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News and reports

February 9, 2007 | Page 11

ARTICLES BELOW:
Support war resisters
Defend immigrant rights

Support war resisters
By Gillian Russom

LOS ANGELES--On February 3, more than 300 people marched in support of war resisters Ehren Watada and Agustín Aguayo in LA's Little Tokyo neighborhood.

The event was organized by Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress, founded in 1980 to fight for reparations and justice for victims of the Japanese internment, and the Asian American Vietnam Veterans Organization.

The event was scheduled to protest the trial of Army Lt. Ehren Watada--the first officer to speak out publicly against the war in Iraq--which began February 5. Aguayo, a conscientious objector who went AWOL after the military denied his CO status, faces a court-martial in Germany on March 6 and could face up to seven years.

Protesters marched through Little Tokyo, chanting, "Free Watada! Free Aguayo! Drop the charges now!" The lead banner was carried by Watada's mother Carolyn Ho and members of Aguayo's family, including his wife Helga, his mother and two daughters.

Protesters packed the basement of a local Buddhist temple to hear speakers, musicians and spoken-word artists. Speakers included Vietnam veteran Michael Nakayama and Jabbar Magruder of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

In a moving speech, Helga Aguayo explained how her husband came to oppose the war before he deployed. During his training, he was asked to shoot at targets using live ammunition, some that were designated "insurgents" and some "friendlies."

"'Oh my God,' he said, 'I have to choose who to kill. There's something deeply wrong with this,'" she explained. "He couldn't do it, he wouldn't do it, and he won't do it...Through their resistance, it's soldiers like Ehren and my husband who are going to end this war."

"He told me, 'It's a matter of conscience,'" said Carolyn Ho, describing her son's decision to refuse. "'When I sit in the jail cell at the end of the day, I will know truly that I have not engaged in war crimes, I have not killed innocent men, women, and children.' He wasn't just talking about the over 3,000 Americans killed and over 23,000 injured. He was talking about the over 650,000 Iraqis [killed]."

These resisters and their families are galvanizing the antiwar movement with a new sense of how the actions of ordinary people could ultimately stop the U.S. from prosecuting its wars. We must support them.

To find out more about Agustín's case, visit www.aguayodefense.org. To make a donation to his legal defense, visit www.couragetoresist.org/donate. For more information on Ehren's case, visit www.thankyoult.org.

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Defend immigrant rights
By Zach Mason and Chris Yarrison

RICHMOND, Va.--In response to a barrage of anti-immigrant measures passed in the Virginia House of Delegates, and with more on the way, activists organized four days of actions in protest.

Actions to oppose anti-immigrant legislation were organized by Mexicanos Sin Fronteras (MSF), a network of day laborer organizations in the Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., area, and their supporters.

For the sponsors of the legislation, the goal is nothing less than driving undocumented workers out of the state. "The ultimate goal is to make the commonwealth of Virginia an unwelcome place if you are in this country illegally," said Del. Jackson Miller, the sponsor of a bill that passed the Virginia House January 30, which proposes cutting off state and local funds to groups that give aid to undocumented immigrants.

Events began on February 2 at the capitol with a press conference and the beginning of a hunger strike. The next day, more than 100 people rallied in nearby Monroe Park. Speakers included Ricardo Juarez of the Woodbridge Workers Committee and a leading member of MSF. After the rally, protesters marched to the state capitol, chanting "¡No somos criminales, somos trabajadores!" and "¡Amnistía general!"

María Alvarez spoke to Socialist Worker as she walked with her two young children. Her house was raided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and her husband detained just weeks ago. "They come in your house with guns," said María. "They make you feel like a criminal. Now I don't know what we will do."

In Herndon, Va., a chapter of the racist Minutemen Project successfully encouraged the town to sign up for ICE to train their police in checking people's papers and deportation, and several other cities have followed suit. One of Del. Miller's proposed bills would make that training available statewide.

Groups like MSF are preparing for larger events in this spring.

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