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News and reports

April 27, 2007 | Pages 14 and 15

Protest the BHP natural gas terminal
Lancet study author denied visa
Stop ICE raids
No to war and occupation

Protest the BHP natural gas terminal
By John Osmand

OXNARD, Calif.--Attempts to build a potentially hazardous liquefied natural gas (LNG) floating terminal off the coast here were stymied by 2,000 protesters at a hearing April 9.

Wearing T-shirts with the letters "LNG" crossed out, the overflowing sea of opponents rallied to denounce energy company BHP-Billiton for the environmentally risky and racist enterprise near the shores of the mostly-Latino town of Oxnard. Public testimony at the daylong hearing of the California Lands Commission was overwhelmingly opposed to the project, and the commission rejected the proposal 2 to 1.

BHP-Billiton was dealt another blow on April 12 at a hearing before the California Coastal Commission in Santa Barbara, Calif. That commission unanimously rejected BHP's proposal. One opponent testified that while BHP had assured the local community that it would comply with the federal Clean Air Act, it had applied for an exemption from the Bush administration.

The California Coastal Protection Network and No LNG Community Alliance in Oxnard, along with many other organizations, organized opponents from across the state.

Erica Fernandez, a student at Port Hueneme High School, mobilized more than 300 of her classmates to attend the hearing. "They wanted to experiment on us," Fernandez said of BHP's floating port, which has never before been attempted. "They thought we were asleep."

The United Farm Workers (UFW) brought a dozen field hands to the protest. "This project could greatly affect farmers, farm workers and the surrounding communities," said UFW Contract Administrator Ester Dominguez, "seeing that the port will be right off the coast close to a large number of fields and a proposed pipeline would be placed directly below some of those fields with potential harm to not only the crops, but workers as well."

Bill Terry of the Saviers Road Design Group said that the port proposal is racist. "They could save seven miles of pipeline if they float the port closer to the hookup," Terry told Socialist Worker, "but then it would have to go through Camarillo and Thousand Oaks." Both of those communities are majority white.

BHP contends that they are simply filling a growing demand for natural gas, but Terry rejected that argument, saying, "It's all about money and greed."

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Lancet study author denied visa
By Jesse Hagopian

DR. RIYADH LAFTA was prevented from traveling from Iraq to Canada and the U.S. to speak about his research into the deaths of Iraqi civilians as part of the U.S. war and occupation.

Lafta co-authored a definitive Lancet journal study that found over 600,000 excess deaths in Iraq since the invasion and occupation. He tried for months to get a U.S. visa to speak at the University of Washington in Seattle--but U.S. immigration officials denied his entry.

He remained undeterred, however, deciding to travel to Canada, via Britain, to share his presentation with an audience at the University of Washington through a live video feed at Vancouver's Simon Fraser University on April 20.

Just days before his scheduled departure, however, the United Kingdom informed Dr. Lafta that his transit visa--required to permit him to spend four hours in the airport to make his connecting flight--had been denied.

"I can only hypothesize," said Amy Hagopian, assistant Professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Washington, "but I believe that Riyadh Lafta was denied entry into the United States--and denied a transit visa to merely pass through the UK--because of his ground-breaking study that demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that the casualties sustained by the Iraqi people are far higher than what the Bush administration will admit to."

Additionally, just two weeks prior to Dr. Lafta's scheduled trip to North America, U.S. soldiers ransacked his home in Iraq--further suggesting that his work to expose the civilian costs of this war to an international audience has made him vulnerable to harassment by the U.S. government.

Les Roberts, a professor at Johns Hopkins and Columbia Universities, and also a co-author of the Lancet report, stepped in for Lafta instead. An audience of some 200 people turned out at the University of Washington to hear him speak.

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Stop ICE raids
By Keith Rosenthal

JAMAICA PLAIN, Mass.--Some 100 people gathered here April 14 for a forum on immigrant rights in response to recent raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials at a sweatshop in New Bedford, Mass. As many as 300 immigrant workers were arrested and detained in these raids.

The meeting--sponsored by City Life/Vida Urbana, the International Socialist Organization, Jobs with Justice-Massachusetts, Maya Kiche, the Boston May Day Coalition and others--connected these raids to others around the country and highlighted the need to build a broad movement to stop all deportations and fight for legalization for all immigrants.

Nearly half of the attendees were immigrant workers from New Bedford who had been detained or had family members who were detained. Several of these workers spoke to the crowd about the sheer terror they experienced when hundreds of police raided the factory where they were working, separating them from their children and parents and then shipping them to prisons in Texas and New Mexico.

Others took up the question of fighting for amnesty versus a guest-worker program of the sort currently being proposed in Congress. "Amnesty is the best for everyone," said Felix Chavez, who was arrested in the raid in New Bedford and spent a month in a Texas prison. "We want complete legalization because otherwise the laws of the U.S. will keep us in a state of uncertainty."

Many people were excited about the prospect of continued organizing in the largely immigrant neighborhood of Jamaica Plain, including starting a rapid response network that could respond to future raids as they occur.

Many groups and individuals also pointed to the importance of building for the upcoming May 1 immigrant rights protests around Massachusetts, including a protest in downtown Boston on the Common at 4 p.m.

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No to war and occupation
By Matt Ivey, Kate Johnson and Nicole LaBrie

GREENSBORO, N.C.--Some 400 people gathered at the governmental plaza here on April 21 for a demonstration featuring antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan. Various organizations, including Code Pink, World Can't Wait, the International Socialist Organization, N.C. Labor Against the War, Food Not Bombs, the Piedmont Green Party and the Islamic Center of the Triad, turned out.

Several veterans were in attendance, as people gathered to hear speakers discussing issues from the war in Iraq to last summer's attacks on Lebanon to the GI resistance during the Vietnam War. "We need to go back to the sixties when they were shutting down the campuses, shutting down the ports," said David Dixon of the Charlotte, N.C., Action Center for Justice. "We need to get back to that level of militancy because that's what it's going to take."

Others spoke about the repression facing activists on campuses. "How can my school charge me tuition, yet not even allow me to hold a cardboard sign?" Laura, a member of the University of North Carolina-Greensboro antiwar coalition, asked from the stage. "Why is that seen as a threat?"

One of the central themes of the event was the need for people who are not yet participating in the movement to get involved. In the words of Drew McNaughton from the Green Party, "We are the majority--we just need to show other people that it's safe to come out and resist. We can no longer be content to be political observers."

-- In Seattle, students from dozens of schools walked out of classes April 18 to protest the war in Iraq, uniting for a downtown protest of almost 700 mostly high school and young college students.

After a full line-up of speakers and hip-hop performances, students marched to the Seattle School Board meeting to protest the presence of military recruiters on campuses, reject the plan to close 10 Seattle schools and demand that money for war be re-appropriated to the public school system.

The largest contingent of students in the city came from Seattle Central Community College, which had a spirited walkout of almost 75 students and led a contingent of 150 to the rally. Chanting "Walkout! Stop the war!" and "Iraq for Iraqis! Troops home now!" the students marched through campus and then held a rally at the South Plaza with speakers from Iraq Vets Against the War, the Muslim Student Association, Black Student Union, Students Against War and the International Socialist Organization.

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