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News and reports

August 24, 2007 | Pages 10 and 11

ARTICLES BELOW:
Save Kenneth Foster
New York City antiwar march
Protest Michael Savage
Seattle protest against the Minutemen
Support war resisters

Save Kenneth Foster
By Bryan McCann

AS AUGUST 30, the scheduled execution date of Kenneth Foster Jr., draws nearer, the Save Kenneth Foster Campaign is applying pressure to Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Kenneth Foster was sentenced to death in 1997 for the shooting death of Michael LaHood Jr., despite the fact that Kenneth was 80 feet away in a car with the windows rolled up when Mauriceo Brown killed LaHood. Brown confessed to the killing and was executed in 2006.

Foster is facing an August 30 execution date for a crime he didn't commit because of Texas' Law of Parties, which holds individuals accountable for the actions of others. In Kenneth's case, prosecutors argued that he should have "anticipated" that Brown would shoot LaHood, despite the fact that everyone in the car that evening has sworn there was no conspiracy to rob or kill Michael LaHood.

With virtually every legal avenue exhausted, the Save Kenneth Foster Campaign has turned its attention to Gov. Perry and the Board of Pardons and Paroles. The board must recommend clemency in order for Perry to even consider sparing Kenneth.

Last weekend, the coalition organized a successful rally and hip-hop concert in San Antonio. The rally attracted about 40 people and received strong support from passersby. Several local artists were on hand at the benefit concert, as well as Mario Africa of MOVE and Tasha Narez-Foster, Kenneth's wife.

On August 21, there will be an emergency rally in downtown Austin, Texas, which promises to have a large turnout. Along with thousands of petition signatures and clemency letters from French dignitaries, Sister Helen Prejean, several Texas legislators, and others, the Save Kenneth Foster Campaign continues to provide Perry with every reason he needs to do the right thing.

The campaign that Kenneth's family and supporters have built is beginning to pay off. The Austin-American Statesman and Dallas/Fort Worth Star Telegram have both written editorials in favor of sparing Kenneth. Austin NBC affiliate KXAN recently aired a taped interview with Kenneth from death row. Democracy Now! also dedicated an entire show to the case, and an article about Kenneth on abc.com was the most read piece on the site last week.

Advocates throughout Texas, as well as the rest of the world, are now looking to Texas, wondering if the state will sink so low as to execute a man for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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New York City antiwar march
By Tiffany Paul

NEW YORK--On August 18, activists in Washington Heights, the neighborhood in New York City that is the most heavily recruited in by the U.S. military, held the first antiwar protest since before the war began.

With more than 300 people at its height, the march was vibrant and diverse as it wound through the primarily Dominican neighborhood with chants in English and Spanish.

The march was initiated by a newly formed neighborhood antiwar coalition and was endorsed by and included members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW); the New York chapter of Military Families Speak Out; several prominent neighborhood churches; the Harlem Tenants' Council; radical Dominican organizations including Fuerza de la Revolucion; youth groups like Da Urban Butterflies and Mirabal Sisters; the International Socialist Organization, and more.

Marchers stopped at the homes of the first and most recent soldiers from Washington Heights to die in Iraq.

Tragically killed just weeks ago after his tour of duty was extended, 22-year-old Juan M. Alcantara was never able to meet his newborn daughter. A friend of Juan's who participated in the march spoke about what a wonderful person the neighborhood had lost, and called on the power of protest to stop the war.

Just a few blocks south, a family member of Riayan Agusto Tejada, killed in 2003 at age 26, spoke out on his stoop, blaming the government for his loved one's death.

The final stop on the march was at one of the neighborhood's many recruitment centers, where high school students led chants of "Don't believe the hype--recruiters out of the heights."

"This is exactly what we need," commented IVAW member Fabian Yves Bouthillette. "A community has come together taking actions that let vets like myself feel more comfortable coming out against this war. It's awesome. Washington Heights is setting a great example."

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Protest Michael Savage
By Jessica Kochick

SAN FRANCISCO--Immigrant rights forces in the Bay Area held an energetic rally at the ClearChannel offices here on August 15 to protest the anti-immigrant hate speech of radio personality Michael Savage.

