You've come to an old part of SW Online. We're still moving this and other older stories into our new format. In the meanwhile, click here to go to the current home page.
News and reports

August 31, 2007 | Pages 14 and 15

R.I. protest against police brutality
Immigrant rights in Northern Virginia
Protesting for veterans' health care
Stop police brutality in Seattle

R.I. protest against police brutality
By Shaun Joseph

NORTH PROVIDENCE, R.I.--Approximately 250 people from across the region rallied here August 26 to protest the attack by North Providence police on a labor rights march that resulted in serious injuries to 22-year-old activist Alexandra Svoboda.

The rally was sponsored by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and included members of several area unions and progressive organizations.

Police severely broke Svoboda's leg on August 11 when they moved in to forcibly arrest marchers during an IWW-sponsored picket of Jacky's Galaxy restaurant. Until recently, Jacky's Galaxy was supplied by the New York-based sweatshop HWH/Dragon Land Trading. Eyewitnesses confirm that the marchers were complying with instructions to move off the street when police charged without warning.

Svoboda has since undergone at least four surgeries for the injuries to her leg, and has yet to begin orthopedic reconstruction of her knee. Perversely, she also has been charged with assaulting the officers who broke her leg!

Police brutality and misconduct are a major problem in Rhode Island. Just four days before the attack on Svoboda, a Brazilian immigrant died in the custody of the Woonsocket police when he was denied his anti-seizure medication. The American Civil Liberties Union has exposed systematic racial profiling in several of the state's police departments.

Speakers at the August 26 rally included members of the IWW, its affiliated union Foodstuff Workers 460/640, Students for a Democratic Society, Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE), and Rhode Island Jobs with Justice. Demands included an apology from the police, the dropping of all charges and compensation for Svoboda's injuries and lost wages.

As Senia Barragan of the IWW told the crowd, "We must always repeat: An injury to one is an injury to all!"

Messages of support and donations for Svoboda can be sent to: IWW Providence General Membership Branch, P.O. Box 5795, Providence, RI 02903.

Back to the top

Immigrant rights in Northern Virginia
By David Thurston

MANASSAS, Va.--The Board of Supervisors of Prince William County in northern Virginia passed a vicious anti-immigrant resolution on August 10, which activists are vowing to fight.

The measure denies public services to anyone who cannot produce proof of citizenship, and deputizes local police to work as immigration agents. Within a week, neighboring Loudon County had followed suit, passing a resolution that also denies public services, but stops short of tasking local police with immigration enforcement.

Shocked by the intensity of this assault, immigrant rights activists in the area have convened a series of organizing meetings that have drawn more than 2,000.

"This law is built on hate and racism," said Ricardo Juarez of Mexicanos Sin Fronteras. "Will people be asked for documents in libraries or parks or schools?"

Activists are now planning three steps, including an economic boycott of businesses in Prince William County that are not owned by immigrants from August 27 to September 3. There will also be a mass immigrant rights march on September 2, beginning in Woodbridge. If these steps are unsuccessful, organizers plan to hold a one-day strike of immigrant workers in early October.

About 70 people gathered in the heart of Mount Pleasant, an immigrant enclave in Washington, D.C., on August 18 to hear community members talk about their fears and their determination to organize.

Immigrants in Prince William County will need solidarity from across the region in order to defeat this brutal assault on their basic human rights.

Back to the top

Protesting for veterans' health care
By Brian Huseby and Tom Clark

TACOMA, Wash.--Veterans' health care workers, members of several American Federation of Government employee locals, and their supporters, picketed a field hearing of the U.S. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee here August 17. Other supporters of the picket included members of Jobs With Justice, Military Families Speak Out and the International Socialist Organization.

This year alone, the Bush administration underestimated veterans' health care needs by at least $3 billion--and sent the funds four months late. Now, the administration wants to rob many other social services upon which vets and other workers depend in order to make up the shortfall.

One result of the inadequate funding is that health care workers at VA facilities routinely face understaffing and impossible workloads.

At the hearing, conducted by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), veterans spoke out about their inadequate care.

Brandon Jones, an Army National Guard soldier deployed to Iraq in 2003 suffers from a sleep disorder as a result of wartime stress. He was offered sleeping pills, but no help with his underlying problem. When the sleeping pills interfered with his military duties, Jones was disciplined.

While at least one vet at the hearing praised Sen. Murray for her support of veterans' health care needs, other attendees pointed out that Murray voted to continue funding the war in Iraq.

Back to the top

Stop police brutality in Seattle
By Steve Leigh

SEATTLE--Fifty protestors rallied here August 26 against rampant police brutality in Seattle.

Sponsored by the Seattle Chapter of the NAACP and other groups, a new Panel on Police Accountability is forming. It will include a group of victims of police brutality in contrast to the city's "Blue Ribbon" commission, which will include politicians and businessmen--none of whom have been victims of police abuse.

Several speakers at the rally highlighted current cases of police brutality in Seattle. On August 18, police attacked an immigrant rights picket with pepper spray, sending three people to the hospital. A janitor working in a downtown building at night was handcuffed and harassed for hours by the police because he looked "suspicious"--in reality, because he was Black.

At the rally, Ophelia Ealy explained the case of her son Michael, who was killed by police eight years ago on his way to a hospital. In addition, the crowd heard how two young Black people were attacked and tasered by police for "looking like gang members," while a young woman was arrested just for objecting to the arrests.

James Bible, President of the Seattle NAACP, called for a renewed campaign to hold police accountable for their brutality and racism, and urged community members to attend court cases and keep the pressure on. Bible also called for the resignation of Police Chief Kerlikowski who has exonerated obviously brutal cops.

Seattle police are out of control, and this rally was a sign that more people are organizing to fight back. It's time to say: "No justice, no peace!"

Home page | Back to the top