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News and reports

September 14, 2007 | Pages 14 and 15

Support the Jena 6
Norman Finkelstein's fight at DePaul
Police brutality in Seattle
Right to protest in Washington, D.C.
Send-off for antiwar soldiers

Support the Jena 6
By Chris Yarrison

WASHINGTON--More than 1,500 students gathered at Howard University on September 5 to support the Jena 6, a group of six Black high-school students facing racist and politically motivated charges in Jena, La.

The crowd had packed the auditorium, leaving the hundred or so students denied entrance to rally outside.

The rally was called by the Howard University Student Association along with the school's NAACP chapter to raise money for the Jena 6's defense fund, as well as to build for a September 20 demonstration in Jena that the organizers invited the audience to attend. There will also be a march in D.C. the same day.

Chanting "No justice, no peace," the crowd set the tone for a rousing event that was a call to stand up against injustice and racism everywhere. As one speaker said, "It seems like everywhere I look there's another Jena 6."

The opening speaker said that supporters of the Jena 6 should be inspired by the recent victory against Texas' death penalty, when months of grassroots actions nationwide forced Texas Gov. Rick Perry to commute death row inmate and activist Kenneth Foster's sentence to life just hours before his execution.

The students at this historically Black university were well aware of the adversities facing the six. "We are not worried about the Jena 6," said student Keron Blair. "We are the Jena 6."

The crowd flowed out of the auditorium ready to see Jena's Jim Crow justice put on trial in place of the Jena 6.

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Norman Finkelstein's fight at DePaul
By Kathryn Weber

CHICAGO--Student supporters of Professor Norman Finkelstein were disappointed when he announced last week that he had reached a legal settlement with DePaul University and planned to stop his fight for tenure, yet campus activists are determined to continue organizing and further the struggles against the war and for academic freedom on campus.

Finkelstein's decision came after months of negotiations and a year of accusations, harassment and outright abuse by his critics--both within and outside the university. Finkelstein, an outspoken supporter of the Palestinian struggle and opponent of Israel's policy toward the Palestinian people, was the target of pro-Israel ideologues like Alan Dershowitz who campaigned to pressure DePaul administrators to deny him tenure.

On September 5, some 100 students arrived at the DePaul Quad at 9 a.m. to attend Finkelstein's first class, which he taught despite the administration having canceled all three of his courses. The media had arrived at 8:30 a.m. and spent most of his lecture crowded around the professor. Despite this distraction, several students gave heartfelt testimonials about his importance to their academic experience.

Following the class, students joined another 100 students, faculty and community members outside the office of Dean Chuck Suchar. Finkelstein himself met with his lawyer across the street, reviewing the settlement offer.

The reasons that influenced the decision to settle included: a final move by the university on the morning of September 5 to accept all of Finkelstein's proposed language changes; three months of costly negotiations; and a desire for the ordeal to be over.

Though the students were upset that Finkelstein was leaving, they were not giving up the struggle. At a meeting immediately the announcement of the settlement, students voted unanimously to continue their effort in support of Mehrene Larudee, another DePaul professor denied tenure for her support of Finkelstein and for the Palestinian struggle. Students are also making plans to protest David Horowitz's "Islamo-fascism Awareness Week," which is schedule to come to DePaul in October.

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Police brutality in Seattle
By Steve Leigh

SEATTLE--Fifty protesters rallied here August 26 to further a campaign against rampant police brutality.

The Seattle Chapter of the NAACP and other groups are appointing their own police accountability panel. It will include a group of victims of police brutality--in contrast to the city's accountability commission that will include politicians and businesspeople, none of whom have been victims of police abuse.

Several people spoke about recent cases that have thrust abuse by police into the spotlight. Police attacked an August 18 immigrant rights picket with pepper spray, sending three people to the hospital, and a Black janitor working in a downtown building at night was handcuffed and harassed for hours by the police because he looked "suspicious."

Ophelia Ealy talked about her son Michael, who was killed by police eight years ago on his way to a hospital.

James Bible, president of the Seattle NAACP, called for a renewed campaign to hold police accountable for their brutality and for the resignation of Police Chief Gil Kerlikowski, who has exonerated obviously brutal cops. He pointed out that public pressure, including rallies and pickets, was key to getting charges dropped against victims of police brutality.

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Right to protest in Washington, D.C.
By Eric Ruder

WASHINGTON--Police arrested three organizers of the September 15 antiwar demonstration for the "crime" of holding a press conference and putting up posters.

Officers descended on the scene in squad cars and on horseback, charged into the middle of the event and grabbed the folding table behind which the speakers were standing, scattering some 20 journalists who had gathered for the event.

Adam Kokesh of Iraq Veterans Against the War; Tina Richards, the mother of a Marine who served in Iraq and a member of Military Families Speak Out; and Ian Thompson, a lawyer and member of the antiwar group ANSWER, were arrested and taken away in handcuffs.

Police claim that the speakers didn't have a permit to use a folding table on the sidewalk. But the real reason for the arrest is that Washington, D.C., officials are trying to stop antiwar activists from publicizing a planned September 15 march against the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

During two weeks in August, ANSWER received notice that they faced fines of $21,000 for putting up posters announcing the September 15 event. The press conference was called to protest these fines and to draw attention to the fact that activists were abiding by the city's rules for the posting of political posters.

Activists are not backing down and have filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the city's restrictions on their right to free speech and assembly.

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Send-off for antiwar soldiers
By Mike Barnowski, Nathan Mullenax and Hector Tarrido-Picart

WATERTOWN, N.Y.--About 50 people attended a September 1 send-off party for soldiers with a September 5 date for deployment to Iraq. The event was held at the Different Drummer Café, a GI coffeehouse here, and organized by the Fort Drum chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW).

Soldiers, veterans and antiwar activists spent the evening discussing the state of the struggle against the war and listening to musical performances.

Several people also joined the IVAW that night as they walked in the storefront. Overall, the event gave a sense of the great potential of GI resistance. As one IVAW member who is deploying in a few days put it, "One or two soldiers can be squashed if they resist. What it's going to take is a whole battalion to resist the war."

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