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News and reports

September 28, 2007 | Pages 14 and 15

Southern California sanctuary struggle
Syracuse, N.Y. antiwar protest
Washington, D.C. police brutality
Solidarity with the Jena 6

Southern California sanctuary struggle
By William Figueroa and Victor Fernandez

SIMI VALLEY, Calif.--A group of anti-immigrant racists by the name of Save Our State (SOS), along with the Minutemen, protested outside a church here September 16 where an undocumented immigrant mother named Liliana has taken refuge with her child.

More than 80 bigots calling for Liliana's deportation were confronted by a group of 30 counterprotesters from the Emergency Response Network (ERN), International Socialist Organization, ANSWER and Ventura Anti-Fascist Coalition.

A few months before the deportation of immigrant rights activist Elvira Arellano in Los Angeles, the same hate groups had demanded Liliana's deportation in Long Beach. ERN began working with Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) to call a counterprotest, and managed to bring media exposure to the story of Liliana and her struggle against deportation.

CLUE works in conjunction with clergy to provide sanctuary in churches as part of the New Sanctuary Movement. In Simi Valley, the reluctant church pastor had sent out notices that there would be no counterprotest against the racists.

After discussing the necessity of responding, people gathered with the media around them to defend their right to protest the bigots, and Liliana's right to sanctuary. The situation became volatile after a racist--unprovoked--pepper-sprayed one of the anti-racists in the face while the police did nothing, citing "lack of evidence." In the face of all this, local neighbors stepped out to support Liliana.

Now, the mayor of Simi Valley has levied a $40,000 bill on the church for police charges as a way to discourage the church and activists from continuing the struggle. The church has decided to fight the costs with the help of lawyers.

Meanwhile, the fight around Elvira Arellano in Chicago and Liliana here has emboldened many in the immigrant rights movement, even as racists around the country seek to shut down the Sanctuary Movement. We have to continue to fight in workplaces and the sanctuary movement for the rights of immigrants like Liliana, even as they continue the struggle from the inside.

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Syracuse, N.Y. antiwar protest
By Jeff DeToro

SYRACUSE, N.Y.--More than 50 organizations and scores of activists are preparing for what looks to be the largest antiwar protest in upstate New York since the Vietnam war. Hosted by the Syracuse Peace Council (SPC) and SEIU 1199, the September 29 march and rally will be led by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and the Campus Antiwar Network.

Billed as "Soldiers and Civilians Speak Out! Bring the Troops Home Now," the march started as a local effort by antiwar soldiers at Fort Drum who wanted to build chapters of IVAW throughout upstate New York. It quickly grew to include the entire upstate antiwar community.

After an initial rally that will include active-duty soldiers, military families and veterans, the crowd will march to Syracuse University and hear antiwar activists, including Dahlia Wasfi, Howie Hawkins and Ashley Smith. Later that evening, Wasfi will be joined by former United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter and IVAW co-founder Jimmy Massey for a panel discussion at Syracuse University.

"As the Bush administration seeks to extend the war indefinitely and appease citizen opposition with meaningless troop withdrawals, people from throughout upstate New York--veterans and retirees, workers and students...will converge on Syracuse for a mass demonstration against the war," says Rose Viviano of the SPC.

Buses already have been chartered from Buffalo to Albany. The combination of soldiers, students and labor is creating a powerful antiwar voice that could become a powerful political force in an election season that offers little for those who want an immediate end to the carnage in Iraq.

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Washington, D.C. police brutality
By Michele Bollinger

WASHINGTON--The notoriously brutal D.C. police have struck again. On September 17, off-duty officer James Haskell shot 14-year old Deonte Rawlings in the head, killing him in cold blood. Deonte's murder has devastated his family, friends and members of the Condon Terrace community--in one of the poorest sections of southeast D.C.--and sparked outrage over police brutality throughout the city.

Another off-duty officer, Anthony Clay, was with Haskell as they were scouring the neighborhood looking for Haskell's minibike, allegedly stolen by Deonte. The cops claim that they spotted Deonte on the bike and were fired on first, but no gun was found at the scene. The minibike was not found at the scene either--it was recovered nearly 20 miles away in Upper Marlboro, Md.

The Washington Post reported that Haskell, not in uniform and driving his personal SUV, fired his gun without identifying himself as a police officer. Other D.C. police officers arrived at the scene and found Rawlings' body before Haskell and Clay had called in the shooting.

On top of that, the investigation has shown that Clay left the scene in the SUV before other officers showed up. This is crucial, because the only evidence the cops have that someone fired at them is a bullet hole in the side of the SUV.

Routine harassment and brutality by police and the daily humiliation people face at the hands of cops in Southeast D.C. in particular have bred such a deep distrust and resentment of the police that Mayor Adrian Fenty has brought in the FBI and the U.S. attorney to handle the case.

But there is little reason to believe this will mean real justice for Deonte and his family. We need a real campaign to get killer cops behind bars.

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Solidarity with the Jena 6
By Patrick Dyer, Sarah Knopp and Leela Yellesetty

ACTIVISTS AROUND the country are organizing to demand justice for the Jena 6, a group of Black teens in Louisiana being scapegoated for an assault on a white student following a series of racist incidents, including several nooses hung at their high school.

Several demonstrations across the U.S. were held on September 20, in solidarity with a mass mobilization in Jena.

-- In Toledo, Ohio, more than 300 campus and community members turned out for a spirited march and rally September 20 at the University of Toledo (UT). The event was organized on short noticed by the International Socialist Organization, the UT Black Student Union and the UT NAACP.

Speakers included Derek Ides of the ISO; Washington Muhammad of the Nation of Islam; Kieron Richardson of the Black Student Union; and Sherita Evans of Toledo's Old West End. Saadiqah Amatullah Hasan, whose husband, Siddique Abdullah Hasan, is a political prisoner on Ohio's death row, explained to the crowd the importance of linking the Jena 6 struggle with other campaigns to free political prisoners.

Following the rally, the crowd embarked on march through the UT campus. Chants included, "Schools and nooses just don't mix--justice for the Jena 6!" and "Two, four, six, eight, we don't want their racist hate!"

-- In Los Angeles, about 1,500 people attended two separate demonstrations on September 20. One rally was organized in Hollywood by two women who had never organized a protest before, using the Internet.

The other rally was in Leimert Park and included approximately 200 students who marched from nearby Crenshaw High School. The event was organized by students at Cal State Los Angeles and the University of California-Los Angeles.

-- In Seattle, more than 75 people gathered downtown to protest. The diverse group of activists was loud and spirited--and inspired by the large numbers that had turned out in Jena and around the country.

After a speak-out, the crowd weaved through rush hour traffic chanting "Free the Jena 6. Join us, join us!" and "They say Jim Crow, we say hell no!" Many passersby honked horns and pumped their fists in support.

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