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News and reports

November 16, 2007 | Pages 14 and 15

Antiwar action at the Port of Olympia
Fighting racism
FCC hearing in Seattle
Protesting recruiters in New York City
A victory for Ehren Watada

Antiwar action at the Port of Olympia
By Brian Huseby

OLYMPIA, Wash.--Activists led by the Olympia Military Resistance campaign staged several days of action at the port of Olympia, Wash., last week to prevent military equipment returning from Iraq from reaching nearby Fort Lewis.

On November 10, at least a dozen people were arrested--a day after demonstrators successfully stopped two trucks from removing military equipment that had been unloaded from the navy cargo ship USNS Brittin. The equipment, used in Iraq by the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, was heading to Fort Lewis to be repaired and sent back to Iraq.

When protesters blocked traffic downtown on Saturday, police in riot gear quickly moved in, dragging protesters on the ground and spraying them with pepper spray. The recent protests are the latest in a series of actions at Olympia and at nearby ports in Tacoma and Aberdeen, Wash., dating back to May of 2006 when 40 people were arrested.

On November 5, protesters held a candlelight vigil in view of the when it docked that day. Shouts of "Whose streets? Our streets!" and "Whose port? Our port!" rang out on November 6, as 150 people marched through the streets of Olympia to the locked port entrance.

At a rally that followed, Josh Simpson, an Iraq veteran and Evergreen State College student, told the crowd, "While I was looking at this ship, I realized this thing exists solely for the reason of imperialism."

At 11:15 p.m. on November 7, the Army began driving Stryker combat vehicles out of the port headed for Fort Lewis. Protesters tried to halt the convoy by standing or sitting in front of it, but they were forced to the sidewalks by police dragging them and striking them with nightsticks.

Jake Waluconis said that he was choked with his own bandana and punched in the gut with a baton. "The cops were beating people up for no reason," said Emiliano Guevara. Despite defeats, arrests and police violence, port militarization resisters continue to prove that they will not give up their fight.

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Fighting racism
By Dan Clemente

NEW YORK--A rally called by Rev. Al Sharpton will take place in Washington, D.C., November 16 to demand tougher prosecution of hate crimes in the wake of a number of racist incidents that occurred across the country following the Jena 6 case. Sharpton has also announced plans for a rally in Staten Island, though a date has not been announced.

In recent weeks, nooses have been found on Long Island on two separate occasions. In Staten Island, at least two vicious racist assaults have also taken place, and the "n-word" was found written on the bench of a visiting Harlem football team before a game.

In September, several members of the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) basketball team, who are mostly Black, were attacked in Lower Manhattan by a group of white men yelling racist epithets. Student Marquis Scott was thrown to the ground, and yet, police arrested him. Scott has filed a lawsuit against the city to drop the assault charge against him.

In Staten Island, Skylar McCormack was attacked by an all-white mob in mid-October. After leaning on a car belonging to a white man, McCormack was taunted with racist epithets and then assaulted. Two men have been arrested, but the DA's office recently dropped hate crimes charges.

Nooses have also been found in a basement of a Hempstead Town garage and at a Valley Stream construction site. A noose was also sent to the Black principal of Canarsie High School in Brooklyn.

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FCC hearing in Seattle
By Jason Farbman and Lisa Wright

SEATTLE--Despite rain and cold, 1,100 people packed Town Hall November 9 to protest proposed changes to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations that would make it easier for giant corporations to monopolize the public airwaves.

Under the new rules, a single owner could potentially control the major daily newspaper, eight radio stations and three TV stations in a given city. The FCC has tried this before, in 2003. Despite overwhelming public opposition then, the FCC tried to push the changes through anyway, but the changes were blocked by the courts.

Now, the FCC is attempting to quietly push through the regulation changes again--but in Seattle and five other cities where public hearings have been held, the FCC has encountered a massive outpouring of public anger to the proposed changes.

Many of those who attended the Seattle meeting (quietly announced just a week in advance) stayed through its entire nine-hour length--until 1 a.m. More than 280 people signed up for two-minute speaking allotments--the overwhelming majority to angrily decry further consolidation of the media.

The hearing saw one media lie after another being rejected by those in attendance. One woman rebutted the notion that conglomerates provide a service to the cities they monopolize, because they donate some of their wealth to charities. "More important than feeding a few hungry people is informing us why people go hungry," she said

According to Timothy Karr, campaign director of the media reform group Free Press, the sentiment in Seattle was no different than in other cities. The crowd roared as he told the commissioners that, "The public is overwhelmingly opposed to any rule changes that would unleash a new wave of media consolidation. Despite what high-paid industry lobbyists have told you on their daily rounds at the FCC, media consolidation is bad for us all. Do your jobs and do the right thing for the benefit of our democracy."

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Protesting recruiters in New York City
By Gregg Ross

NEW YORK--Nearly 200 teenagers assembled at a school in Washington Heights in Manhattan on November 2 to voice their opposition to the Iraq war and military recruitment in their schools.

The event, called "Speak Out," was organized by the Washington Heights Say No to War coalition. The event featured a live DJ, poetry, spoken word performances by local artist "Philosophy" and many unscripted addresses from young people who attended.

Two representatives from Iraq Veterans Against the War shared their experiences and answered questions. Jennifer Hogg, who served in the Army National Guard, commended those present for opposing recruitment in their schools. "Remember," she said, "not enlisting is also a form of resistance."

After films depicting the horrific nature of the war in Iraq were screened, the emcee asked audience members if they knew someone currently serving in Iraq. In silence, dozens of hands were raised. When asked if they knew someone who had died in Iraq, a few hands were lowered, but most remained in the air.

Washington Heights is one of the most heavily recruited neighborhoods in New York City and one of the most devastated by casualties. Many of the youth at the Speak Out remembered Juan Alcantara, a Washington Heights soldier who died in Iraq last summer and was posthumously granted United States citizenship. On August 18, many of the same young people present at the Speak Out marched in the streets of Washington Heights to protest the war--stopping at the building where Alcantara lived and where his family still resides, in order to observe a moment of silence in his memory.

The success of the Speak Out was a testament to the strength of the antiwar movement in northern Manhattan. In the words of Katherine Diaz of Da Urban Butterflies, "Organizing the youth is not charity--it is essential to the movement."

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A victory for Ehren Watada
By Sam Bernstein

TACOMA, Wash.--Lt. Ehren Watada has won a temporary but extremely significant victory in his ongoing struggle to assert the right to refuse serving in an illegal and immoral war.

On November 8, federal Judge Benjamin Settle blocked the U.S. Army's plans for a second court-martial of the prominent war resister. Judge Settle's preliminary ruling found that a retrial would violate Lt. Watada's constitutional protections against being tried for the same crime twice--known as "double jeopardy."

Watada became one of the most prominent war resisters last year when he publicly announced that he was refusing to deploy to Iraq with his brigade. The Army charged him with "missing movement" and added "conduct unbecoming an office and a gentleman"--but the initial court-martial proceedings against him ended in a mistrial in February 2007.

Judge Settle's ruling last week could represent the beginning of the end of the battle. According to Watada's attorney, Ken Kagen, Judge Settle placed all the blame for the mistrial on the Army prosecutors and the Army judge while stating that Watada's arguments had considerable merit. Judge Settle also noted that "the public interest favors granting relief" for Watada--no doubt a response to the large and consistent protests in favor of Watada.

As Kagen put it, "This is an enormous victory, but it is not yet over." Indeed, this is only a preliminary ruling, not a final ruling.

Rallies and demonstrations to pressure Judge Settle to maintain his stance through the final ruling are already being planned by antiwar activists.

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