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News and reports

December 1, 2006 | Page 11

OTHER STORIES BELOW:
Gay marriage is a right
Close the School of the Americas
Soldiers speak out against war and occupation
End the occupation

Fight racism at University of Cincinnati
By Kim Fulbright

CINCINNATI--University of Cincinnati (UC) students marched November 20 in response to several racist incidents on campus during the previous two weeks.

Police met the group of more than 100 people when the crowd delivered the agreed demands of the marchers to the university president. The marchers, made up of several student organizations, ended the march at the sixth floor of the UC administration building outside the university president's office door.

The students' demands included a public condemnation of the racist incidents, disciplinary action against individuals responsible for hate crimes and the creation of a protocol for reacting to, as well as reporting, such incidents at UC. The students are also calling for a town hall-style meeting that would allow students to ask questions of administrators and a definition of UC's promoted model of a "just community."

A flurry of organizing on campus could lead to a new student coalition. Groups such as the ISO, United Black Student Association, NAACP, African Student Association, College Greens, Association of Black Engineers, Racial Awareness Program and others are fed up with the administration's policies around hate crimes and its failure to publicly denounce them.

"I dislike the hate, I dislike that we didn't know anything about it," said Karla DeCluett, a student on the march. "It was just word of mouth and a week after the fact. I came to UC, and I knew it was a diverse campus, and I love that it's diverse. I don't want people to think they can [commit] hate crimes, and I just totally disagree with the way that the administration didn't say anything about it."

Besides marching to the administration building, protesters went throughout campus greens, between classroom buildings and marched inside the student union during peak lunch hours. "Hey students, what do you say, tell the bigots to go away," chanted marchers.

Future events are being planned--and protests will continue until administrators meet the students' demands.

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Gay marriage is a right
By Matt Nichter

MADISON, Wis.--Some 150 people marched from the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus to the state Capitol on November 17 to protest a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriages. The amendment was passed by a statewide referendum by a substantial margin on November 7.

Though thousands of activists took part in a well-funded "Fair Wisconsin" campaign to oppose the referendum, the campaign suffered from several shortcomings. Instead of challenging homophobic ideas, many of the campaign's TV ads pandered to them.

The campaign failed to expose the hypocrisy of the conservative "family values" agenda. So, while several of the state's most bigoted legislators were ousted on Election Day, their discriminatory legacy lives on.

At the protest, representatives of Outreach, Inc. and the Teaching Assistants Association encouraged others to keep up the fight. Lauren Schmidt of the International Socialist Organization drew a parallel with the struggle against Jim Crow segregation, when activists defied the law to win equality.

About 50 protesters marched to the City-County Building, where they briefly sat down in front of the court commissioner's office.

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Close the School of the Americas
By Nicole Colson

FT. BENNING, Ga.--More than 20,000 activists gathered here on November 19 for the annual protest against the School of the Americas (SOA).

Today known as the "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation," this Department of Defense training facility that has taught more than 60,000 officers, police and paramilitaries--including many of Latin America's most brutal--since it opened its doors in 1946.

Since 1990, annual protests led by the group SOA Watch have brought tens of thousands to Fort Benning's gates to bear witness to the victims of SOA graduates, and force the school to close its doors for good.

Protesters this year included survivors of torture carried out by SOA-trained soldiers, antiwar activists, labor leaders and members of the religious community. Sixteen activists were arrested after crossing onto the grounds of the military reservation and now face likely prison sentences of three to six months.

This year's protest placed special emphasis on the actions of ordinary people across Latin and South America in resisting the SOA.

Renato Antonio Areiza, a leader of the Colombian Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, was there. Last year, Areiza's sister was murdered by troops under the command of an SOA graduate. In Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Paraguay and Peru, thousands took part in simultaneous protests calling for the school's closure.

In 2004, Venezuela withdrew its soldiers from the school, following a 2002 attempted coup against President Hugo Chávez. Many of the Venezuelan officers involved in the failed coup were reportedly graduates of the school.

Earlier this year, Argentina and Uruguay announced that they would stop sending soldiers there.

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Soldiers speak out against war and occupation
By Lichi D'Amelio

NEW YORK--About 150 antiwar activists, veterans and military family members filled Judson Memorial Church November 17 to hear antiwar Iraq veterans speak out.

The event, titled "Resistance Where it Counts: How Antiwar Soldiers Who Served in Iraq Organized Against the War on the Front Lines," featured Jeff Englehart, Joe Hatcher and Garett Reppenhagen, three veterans of the First Infantry Division who served in Diyala, Iraq.

They wrote the well-known blog Fight to Survive (ftssoldier.blogspot.com) in order to "keep themselves sane" during their otherwise insane--but life-changing--experience.

"We were just a bunch of punks before we joined the Army," said Englehart. "But, we ended up with an education you can't buy in college," he said, referring to the daily crimes committed by the U.S. military that he witnessed in Iraq. "We didn't know what to do, but we knew we had to do something," said Reppenhagen, explaining how the idea for the blog came about. "We had to be witnesses."

All three soldiers spoke of their desire to educate themselves, reading whatever radical literature they could get a hold of, mostly acquired through Tom Barton, editor of GI Special newsletter.

Reppenhagen told a moving story about approaching a soldier and asking him what he thought about the murder of an Iraqi farmer that his battalion had committed earlier that day. "I told him, 'That guy was just a farmer,' and he said, 'Better him than me,' so I asked him, 'What was it that your father did back home?' He looked at me and said, 'He was a farmer.'"

The soldiers expressed genuine concern for the lives of ordinary Iraqis. "I saw people who are not my enemy and who love life, just like anyone else," Englehart continued.

It was this concern that drove them to reach out to Iraqis themselves. They learned how to write "Fuck Bush" in Arabic--and began writing it on the tanks to let Iraqis know what side they were on.

This inspiring event underscored the tremendous potential that exists for organized resistance within the armed forces.

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End the occupation
By Helen Scott

BURLINGTON, Vt.--Former Marine officer and one-time top United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter delivered a devastating indictment of U.S. imperialism to a rapt crowd of more than 200 people on November 17.

Ritter said the war on Iraq was sold to the American people with lies and fear-mongering about non-existent weapons of mass destruction. The war has been waged through civilian slaughter abroad and scapegoating and shredded civil liberties at home.

Given that Bush is responsible for more Iraqi civilian deaths than Saddam Hussein, in a shorter period of time, Ritter asked, "Who is the worse mass murderer?" Condemning the Bush administration as "the greatest threat to the world today," Ritter equally denounced the Democrats, pointing out the Clinton administration's brutal sanctions.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) sent a message of support to the meeting, and Ritter railed against Leahy's hypocrisy, given he agrees with Bush on Iran.

Ritter talked about the subject of his new book, Target Iran: The Truth about the White House's Plans for Regime Change. "Stop panicking, people, they're not close to the bomb...This is not about Iran's nuclear program...this is about regime change through pre-emptive military action."

He also pointed to the forces driving the U.S. and Israel: "It's about more than oil...it's about American imperialism." He predicted that the war on Iran "would make even the historic blunder of the Iraq invasion pale by comparison."

Ritter's speech resonated with the crowd, who were receptive to calls for protests to end the Iraq occupation and prevent an invasion of Iran.

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