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News and reports

January 26, 2007 | Pages 14 and 15

Defend abortion rights
Affordable housing is a right
Celebrating Martin Luther King's legacy

Defend abortion rights
By Corrie Westing

SAN FRANCISCO--For the third year, San Franciscans gathered to protest anti-choice forces in the "March for Life" on January 20 for the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal.

About 200 abortion rights supporters came to protest some 20,000 anti-choice marchers bused in from around the country and to show that we won't give up the fight to defend women's right to choose.

The police shoved pro-choice protesters to the back of the sidewalk, blocking them in with no way to exit or cross the street for blocks--claiming that the anti-choice protesters needed to march on the sidewalk, since they didn't have a permit to march on the street. Then the anti-abortion protesters marched on the sidewalk and the street, as pro-choicers shouted them down from the sidelines.

In the context of the escalated attacks on women's right to control her reproductive life, the counterprotest, though small, was an important show of defiance. The march has occurred in Washington, D.C., every year since abortion was legalized, but the last few years the marchers have come to pro-choice San Francisco, representing a new offensive against women's rights.

The first year the March for Life announced it was coming here, many liberal, progressive and revolutionary groups successfully organized against it. In the last two years, however, mainstream women's groups that could have turned out big numbers to oppose the bigots have refused to participate--leaving only smaller forces, with fewer resources, to put together a counterprotest.

This has lead to some understandable disappointment and disgust among progressives, who can't stand to see such a reactionary bunch march virtually unopposed.

Among the signs that anti-choice marchers carried were "Abortion Hurts Women" and "Women Deserve Better Than Abortion." Pro-choice protesters were quick to point out the hypocrisy.

"Does anyone else want to vomit?" Alison, a young woman with a hand-made pro-choice shirt and sign, asked. "Women deserve better? How about women deserve a right to control their own bodies? How about women deserve not to die in the tens of thousands from illegal back-alley abortions? That's the message I hope we send today."

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Affordable housing is a right
By Hannah Wolfe

NEW YORK--"They want us out, and they will do anything," said tenant Rita Hawkins at a standing-room-only meeting of more than 200 Harlem tenants in the basement of Abyssinian Baptist Church on January 10. The meeting was organized by the Buyers and Renters United to Save Harlem, Goddard Riverside's West Side SRO Law Project, and others.

Lightning-paced gentrification--with real-estate values more than quadrupling over the past decade--has meant an increase in Harlem landlords' harassment of low-rent tenants.

"Each year, 10,000 apartments lose their affordability when they are removed from Rent Stabilization or Rent Control because of 'high-vacancy decontrol,'" said meeting organizers. "[M]any unscrupulous landlords, such as the notorious Pinnacle buildings with the expectation that they will be able to maximize profit by using harassment tactics to push out existing residents."

Meeting organizers are pressing for a Tenant Harassment Bill, which would make a pattern of harassment by a landlord illegal. Because there is no explicit law against landlord harassment, tenants are forced to take landlords to court for each incident of harassment. This requires considerable time and resources, which most tenants don't have.

Handouts enumerating the 14 most common forms of harassment--ranging from denial of services to physical threats and sexual harassment--were distributed at the meeting. Meeting attendees noted an increase in aggressive sexual harassment of single mothers and intimidation based on tenants' immigration status.

Tenant Carole Singleton called for solidarity. "You don't have to like your neighbor, but you have to stick with them. You must make a stand," Singleton said. "All of us have been one paycheck away from the street. If it's not you now, you will be next. You all have the power and you must use it. We can only do this as a collective."

A "Convention to Select New York's Most Abusive Landlord" is being organized later in January at the Judson Memorial Church.

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Celebrating Martin Luther King's legacy

IN SEVERAL cities across the U.S., marchers turned out January 15 to honor the legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

--In Seattle, more than 2,000 people rallied under the theme of "Peace, Justice and Human Rights," and marched through Seattle's Central Area to the Martin Luther King Jr. Park. Before the rally, participants attended workshops on topics including immigrant rights, peace and justice and health care.

Lt. Ehren Watada, who is currently facing court martial for refusing to fight in Iraq, spoke to the crowd. Hundreds of signs in support of Watada and other resisters were on display, and strong contingents included those organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace. Unions and immigrant rights supporters were also prominent.

--In Atlanta, a parade and rally drew as many as 10,000. Although the numbers at this year's event were smaller than in previous years, a sizable antiwar crowd was on display.

Earlier in the day, at the annual program at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, pastor Rev. Raphael Warnock called out the Bush administration, saying, "We need a surge in consciousness and truth-telling for a change."

--In San Diego, as many as 75 people attended an alternative to the city's heavily military-oriented parade. Organized by the King/Chavez Coalition, the alternative event featured speakers and a potluck, and was held in a predominantly minority community.

"I feel privileged to have been a part of such a monumental 'first annual' and cannot wait to see how it grows for next year," Gloria Mosi, one of the organizers, told Socialist Worker.

Ty Coronado, Steve Leigh and Jonathan Wexler contributed to this report.

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