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News and reports

May 25, 2007 | Page 11

Protest the LAPD's May Day attack
Justice for Mumia
Support the war resisters

Protest the LAPD's May Day attack
By Randy Childs

LOS ANGELES--On May 17, more than 10,000 people converged on MacArthur Park, the site of the LAPD's May Day attack on immigrant rights protesters, to renew demands for justice and civil rights for all immigrants and to declare that "our voices will not be silenced!"

For many marchers, this was an angry protest against the LAPD. Dozens of hand-made Socialist Worker placards protesting police brutality and calling for Bratton to be fired were enthusiastically taken up by some marchers.

María, a speaker on behalf of the Youth Justice Coalition (YJC), opened her speech with the chant, "La migra, la policía, la misma porquerría!" (Border patrol, police, they're all the same pigs!) YJC played an important role in challenging the willingness of some organizers of the May 17 rally to join the police in blaming "young agitators" and "anarchists" for the LAPD attack.

However, the message from some was more equivocal. March organizers and invited both Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and LAPD Chief William Bratton to participate.

Standing next to his beleaguered police chief, whose appointment to a second five-year term is now in jeopardy following the police riot, Villaraigosa promised the crowd that "justice will be realized." One local labor leader declared that "this is a moment of healing."

But many were not so eager for reconciliation with the police. When marchers reached the park, they had the opportunity to hear a number of speakers who angrily denounced the cops.

Marquise, a representative of the Community Coalition, a largely African American organization, told the crowd, "We were here with you when the police tried to run us out, and we're back here with you today. We're not going to let the LAPD turn us around!"

This march shows the resiliency of the immigrant rights movement in Los Angeles, even after being brutally attacked by the police. It also shows the political differences between a leadership focused on conciliation and compromise and grassroots activists eager for a more determined and militant fight for legalization and equal rights for all.

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Justice for Mumia
By Eric Brown and Dylan Stillwood

PHILADELPHIA--Lawyers representing Mumia Abu-Jamal appeared before the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals May 17 to present arguments in Mumia's last chance at a new trial.

Mumia, a former member of the Black Panther Party and radical journalist well known for exposing racist police brutality, was framed and sentenced to death for the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.

Around 200 Mumia supporters packed the courtroom, with a handful of retired police on hand representing the other side. Another 700 protesters gathered outside the court to rally for Mumia.

Three issues at stake in the latest appeal cut to the heart of the racism and sloppy nature of the original trial. First, the prosecutor used 10 of his 15 peremptory strikes to eliminate Black jurors from the jury pool, leaving only two Blacks on the final jury--in a city that is nearly half African American.

Secondly, the prosecutor told the jury that their verdict "may not be final" because "there would be appeal after appeal"--an unconstitutional way to make them feel less responsible for the decision to give Mumia the death penalty.

If the court agrees with either of these arguments, then Mumia will likely get a new trial.

Additionally, Mumia's initial appeal--known as a "PCRA hearing"--was overseen by Albert Sabo, the same racist and pro-death penalty judge who presided at the original trial. If the court agrees that Sabo was biased, then Mumia will be eligible for a new PCRA hearing.

The stakes are high. Though Mumia's death sentence was overturned in 2001, the state is challenging this decision. If the court rejects Mumia's appeals but agrees with the state, he could have a new execution date within months.

The public spotlight on this case will be important in keeping the pressure on the court. At the rally, Fred Hampton Jr., son of the slain Black Panther leader, drew parallels between his father's murder by Chicago police and Mumia's case. He also stressed the importance of building the fight for Mumia outside of the courts. "The lawyers can do their job in the courtroom," he said, "but we have to do our job in the streets."

As Barbara Easley-Cox, a former Black Panther and friend of Abu-Jamal's, told the crowd, "What is at stake here," she added, "is the example of what the state can do to people unless we stand up and fight back."

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Support the war resisters
By Somerset Stevens

SAN FRANCISCO--More than 100 people came out May 14 to hear war resisters Agustín Aguayo, Pablo Paredes and Camilo Mejía--all members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW)--speak about their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Newly released from the brig for his refusal to fight, Aguayo said that he had joined the Army believing that he would do good. But he recalled an officer telling his unit, "If you guys are having questions about the Geneva Convention, stop that...If you're going to fire your weapon you have to finish the job."

Based on these and other experiences, Aguayo came to the conclusion that he couldn't take a life, and refused to load his gun.

All three men made connections between the war and racism. Mejía described a "long and proud history of resistance in the U.S. military" and urged the audience to take action to support military resisters.

He described his first assignment in a prisoner of war camp, being trained to interrogate, to deprive prisoners of sleep, hold guns to their heads and simulate explosions. "As I was telling my stories for the first time it became very difficult not to question myself...It became impossible for me to push aside my conscience," he said.

Paredes recalled getting letters in the brig from Mejía and civilian activists, saying that they "helped me find freedom behind bars."

All three men described the growing anger within the armed services. As the panel showed, the need antiwar movement that stands in solidarity with war resisters, opposes U.S. interventions and has the power to embolden and defend soldiers who refuse to fight is more important than ever.

As Paredes told the crowd, "I did the right thing. I can look my children in the eye, I can speak with pride. I have no regrets."

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