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News and reports

August 17, 2007 | Pages 10 and 11

Los Angeles antiwar forum
Chicago-area public transportation
New Haven, Conn., immigrant rights

Los Angeles antiwar forum
By Theresa Foster

LOS ANGELES--On July 13, the Los Angeles chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) held its first public forum at the Venice Methodist Church.

Thirteen members of IVAW were in attendance, in addition to a large and enthusiastic crowd. The meeting was moderated by Tim Goodrich, one of the founders of IVAW.

Jeff Key spoke about his experiences having rejoined the Marine Corps in his thirties due to economic conditions. "They [the Iraqi people] are not insurgents, they are freedom fighters," Key explained to the audience. "How would you feel if someone invaded your country for no reason? Even my mother would be up in a tree with a rifle."

Ronn Cantu, an active-duty soldier currently facing a 15-month redeployment back to Iraq, recalled that once there, "None of us felt that we were doing the right thing...Soldiers just ride around with their fingers crossed praying that they don't get blown up."

Darrell Anderson, who went AWOL and fled to Canada after serving in Iraq, spoke about the conditions that made it impossible to remain in the military. "I saw us destroying a culture, and it's not right--it's just not right," he said, adding that he is no longer eligible to receive Veterans Administration medical care due to being given a less-than-honorable discharge, despite his health problems.

The final speaker of the evening was Jabbar Magruder, who presented a new petition called the "Appeal to Conscience" that will be distributed to military members and the general public. Magruder also spoke about the way the media is manipulated by the corporations and the government.

"We must use the same approach to get our message across." Magruder said, explaining that military support, public opinion, schools and the media need to be targeted by antiwar activists. "These are the pillars of support for the Iraq war that have to be removed."

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Chicago-area public transportation
By Kyle Gilbertson

CHICAGO--The boards of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and the Pace bus system, which provides public transportation in Chicago's suburbs, have decided to implement service cuts and fare hikes affecting nearly 2 million riders every day, in advance of any resolution of the state budget.

There is a $226 million budget shortfall for 2007. On August 1 and 8, the Pace and CTA boards, respectively, decided to implement modified versions of their earlier "doomsday" budget proposals. The CTA will eliminate 39 bus routes and increase regular fares from $2 to $2.50 (during rush hour, $3 for a train ride).

If cuts proceed as currently planned for Pace service, 23 fixed bus routes and 65 shuttle and train feeder routes will be eliminated. Weekend service will be eliminated.

Pace also will no longer accept CTA transfers. Instead of paying 25 cents for a transfer, most people will have to pay an additional full fare of $2--which the vast majority cannot afford. Outrageously, the fare for paratransit service will increase to $4, and Taxi Access Program fares for the disabled will increase to $6.75. One thousand transit workers will be laid off.

But ordinary people who depend on the transit systems are outraged. Hundreds have turned out for more than a dozen hearings organized by the CTA and Pace over the last two months.

At the Pace bus hearing at the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) on July 23, the room was packed with more than 200 angry people--the elderly, the disabled and people living on fixed incomes making up the vast majority.

When one speaker asked to see a show of hands of "how many people cannot--cannot--afford the increase in fare for paratransit," more than half the people in the room raised their hands.

One woman said that she needs to see six different doctors. At $4 each way for paratransit, living on a fixed income, it will be practically impossible.

Many people spoke of the need to "cut from the top," specifically mentioning Pace Board members' six-figure salaries, and the billions currently being spent on the Iraq war. Michael Patula, an organizer with the Little Village Coalition for Environmental Justice, drew applause when he spoke about the need to get organized and take the struggle to the next level, with protests and sit-ins.

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New Haven, Conn., immigrant rights
By Rebecca Lewis

NEW HAVEN, Conn.--Cheers went up from the crowd as the first New Haven residents emerged from City Hall on the morning of July 23 with their photo IDs. Activists chanted "Sí se puede" as, one by one, the first cards were shown off to the crowd.

The Elm City Resident Card program is the first of its kind nationally, and is available to all New Haven residents, regardless of immigration status. Activists and community members celebrated their victory at City Hall the morning the IDs were issued, as hundreds of residents lined up to take part in the groundbreaking program. In spite of a group of 40 counterprotesters, New Haven residents stuck it out in the hours-long line.

The ID card is considered by many to be a major victory in the fight for immigrant rights. The card allows its holders to access city services like the library and parks and recreation programs, and can also act as a debit card at parking meters and local businesses. It is an accepted form of ID at local banks and makes its holders less vulnerable to police by allowing them to identify themselves.

The ID card program has survived a series of attacks, beginning immediately after it was approved with a series of local raids in which 35 people were detained by federal agents. Southern Connecticut Citizens for Immigration Control, a local affiliate of the anti-immigrant Minutemen, also filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the personal information of cardholders to intimidate those who wished to apply. In spite of this pressure, the IDs were distributed on schedule.

Activists from Unidad Latina en Acción, the International Socialist Organization, Junta for Progressive Action and others will continue to defend the program against attacks from the federal government and racist groups.

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