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News and reports

November 10, 2006 | Pages 10 and 11

Oppose the Minutemen
Defend the right to protest
Fight racism at University of Illinois
Oaxaca solidarity

Housing after Katrina
By Gimena Gordillo

NEW ORLEANS--Some 20 activists held a meeting in early November to force the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to reopen several public housing communities across the city.

Using the disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina as a cover, HUD has closed most of the public housing units, leaving residents who still have leases with no place to go. Most of the units sustained little if any damage, and residents have offered to clean and repair their own apartments to move back in. HUD instead has responded by seeking the approval to bulldoze the buildings down.

Since the hurricane, housing prices have risen dramatically. Rents have more than doubled in most of the city. Meanwhile, 4,500 public apartments are unoccupied due to HUD's plan to tear them down and put in "mixed-income" housing.

Residents of public housing who were present vowed to continue trying to forcibly reoccupy their housing units until they were home, even though nine people were arrested last week for attempting to reoccupy a public housing complex.

There will be a citywide November 9 organizing meeting to finalize plans for a possible march to demand a return of public services to the city, including public housing, Charity Hospital (which has been closed since the storm for no reason), more schools and better education, public transportation and rent control.

On November 18, a rally organized by the People's Hurricane Relief Fund will march on the governor's mansion in Baton Rouge to demand that $10 billion in relief money be used immediately. Other demands include affordable housing, total replacement of privately owned homes, compensation to all renters for their losses and rent control.

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Oppose the Minutemen
By Robert McDonald

AUSTIN, Texas--Supporters of the racist Minuteman Project and the U.S. Border Watch group were evenly matched in Austin by about 80 to 100 immigrant rights activists.

Police separated the lines of activists on the Capitol grounds by about 20 yards. Antiracist protesters chanted in both Spanish and English--"That's bullshit, get off it, the enemy is profit! Unemployment and inflation are not caused by immigration!" The Minutemen supporters responded with such gems as "Wetback, wetback, go away."

Tensions were high, and protesters were agitated when an activist was detained without charges by the police for attempting to enter the Capitol to use the restroom. He was later released but told he must stay away for 24 hours.

The police spent most of their time enforcing an arbitrary distance between the multiethnic protesters and the lily-white anti-immigrant bigots.

The Minutemen held signs with preposterous claims like "25 Americans are killed by illegal aliens each day," and outright racist pronouncements such as "If you can't read this, you don't belong here!" Pro-immigration activists held out their positive demands, chanting "Don't give into racist fear, immigrants are welcome here!"

As the Minutemen's event wound down, the energy of the protest went up--the antiracists followed those leaving the Capitol grounds, chanting "Racists, go home!" and occupying the sidewalk in front of the Capitol until no anti-immigration supporters remained.

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Defend the right to protest

ON OCTOBER 18, hundreds of students and workers at the University of California (UC)-Santa Cruz gathered at a meeting of Board of Regents to protest rising tuition costs, low wages and the loss of affirmative action programs. Campus police responded to protesters' peaceful civil disobedience by attacking them with pepper spray and batons. ALETTE KENDRICK, a student activist who was arrested with two others, spoke with Alessandro Tinonga.

WHAT DID you hope to accomplish with the protest?

Ultimately, we wanted to expose the farce of the public comment period in which we are supposedly allowed to represent our concerns within 30 seconds, in a forum that is only allowed to last 30 minutes.

WHEN DID the violence break out?

Almost an hour and a half before the violence that took place during the arrest, several incidents of violence had already occurred--all of them by the hands of the police. At one point, two people came out the front door and some thought that they were regents. So, the crowd formed a "U" shape around the door to see, and that's when the officers used their batons to push people back.

At one point, [police] grabbed a British exchange student by the neck and face as they broke through the crowd. A group of people and I tried to pull the student free to stop him from being dragged along the asphalt. An officer then pointed me out and said, "Get her." They grabbed me by the arms and dragged me from the middle of the quad into the Lecture Hall.

The cops were like mad dogs, and it felt like my arms were being pulled out of their sockets. My injuries were pretty serious. Tissue had actually been torn between my ribs and also in my shoulders.

WHAT IS the current status of your case?

All three of us--Steve, Tonnie and I--received citations for misdemeanor resisting arrest and disrupting public assembly. I got three counts of battery of a police officer. I still face the possibility of having those become felony charges, but I probably won't know until my court date on November 30.

WHAT ARE the next steps for the movement to democratize UC?

I think we need to say that the movement is in its early stages. The demonstration was important in that it mobilized students and workers. I think we managed to communicate with the student body as to what the regents are and what they are doing.

The protest was organized by a large coalition of activists from various causes: students concerned with the environmental and economic effects of the development plan, the rising tuition costs and the decline in the quality of our education; workers struggling for decent wages; students protesting the cutting of outreach and retention programs for students of color; AB 540 [immigrant] students; and Students Against War.

Contact UC-Santa Cruz acting Chancellor George Blumenthal to protest the arrests by e-mailing [email protected].

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Fight racism at University of Illinois
By Nick Schumerth

URBANA, Ill.--A crowd of more than 300 students and activists gathered on the University of Illinois campus to protest the recent "Tacos and Tequila" party held by two Greek organizations. Members of the participating fraternity dressed in ponchos and sombreros, while some sorority members wore padding to give the illusion of pregnancy.

Several minority and antiracist student groups came together to listen to speakers from various organizations.

The desire to build a coalition of minority student groups was a dominant theme, as was the reminder to view the specific events in the larger context of school-sanctioned racism. Other issues were also addressed, including hiring more minority faculty and getting rid of the university mascot, the "Chief," which is an offensive caricature of Native Americans.

After a round of speeches, the protest moved to the sidewalks in front of the two offending Greek houses, where the demonstrators held signs and chanted. The university administration building was the next stop, where a spokesperson read a statement from Chancellor Richard Herman. In an open question session following the statement, students pressured the administration to take action, rather than just issue a bland apology.

Eventually, a meeting between students and the administration was arranged, but pressure from below will be the only means by which racism on campus and the institutionally racist practices of the university can be ended.

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Oaxaca solidarity
By Paul Dean

PORTLAND, Ore.--More than 80 people demonstrated outside the Mexican consulate here to protest the repression and killings in Oaxaca. Two people were arrested after they chained themselves to the front door. A huge banner was dropped from the next-door building that read, "Todos somos Oaxaca" (We are all Oaxaca).

Among the people who addressed the crowd was Portland school teacher Doug Sherman. He spoke of his contact with teachers in Oaxaca and shared an e-mail from his daughter who is studying there, in which she described the repression going on.

An official came out of the consulate to say that he didn't want any violence directed against people there at the consulate on business. In response, someone from the picket addressed the crowd in Spanish, explaining that picketers were there to oppose the violence of the Mexican government.

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