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News and reports

April 13, 2007 | Page 11

Protesting the witch-hunt at NEIU
Legal win against Seattle crackdown
Stop Blackwater's war profiteering
Stop the Nazis

Protesting the witch-hunt at NEIU
By Rachel Cohen

CHICAGO--The corridors of Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) rang with chants of "No justice, no peace!" and "Whose school? Our school!" on April 9 as the administration's latest attempt to punish two antiwar activists for recently confronting CIA recruiters backfired.

Activists Ken Barrios and Matt Larson recently received certified letters announcing that, in addition to signing onto completely erroneous criminal charges pending against them for attempting to demonstrate at a campus CIA recruitment forum on February 28, NEIU was also pursuing internal disciplinary action against the two, potentially resulting in expulsion or suspension.

When supporters of Barrios and Larson heard the details of the undemocratic judicial committee hearing, they sprang into action, organizing a rally and press conference to take place immediately before the university hearing was to take place on April 9.

A spirited crowd of as many as 100 assembled prior to the hearing to share the many reasons the CIA should be put on trial--and not the activists willing to stand up to them.

Professor Brett Stockdill of the Sociology and Latino/Latin American Studies departments, spoke movingly about the experience of Salvadoran refugees--including one young woman who was subjected to torture by CIA-trained death squads. Dozens of others joined in denouncing the CIA's record of assassinations and torture.

Speakers demanded an end to the NEIU administration's complicity in promoting the CIA as a respectable career option for students, while persecuting those who protest against injustice.

When Barrios and Larson later went to their hearing, they were told it had been postponed, with no proposed follow-up date.

Protesters then went on the offensive, marching to the president's office, armed with hundreds of petition signatures demanding an end to phony charges and calling for disciplinary action against the university employees who filed them.

As the lobby filled with chanting, the president was forced to face the protesters--but declined to comment on questions students raised, such as why she refused to defend free speech rights on campus.

The outcome of the trial pending against Ken and Matt remains uncertain, but they have met with a determined show of support from students, faculty and activists.

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Legal win against Seattle crackdown
By Steve Leigh

AFTER SEVEN years of court battles, the city of Seattle agreed to pay a $1 million settlement for suppressing the rights of protesters who besieged a summit of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in November and December 1999.

The protests against the WTO brought as many as 50,000 people into the streets to oppose the meeting in the name of global justice. Labor activists, environmentalists and radical young people managed to disrupt the meeting with their sheer numbers--and, along with opposition from delegates from many less developed countries, caused the failure of the so-called Millennial Round of WTO talks.

Nonviolent blockades prevented delegates from attending early sessions of the WTO in the downtown Convention Center. The police were caught off guard and overwhelmed on the first day. But they soon reacted with a major crackdown.

Democratic Gov. Gary Locke called in the National Guard at the behest of Secretary of State Madeline Albright--so that Bill Clinton could address the WTO without facing protesters. Seattle Mayor Paul Schell declared a " no-protest zone" in downtown Seattle around the hotels hosting the WTO.

In spite of the ban, however, thousands marched into downtown Seattle during the week the WTO was in town.

Because of the failure at the Seattle summit, the WTO was unable to advance its neoliberal agenda of opening up underdeveloped countries to domination by the advanced. What's more, the "Battle in Seattle" was a gigantic spur to the movement against corporate globalization.

In the December 1 arrests, all charges against the protesters were later dropped--but not before many of those arrested were held in jail for four days--until the WTO summit was over.

The latest settlement will be divided among 175 people arrested at Seattle's Westlake Mall on December 1, 1999. Many protesters promise to contribute their share to future organizing.

Overall, at least 600 people were arrested by police for violating the ban on protest. Many made previous settlements with the city.

This is a clear victory for the anti-globalization movement and anyone who supports political freedom. But it has limits. The agreement only addresses the Fifth Amendment rights of protesters--the right to "due process of law." It doesn't say that the city violated protesters' first-amendment rights to speak, assemble, etc. No court has said that the imposition of a "no-protest zone" was illegal.

Protesters hope the million-dollar fine will deter future repressive action by the city and other governments around the U.S. But cities could view the fines and legal fees as another cost of carrying out their real business--protecting corporate interests.

If you were one of the 175 people in Westlake Mall on December 1, you need to contact the attorneys about the settlement--e-mail Tyler Weaver at [email protected]. For more information on the Westlake case, go to the Trial Lawyers for Public Justice Web site.

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Stop Blackwater's war profiteering
By Rick Greenblatt

SAN DIEGO--A coalition of about 150 environmentalists, antiwar activists and San Diego backcountry residents demonstrated at the San Diego County Department of Planning and Land Use meeting on April 5.

They were there to oppose the creation of a paramilitary training center in rural Potrero, a small community just north of the U.S./Mexico border, and about 50 miles east of downtown San Diego.

The proposed 709-acre site is currently used as a chicken ranch and undeveloped meadowland adjacent to Cleveland National Forest, but Blackwater USA--a private security and mercenary operation with close ties to the Republican Party--wants to turn it into a private military base.

Based in North Carolina, and flush with money from lucrative government contracts--more than $1 billion since 2001 alone--Blackwater has been expanding operations across the U.S.

According the project application for San Diego, the site would house about 300 trainees and 60 full-time employees, and would include rifle and pistol ranges, a helipad and an "urban simulation training area."

Many demonstrators came out to oppose the environmental damage that will be caused by the project. Others linked their opposition to Blackwater's role as a mercenary army in Iraq and Afghanistan and a domestic urban occupation force in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

Handmade signs expressed the range of views, from "Protect sensitive habitats" to "Stop Blackwater" and "Blackwater murderers: War profiteers." More than 100 protesters packed the Department of Planning and Land Use meeting, while others were turned away for lack of space.

With help from local Republican Congressman and presidential aspirant Duncan Hunter, the project is one of the first to be fast-tracked under new county regulations that aid developers. Meanwhile, more than 40 percent of Potrero's 850 residents have signed a petition opposing the development, and Protrero activists are working with antiwar and environmental groups in the area to build an ongoing coalition to oppose Blackwater.

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Stop the Nazis
By Shane Johnson

CINCINNATI--On April 3, members of the American National Socialist Workers Party--the same group of neo-Nazis that marched through a predominantly Black Toledo, Ohio, neighborhood in 2005, sparking a confrontation with anti-racist protesters--were granted a permit to march through Cincinnati's largely Black Over-the Rhine neighborhood.

The march is scheduled for April 20, and a spokesman for the neo-Nazis told the Cincinnati Post that he also expects members of the KKK to join in the march.

Facing community outrage, City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. revoked the neo-Nazis' permit on April 6, and said that he would allow the group to march only if they restricted the march to a three-block area of downtown, away from Over-the-Rhine. The neo-Nazis are vowing to march without a permit.

Anti-racists in Cincinnati are planning to counter the Nazis and their bigoted message.

To help organize against the neo-Nazis, e-mail [email protected].

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