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News and reports

March 2, 2007 | Page 4

No to war and occupation
Standing up for immigrant rights
Justice for Sean Bell

No to war and occupation

IN CITIES around the country, war resisters and other antiwar activists are continuing to keep up the pressure to bring an end to the war in Iraq.

--In Middletown, Ct., approximately 100 people turned out to hear Navy Seaman Jonathan Hutto speak at a February 18 event sponsored by Connecticut United for Peace, in alliance with a dozen other organizations.

Along with Sgt. Liam Madden of the U.S. Marine Corps, Hutto organized the Appeal for Redress--now signed by more than 1300 active duty, reserve, and guard personnel--which allows service members to voice their opposition to the war, using the little-known Military Whistle-blower Protection Act.

Hutto stressed the importance of learning lessons from the movements that brought an end to the Vietnam war: mass mobilization at home, coupled with GI resistance to the war. Hutto also emphasized that an antiwar sentiment is in the majority and recounted the "amazing experience to feel our strength in numbers when over a quarter of a million people marched in D.C. [on January 27]."

"Iraq should be given back to the Iraqi people, no questions asked," Hutto told the crowd.

Hutto also implored the public to be open and patient with returning Iraq vets, and to reach out to them whenever possible. "Vets are coming around to antiwar conclusions but it takes time" and a supportive movement at home to help build GI resistance, he said.

--In Santa Cruz, Calif., three representatives of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) spoke February 24 to an audience of approximately 30 students and community members at the University of California-Santa Cruz.

The meeting began with members of Students Against War leading a discussion about ways to strengthen the antiwar movement. During the discussion, one of the veterans, John, spoke about how he realized during his tour in Iraq that the reasons the government feeds us about why we are there are lies.

Another veteran, Joe, discussed IVAW's reasons for opposing the war including: war profiteering, soldiers' right to refuse to participate in an illegal war, and the military's use of racism and discrimination.

--In Amherst, Mass., approximately 20 activists gathered in the cold and snow on February 24 to picket the home of U.S. Rep. John Olver, a Democrat with a reputation for opposing the war in Iraq, demanding immediate defunding of the war and an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops. "Defunding the war," said Priscilla Lynch of Code Pink, "is the most expedient way to stop it. To fund the war is to support it."

Congressman Olver did not meet with the activists, members of a variety of local organizations, including Code Pink, the Antiwar Coalition at the University of Massachusetts, the International Socialist Organization, the Socialist Party and the United Electrical Workers.

Mark Clinton, Adriana Corona, Todd Dewey, Gary Lapon, Jessi Shakarian and Sarah Wellberg contributed to this report.

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Standing up for immigrant rights
By Shaun Harkin

CHICAGO--In response to escalating attacks on immigrants around the country, activists in Chicago are planning a rally at Federal Plaza March 10. The protest will demand an immediate moratorium on Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) raids, deportations and the use of Social Security no-match letters targeting undocumented workers.

A massive demonstration in Chicago on March 10, 2006, marked the beginning of the movement that spread throughout the country to defeat the ultra-draconian bill in Congress, HR 4437, known as the Sensenbenner bill after its chief sponsor.

There's been pressure on immigrant rights activists not to organize protests because it doesn't fit with the Democratic Party's plans for immigration reform. However, the accumulation of anger at increased attacks has created a real sentiment to take action now.

Outraged at the raids and Democratic Party inaction, immigrant rights supporters protested at the offices of Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) demanding he "submit legislation for an immediate moratorium on the raids occurring across the nation," as activists put it.

"The raids are a direct attack on all working families," said Moises Zavala, an organizer for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 881. "Local 881...will continue to work with community organization to pressure congress and the president to put a stop to the raids immediately."

On February 22, ICE agents conducted another high-profile, nationally coordinated series of raids across 18 states, arresting more than 200 undocumented immigrants working as janitors for Rosenbaum-Cunningham International Inc. ICE targeted more than 60 worksites, including the House of Blues, Hard Rock Cafe, ESPN Zone and Planet Hollywood.

Additionally, several hundred immigrant workers at Smithfield Packing Co. in Tar Heel, N.C., decided not to return to work following no-match terminations and ICE workplace arrests.

Many activists are concerned that legislation soon to be unveiled in Congress will be detrimental to the interests of immigrants and include a new guest-worker program along with further militarization of the border. Organizers hope that the March 10 rally will lay the basis for a larger day of action on May 1, the one-year anniversary of mass immigrant rights marches across the U.S.

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Justice for Sean Bell
By Frank Couget

NEW YORK--Hundreds of people marched through the streets of Queens February 19 to mark the 50th and final day of a continuous vigil to protest the police murder of Sean Bell.

Bell was killed and his friends Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman severely injured in the early morning hours of November 25--hours before Bell was to be married--when police opened fire with a hail of 50 bullets at the car they were in. The killing sparked anger across New York and beyond, leading to a series of protests--the largest brought as many as 40,000 into the streets in December.

At the beginning of this year, Sean's mother, Valerie Bell, began a continuous vigil outside the 103rd Police Precinct in Queens to demand the indictment of the officers involved in the shooting and the appointment of a special prosecutor.

At last week's protest, demonstrators marched--to cries of "Never again!" and "Enough is enough!"--from the vigil site to a packed service at the Community Church of Christ.

Valerie Bell thanked those who braved rain, snow and freezing temperatures to keep pressure on the justice system and attention on the case. "This is not the last day," she told those gathered at the church. "This is just the beginning."

Benefield and Guzman were present at the religious service, and Sean Bell's aunt, Pastor Diane Shepherd-Oliver, recalled the struggle of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Montgomery Bus Boycott in her sermon on the different stages of making change. "We need a group of men and women who will not only stand for right, but oppose wrong," she said. "Never again will I see injustice and do nothing."

Activists committed themselves to continuing protests to be held at 7 p.m. outside the 103rd Precinct on the 23rd of every month.

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