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News and reports

February 16, 2007 | Page 15

Guilford College
New York injustice system
Free Josh Wolf

Guilford College
By Bradley Robinson

GREENSBORO, N.C.--More than 75 people packed the Genesis Baptist Church for a February 6 community forum about the recent beatings of three Palestinians at Guilford College (GC).

The tone of the meeting was frustrated but serious as students and members of the community discussed racism, ethnic profiling, the inaction of the GC administration and police negligence.

Guilford College, with its Quaker background and sterling reputation as a progressive college, is a "Jekyll and Hyde" institution, according to Bryan, a student who opened up the event.

On the one hand, more than 300 students attended a January 23 forum to protest the hate crime. On the other, the GC administration has covered up or downplayed incidents of rape and sexual assaults, hate speech, and assault (including one incident last semester involving one of the football players involved in the beating of the Palestinians), according to members of the recently formed Students for Justice.

Bryan recounted previous efforts to organize campus forums about rape, sexual assault and racial harassment that were derailed by GC officials. And when the Palestinian students were subjected to verbal assaults in a prior incident, GC officials handed out a semester suspension and probation--for the Palestinians, because they decided to confront the student making racist comments.

Another student expressed shock at the incident, but hoped that the incident would blow the lid off of Guilford's reputation. And another, pointing out the hypocrisy of this supposed progressive institution, explained that GC did not admit its first Black student until 1968.

Although none of the many dozens of eyewitnesses to the beating spoke out, one student told of how his roommates were the ones to pull the Palestinian students to safety, locking them in a dorm room, away from the 15 or 20 members of the GC football team participating in the beating.

It would be another 15 minutes before any campus security showed up. And the Greensboro Police Department (GPD) didn't get wind of the incident until two days later when the three victims filed charges at the magistrate's office.

After a hasty investigation, the GPD announced on February 1 it had no further role in investigating the case--not even two weeks after the beatings, and after only six people had been charged. Lt. Bryan James of the GPD, who attended the meeting, explained the GPD's foot-dragging by warning that such charges can ruin people's lives and that students shouldn't take the matter lightly.

Tell that to Omar Awartani, a student at North Carolina State University who was visiting his two friends at GC when they were attacked. He hasn't walked right since the beating, having suffered a concussion, broken jaw and possibly permanent nerve damage.

It's the GPD--not students--that take lightly the matter of violence against Arabs and Muslims.

Students for Justice has already submitted a proposal to the GC administration to add provisions for hate crimes to the student handbook, and one student is working on a history of racism at the college. Members are also actively encouraging eyewitnesses, of which there are at least 50, to speak up and tell what they saw. With the story beginning to attract national media, what we do now matters.

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New York injustice system
By Ben Davis

NEW YORK--Around 125 people turned up at Manhattan's Remy Lounge for the February 1 launch event of Cruel and Unusual Punishment, a CD compilation put together by the hip-hop collective the Welfare Poets. The CD features music dedicated to the movement to abolish the death penalty in the U.S.

Inspired by the Welfare Poets' activism around the case of wrongfully executed prisoner Hasan Shakur and others, the event was co-sponsored by the Campaign to End the Death Penalty (CEDP) and Hunter College's Shield magazine. Performers included Wise Intelligent (of the Poor Righteous Teachers), Hasan Salaam and Tru-N-Livin.

The riveting songs touched on the racism and cruelty of death penalty, and many performers made reference to the recent police killing of Sean Bell. Speakers included Pam Africa, director of International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, and former N.Y. death row prisoner and CEDP member Lawrence Hayes.

On February 6, Hayes spoke again for the CEDP, when about 75 people turned out to the National Black Theater in Harlem for a "Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied" panel about wrongful conviction, co-sponsored by New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty and the CEDP.

The panel brought together four men who had been exonerated from prison in New York state--where a wave of exonerations in the last year based on new DNA testing is exposing just how flawed the system is.

Jeffrey Deskovic and Alan Newton, both released just last year after 16 and 22 years in jail respectively, told riveting stories of how vicious cops and prosecutors sent them to jail for crimes they didn't commit. Yusef Salaam, wrongfully convicted in the Central Park Jogger case in 1989, described the toll that wrongful conviction takes, psychologically and economically, even after being released.

Hayes spoke about being targeted by the authorities as a Black Panther and ending up on death row. "This system is racist through and through," Hayes said. "But it affects all of us. We've all got to do something."

To listen to tracks from Cruel and Unusual Punishment, visit

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Free Josh Wolf
By Eric Ruder

FREELANCE JOURNALIST Josh Wolf has now spent more time behind bars than any journalist in U.S. history. Wolf has refused to hand over raw video footage he shot of a July 2005 global justice demonstration in San Francisco.

During the protest, one police officer was injured, and a federal grand jury has demanded access to Wolf's tapes. Federal prosecutors say that Wolf's footage is necessary to determine whether protesters tried to set fire to a police car.

And they dismiss the idea that Wolf should be given the normal protections afforded to journalists wishing to protect their sources because, in their words, it's only Wolf's "imagination that he is a journalist."

In fact, Wolf has sold some of his footage to television stations, and mainstream organizations such as Reporters Without Borders and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press are supporting him.

Wolf's reasons for not complying with the grand jury order are straightforward. "If the U.S. attorney can compel journalists to testify about what they've learned through their work and to force them to turn over their unpublished materials, then not only will the public be unable to trust reporters, but journalists themselves will become de facto deputies and investigators," he wrote.

For more information about Josh Wolf's case and what you can do to help free him, go to on the Web.

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