israel.

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End executions
By Leah Siegel

BURLINGTON, Vt.--On June 16, a federal court sentenced Donald Fell to death by lethal injection.

Fell was sentenced to death, despite the fact that Vermont abolished the death penalty in 1987, and no one has been executed in the state since 1954. Because the case crossed state borders, however, it fell under federal jurisdiction. The case became a way for the federal government to re-introduce the death penalty in a state where it has been abolished.

After the sentencing, Vermonters Against the Death Penalty held a press conference where speakers from the New England area voiced their opposition to the death penalty. Local anti-death penalty activist Rachel Lawler said that she opposes the death penalty because it is "racist, executes the poor and is geographically biased."

For those reasons, it's time to put an end to the death penalty once and for all.

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San Francisco State University
By Doniella Maher

SAN FRANCISCO--Nearly two months after students at San Francisco State University (SFSU) were physically removed from a career fair for protesting military recruiters, the campus administration has made it clear that they plan to continue to persecute them.

On April 14, members of Students Against War exercised their right to peacefully protest by holding signs and chanting against military recruiters. Several were charged with disturbing the peace, and were suspended from campus.

In the aftermath, six of the 10 received letters from the Office of Judicial Affairs, requesting a confidential meeting to discuss a complaint that has been filed by SFSU's chief of public safety.

In response to the students' request that SFSU recognize their National Lawyers Guild lawyer and due process rights, the university initially stated that that no legal representation would be allowed. On June 6, the students organized a press conference to present a petition of more than 1,000 signatures supporting them.

In an informal meeting with the administration, students stated their demands that all charges be dropped, that the university recognize and communicate with the students' lawyer, that any future disciplinary proceedings or "conferences" be held jointly with all students included, and finally, that the police report and complaint, as well as any video and photographs, be provided to the students and lawyer.

The university has agreed to recognize the students' lawyer, their due process rights and their request for a joint conference; however, it plans to continue with the disciplinary proceedings.

As support for the illegal and unjust war in Iraq reaches an all-time low, it is more important than ever that antiwar demonstrators are not criminalized for their opposition.

E-mail letters of support to SFSU President Robert Corrigan at [email protected], or Vice President of Student Affairs Penny Saffold at [email protected], or call 415-338-2032. Sign a petition in defense of the students at http://www.petitiononline.com/sfsu10/petition.html.

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