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News and reports

February 23, 2007 | Page 15

No to war and occupation
Standing up for immigrant rights

No to war and occupation

BURLINGTON, Vt.—The Vermont Senate and House both passed resolutions telling Bush and Congress to "commence immediately the orderly withdrawal of American military forces from Iraq," making it the first state to do so.

The Senate vote was 24-to-5, and the House vote was 95-to-52. The resolutions also oppose the escalation of troops in Iraq.

"I understand there are 22 states that are contemplating resolutions against the escalation," said Rep. Michael Fisher. "I didn't feel like that was enough. I was unwilling to sign onto a resolution that just did that."

Several members of Iraq Veterans Against the War spoke before the vote. Former Army Sgt. Drew Cameron, former Marine Cpl. Matt Howard, and former Army Sgt. Adrienne Kinne received standing ovations from the representatives. "Withdrawal is what we as veterans want, it is what the people of this country want, and it is what the Iraqis want," said Howard. "You can't win a crime, you can only stop it."

Vermont activists campaigned for an "out now" resolution last year, but the effort was derailed by the leaderships of both parties.

Not content with nonbinding resolutions while Vermont's congressional delegation continues its support for the occupation, students, antiwar activists and others will continue protesting with a March 24 statewide rally.

-- In San Francisco, 120 students rallied against the war February 15 in Malcolm X Plaza at San Francisco State University. The date marked the fourth anniversary of the explosive birth of the antiwar movement when millions of people in cities around the world marched against the war in 2003.

Russel Kilday-Hicks from the California State University Employees Union as well as students from the General Union of Palestine Students and the International Socialist Organization (ISO) addressed the rally, which was organized by Students Against War.

After the rally, a group of about 40 energetic protesters decided to march along 19th Ave. to picket the military recruitment center at a nearby mall. They were met by a group of about 100 protesters marching from nearby Lowell High School after a rally there of several hundred students and teachers.

After the exciting convergence, students from both schools realized that the recruitment center had already packed up and left the mall for good. The united student protesters marched around the neighborhood for the next half hour.

-- In Berkeley, Calif., the Berkeley Stop the War Coalition—in conjunction with Students Organizing for Justice in the Americas, Speak Out, World Can't Wait and the ISO—organized a dual rally against the war and for labor solidarity at the University of California-Berkeley.

As the crowd swelled to about 200, speakers drew the many connections between the war on Iraq and the war on workers at home. AFSCME members expressed the grievance of university custodial workers, such as the withholding of equity pay and the lack of a living wage, while countless sums are spent on the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

After the speakers finished, many students, workers and supporters boarded buses that took them to UC President Robert Dynes' office in Oakland. While a picket line grew to the size of an entire block, several workers and students blocked traffic in an act of civil disobedience. Thirty-five people were arrested and released.

-- In Amherst, Mass., about 20 students at University of Massachusetts-Amherst came out February 15 to demonstrate against ROTC recruiters at a career fair on campus.

As soon as counter-recruiters and protesters showed up, the ROTC recruiter immediately left his table to talk to security, returning for five minutes before vacating the career fair and leaving one ROTC student alone at the table. While local television stations and newspapers conducted interviews with the counter-recruiters, students picketed the ROTC table, carrying signs that read "Recruiters lie, 655,000 Iraqis die," and handing out counter-recruitment flyers to students walking by.

Tristan Brosnan, Jeff Martin, Michelle Risley and Alex Schmaus contributed to this report.

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Standing up for immigrant rights

A COALITION of community, labor and religious leaders in Chicago held a press conference February 14 in response to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in Los Angeles demanding identification and arresting riders on the subway. A similar event took place in Boston on the same day.

In recent months, there has been a seven-fold increase in raids and deportations. Two months ago in a massive workplace raid, 13,000 workers at Swift and Co. meatpacking plants in five states were detained by ICE agents.

More than 30 activists filled the Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago to call for an immediate nationwide moratorium on raids and deportations.

Ramón Becerra from the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) made the case that the raids affect everyone. "If we don't stand up today, we will pay the consequences in the future," said Becerra. "We have to stand up and take action."

Rev. Pedro Windsor, a member of Chicago Sanctuary Alliance, echoed the call to take action. "We can't be silent when this injustice is occurring," said Windsor. "We won't sit idly by."

Endorsers of the event included ACORN, Centro Sin Fronteras, Chicago Workers Collaborative, Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Zócalo Urbano and the International Socialist Organization.

-- In Washington state, supporters of immigrant rights have stepped up their efforts in the face of recent activity by the Minutemen and aggressive ICE raids.

Earlier this year, the Academy for Lifelong Learning canceled a course called Citizens on the Border that was supposed to be "taught" by Tom Williams, founder of the Washington State Minuteman Detachment, after community members questioned its integrity. Activists also demonstrated outside an ICE office in Tacoma in response to a violent ICE raid at an industrial laundry in Bellingham.

Just days later, on Valentine's Day, ICE detained 51 undocumented workers at two UPS warehouses in Auburn. They were employed by Spherion Corp., a subcontractor for the growing non-union wing of UPS's logistics operations. The detained workers included 44 Mexicans, four Guatemalans and three Salvadorans.

Two days later, an emergency response protest was held, and though activists were heavily outnumbered by intimidating guards in riot gear, they stood their ground.

For information about immigrant rights organizing in Washington, e-mail [email protected]. Amirah Goldberg, Shaun Harkin, Lonnie Lopez and Helen Redmond contributed to this report.

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