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News and reports

May 18, 2007 | Pages 14 and 15

University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Justice for Father Luis Barrios
Antiwar veterans speak out

University of Massachusetts-Amherst
By Charles Peterson

AMHERST, Mass.--A recent decision by the University of Massachusetts (UMass) administration to award an honorary degree to former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card has sparked a mass protest movement on campus in recent weeks.

Card was chief of staff under George W. Bush, and served in the White House Iraq group. He had a central role in selling the illegal war in Iraq to the American people, and, like many others from the Bush administration, is widely despised because of it.

The decision to award Card an honorary degree was only revealed at the beginning of May, and the UMass community wasted no time in organizing to prevent it.

On May 3, a meeting of the faculty senate hosted Steven Tocco, the chair of the UMass board of trustees, the body ultimately responsible for awarding honorary degrees. The meeting was packed with Card opponents demanding that the degree be rescinded.

Many audience members questioned Tocco as to Card's qualifications for such an honor. Tocco's response was "Andy is a nice guy. I play golf with him." When it was argued that Card is a war criminal for engineering a war that has cost the lives of almost 1 million Iraqis, Tocco proclaimed that "Card was not a war criminal on 9/11."

The following week, a rally of more than 300 students protested outside of Whitmore administration building demanding the degree be revoked. Elvis Mendez, former president of the Student Government Association, explained that "the university shares the same values as the Bush administration," in particular, hostility to democracy.

The administration has ignored resolutions passed by the Graduate Employee Organization, the Graduate Student Senate and the Massachusetts Society of Professors (MSP) chapter. All cited Card's intellectual dishonesty, and stated that, by UMass' own standards for awarding honorary degrees, he was totally unsuitable.

Stephanie Luce, MSP vice president, summed up much of the sentiment: "This is an issue of campus democracy. Staff, students and faculty are continuously kept out of the decision making process. Workers should have a say in conditions of work."

Protesters gave the administration until May 15 to meet their demands. As Socialist Worker went to press, the administration had yet to comment. However, another protest was in the works, with organizers vowing to continue demonstrating until the administration recognizes the wishes of the UMass community.

Sign the online petition to prevent an honorary degree from going to a war criminal. Visit

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Justice for Father Luis Barrios
By Dawning Greeenstreet

NEW YORK--Father Luis Barrios stood trial last week for charges brought against him after a September 19 protest of George Bush's appearance at the UN.

Father Barrios-- a well-known community activist in the fight for immigrant rights and the antiwar movement in New York--and 15 other people were arrested when a confrontation broke out between protesters and the New York Police Department (NYPD).

In an act of civil disobedience, Barrios attempted to cross the police barricade at the UN protest in order to "serve" Bush or one of his advisors with the findings and verdict from the Bush War Crimes Commission, where Bush was found "guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity."

Father Barrios was physically forced to stop by a police detective. Four other police officers then forced Father Barrios to the ground. But Father Barrios was accused of assaulting a police officer, resulting in a chronic injury to her wrist and a miscarriage six weeks after the incident.

A packed courtroom full of supporters, students and activists turned out for Father Barrios' three-day trial, during which the city and the NYPD attempted to make an example of him--but to no avail.

According to a report by Clark Kissinger of the "UN16 Defense," in handing down its verdict of "not guilty" on the most serious charges, the jury also expressed their opposition to the war in Iraq and their mistrust in the credibility of the NYPD.

Father Barrios was found not guilty of assault and resisting arrest. He was convicted of disorderly conduct, but sentenced just to time served and $95 in court costs. When this verdict was handed down the courtroom erupted in chants of "Sí, se pudo! Sí, se pudo!" (Yes, we did it!)

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Antiwar veterans speak out
By Amirah Goldberg

BOSTON--On May 11, more than 60 people gathered in the First Church in Jamaica Plain to hear Liam Madden, of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and cofounder of the Appeal for Redress GI antiwar petition, and Nancy Lessin and Charley Richardson, of Military Families Speak Out (MFSO), speak as part of the Jamaica Plain Forum lecture series.

Madden spoke about the importance of organizing meetings and protests in every community, even if they are small. "Changing consciousness does not happen overnight," he told the crowd. "Even small meetings like this can crack open something larger because there is so much anger under the surface."

He described a recent rally where IVAW members and others were speaking out against war and military recruiting. Spontaneously, an active-duty member of the National Guard came on stage in full uniform and set his redeployment orders on fire. Madden also shared that an IVAW chapter had been recently founded in Boston, a significant development for the antiwar movement here.

Richardson argued that the political winds are changing, and that we need to hold Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and other politicians to their words now that they seek to be seen as "antiwar candidates."

The speakers each emphasized that wars are ended by people, not politicians. Many attendees were interested future antiwar actions, organizing and events in the area, and the evening showed the potential for renewed grassroots antiwar organizing.

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