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News and reports

September 22, 2006 | Page 11

March for immigrant rights
Prosecute police torture in Chicago

Stop the raids
By Kenny Gramsky and Owen Goodwin

SANTA CRUZ, Calif.--Immigrant rights activists here organized a rapid response to the recent spate of sweeps by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

Within five days of the first reports of the stepped-up raids, more than 100 people showed up for an emergency community meeting called by a diverse group of activists, including the Watsonville Brown Berets, ANSWER Youth and the International Socialist Organization. Speakers included neighbors of those arrested, naturalized citizens of various origins, local schoolteachers and community activists.

A second meeting is planned to implement a network of "safe houses"--churches and community centers where members of affected communities and those seeking information about their rights can visit. There was also discussion of pushing Santa Cruz and Watsonville city councils to stop working with ICE agents and declare these cities "sanctuary cities."

With school starting this week, it will be important to draw in the many student immigrant rights activists at the University of California-Santa Cruz campus. The Brown Berets are also planning a September 24 rally in Watsonville.

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March for immigrant rights
By David Thurston and Derron Thweatt

WASHINGTON--About 5,000 people came to the National Mall September 7 to march for immigrant rights. The mobilization drew some participation from other cities on the East Coast and was called by the National Capital Immigration Coalition (NCIC).

The mobilization was called around demands including legalization for all and halt to deportations. The turnout was similar to numbers at actions around the country over the Labor Day weekend, but far below the hundreds of thousands that organizers had anticipated.

In the spring, NCIC was a prominent supporter of the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill, and the subsequent Senate compromise. Yet in the lead-up to this march, NCIC publications have argued against the Senate bill for dividing families and criminalizing undocumented workers.

Jaime Contreras, president of NCIC, spoke against the bill from the stage. Also speaking were several Democratic politicians, including Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.).

In contradiction to the demands of the march, Kennedy declared that the Senate "passed a god bill." This praise is for legislation that would build a border wall and deport millions who have been in the U.S. less than two years.

Other Democratic speakers at the rally and NCIC made sure to continuously emphasize voting in the midterm elections in November.

There were also messages of solidarity. Bruce Gordon, president of the NAACP, spoke about the need for unity between Blacks and Latinos. "They want us to fight over the crumbs," he said. "We don't want the crumbs, we want a seat at the table."

The speakers' list also included powerful testimony from local day laborers, and from the campaign to organize the Smithfield meatpacking plant in North Carolina.

In spite of its size, chants on the march were quite spirited. The crowd was peppered with homemade signs, banners and T-shirts against deportations. Many on the march were aware of the struggle of Chicago immigrant rights activist Elvira Arellano, who is fighting back against being deported to Mexico.

After the demonstration, questions remained about why the turnout had been so far below organizers' expectations. There were various factors, including the amount of mobilization at the grassroots level, the lack of clear demands for the march, the stalling of immigration legislation in Congress and the emphasis by many immigrant rights groups on voter turnout in November rather than activism.

These are issues that activists will need to debate in charting a way forward for the movement.

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Prosecute police torture in Chicago
By Julien Ball

CHICAGO--About 150 people marched through downtown September 15 to demand justice for victims of police torture under former police Commander Jon Burge.

In July, special prosecutors Edward Egan and Robert Boyle released the findings of their four-year, $7 million investigation into the torture. Their report acknowledges that Burge and his underlings horrifically abused people in their custody, using beatings, suffocation and electroshock to elicit "confessions."

But it allows these brutal cops to skate once again, accepting their claims that the statute of limitations on their crimes has expired. Meanwhile, many of their victims remain behind bars.

Many of the demonstrators carried signs denouncing Burge, Mayor Richard M. Daley and Cook County States Attorney Richard Devine. When much of the torture happened, Daley was then Cook County State's Attorney, and Devine his top assistant. They both turned a blind eye to documented instances of torture.

The demonstration, organized by a new group, Black People Against Police Torture (BPAPT), brought a largely African American but multiracial crowd to protest the torture of over 190 Black victims by racist cops. Other organizations in attendance included the Campaign to End the Death Penalty (CEDP), 8th Day Center for Justice and the Chicago Coalition to Protect Public Housing.

The march was important as a means for people to express their anger, but this sentiment unfortunately was muted, as the event was billed as a silent demonstration.

Still, activists with BPAPT plan to continue organizing to introduce a reparations bill for torture victims and to strip Burge of his taxpayer-funded pension and legal fees. Meanwhile, the CEDP, alongside family members of the torture victims, is keeping up the pressure to demand new trials for those still behind bars.

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