Nearly 300 people attended, mostly immigrants from various coalitions and church groups, along with the "Hispanic Dignity Train," which came all the way from San Jose. Student hunger strikers, who Savage said he hoped would "starve to death," staged a die-in while the crowd chanted "Michael Savage has to go!"

The pro-immigrant majority was made clear as commuters going home from work and service vehicles passing by honked and waved in support of protesters. One African American woman driving a UPS truck stopped to express her solidarity.

Speakers also addressed the oppressive and discriminatory raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and organizers used the rally to build a rapid response network against raids in the Bay Area. The purpose of the network is to create a strong community response to raids whenever they happen. A rally will publicly kick off this network on August 24 in front of the immigration building in downtown San Francisco.

The rally closed with a resounding chant of "Que queremos? Justicia! Cuando? Ahora!" (What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!)

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Seattle protest against the Minutemen
By Sam Bernstein

SEATTLE--For the second time in less than two months, antiracist activists have led spirited protests against anti-immigrant bigots trying to rally in the Northwest.

"We don't want your racist fear, immigrants are welcome here!" was the chant of more than 100 counterprotesters who shouted down roughly equal number of bigots gathered for the anti-immigrant "March for America" on August 18.

The march was called by Washingtonians for Immigration Reform, the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps, the John Birch Society and the Ron Paul for President campaign. They call for increased raids and deportations of immigrant workers and further militarization of the borders. The Minutemen is a dangerous vigilante group that promotes violence against immigrant families and has well-documented ties to far-right white supremacist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan.

With these bigots planning on rallying in the exact same spot that tens of thousands of immigrants and their supporters demonstrated on two successive May Days, activists quickly mobilized to defend Seattle from their fear-mongering.

Despite the overwhelming public support for the antiracist side, the Seattle police repeatedly attempted to derail the counter-protest by limiting use of megaphones, stopping the march at intersections and forcing counter-protesters to march blocks out of the way.

When a small group of anarchists took the streets and began throwing water balloons at the bigots, the police used wantonly disproportionate force, pepper-spraying the entire crowd and causing at least three people to be hospitalized. One protester was arrested for "aggravated assault" and his bail was set at a ridiculous $1 million.

Still, protesters maintained their composure and continued to shout down the racists until they were chased out of town. By the end of the day, the bigots appeared frustrated and exhausted.

As immigrant rights activist Jorge Torres put it, "We sent them another message today--every time they rear their ugly heads, we'll be there opposing them. They should have no confidence to come out here and promote terrorizing working families. If the bigots come again, our side has to be even bigger."

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Support war resisters
By Cindy Kaffen

LOS ANGELES--On July 27, 125 antiwar activists, family and friends gathered in Los Angeles to welcome home conscientious objector Agustín Aguayo.

Agustín served eight months in a U.S. military prison in Germany for going absent without leave, refusing to be sent back to Iraq for a second deployment after his application for conscientious objector status was denied. His case has inspired countless other soldiers and antiwar activists.

Several themes ran through the event, including the importance of supporting soldiers and their families who are making a stand against the war; speaking out to young people about the horror of the war and the truth about what joining the military means; and the organization that will be needed to force the U.S. government to give up its war.

In addition to Agustín and his wife, Helga Aguayo, speakers at the event included Pablo Paredes, one of the first Iraq war resisters to go public; Edgar Cuevas from Iraq Veterans Against the War; Maricela Guzman from the Service Women's Action Network; Fernando Suarez del Solar from Guerrero Azteca Project; and Katie Miller of the International Socialist Organization and Military Families Speak Out. A short documentary on Agustin's case, A Man of Conscience: Agustín Aguayo, Conscientious Objector, was also shown.

To help, activists are being asked to consider contributing to Agustín's legal defense fund as he appeals his bad conduct discharge and two military court convictions, and to consider holding a showing of A Man of Conscience.

Visit www.aguayodefense.org/Donate.html for information about the legal defense fund. E-mail requests for A Man of Conscience to [email protected].

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