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News and reports

December 7, 2007 | Pages 10 and 11

ARTICLES BELOW:
Antiwar action at the Port of Olympia
Winter Soldier
Vermont high school students
Maryland anti-death penalty protest
Protesting for Palestinian rights

Antiwar action at the Port of Olympia
By Brian Huseby

OLYMPIA, Wash.--"Not In Our Port!" read the banner that led a march of approximately 300 people through downtown Olympia on November 17. The march and rally at the Port of Olympia followed almost two weeks of action protesting the use of the port to transport military equipment to nearby Fort Lewis.

On November 5, the Navy cargo ship USNS Brittin docked at the port to unload military equipment returning from Iraq. Two days later, trucks carrying the equipment began moving out of the port. They were met by protesters standing and sitting in the street until they were removed by police dragging them and striking them with nightsticks.

Protesters achieved a victory on November 9, when they succeeded on blocking two trucks from leaving the port. However, police arrested 12 protesters the following day when they blocked a major intersection.

The largest battle took place November 13-14, between about 200 protesters and police. Forty-three protesters were arrested while blocking the streets with dumpsters, other barricades and themselves.

The last trucks finally left the port on November 15. Throughout the conflict, the Olympia Police Department maintained that only minimal force was used to remove protesters. However, according to protester Emiliano Guevara, "The cops were beating people up for no reason."

The Olympia City Attorneys' office has charged at least two protesters with pedestrian interference, resisting arrest and interfering with a peace officer. However, more charges will likely follow, as at least 66 arrests were made in all.

Participants at the November 17 march and rally were heartened by the news that activists in New York and at least one other city have announced that they will initiate their own port protest actions.

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Winter Soldier

IRAQ VETERANS Against the War (IVAW) members have set the date for "Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan Investigation," an important event that will bring together soldiers of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and Iraqi and Afghan survivors who will testify to the daily horrors of U.S. occupation.

Planned for March 2008 in Washington, D.C., the event is inspired by the January 1971 Winter Soldier investigation in Detroit organized by Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW).

More than 100 VVAW winter soldiers testified and exposed the lie that atrocities committed by the U.S. military in Vietnam were isolated incidents. On the contrary, they were part of a systematic pattern of abuse and terror.

In March, IVAW members will bring to light the reality of occupation and show why war crimes in Haditha and Abu Ghraib aren't the exception but the rule.

If you would like to help with Winter Soldier, sign a statement of support or submit testimony, visit the IVAW Web site at www.ivaw.org/wintersoldier.

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Vermont high school students
By Jessica Zamiara

WILLISTON, Vt.--The Mount Mansfield Union (MMU) High School Peace Club launched an "Out of our schools and out of Iraq!" campaign with a sit-in of a military recruitment office November 30.

Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War and other Vermont activists joined the students of MMU inside, while more than 40 people rallied in support of the nonviolent resisters just outside the doors. Thirteen people were cited for trespassing, but the students are not done yet and are planning further actions.

Peace Club member Emily Coon commented, "I felt like we were finally taking over this space--the space which had been used to turn my peers into cannon fodder--and transforming it into our own space, for counter-recruitment."

A petition is being circulated at MMU to "get rid of military recruiters' invasion of student privacy through unwarranted contact," Coon remarked. "That was such a powerful feeling, that a small group of high school students and their allies can come together and close down part of the war machine."

The students closed down not one, but two military "career centers" in the town plaza (the one across the street never opened and protestors taped antiwar signs on all the windows) and brought renewed vigor to the Vermont antiwar movement.

Grassroots actions like these are vital at a time when so many are putting their hopes into an "antiwar" candidate to end the war.

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Maryland anti-death penalty protest
By David May

BALTIMORE--More than 200 people marched on Maryland's death row on November 17 to demand the state legislature repeal the death penalty. Chants of "Break the needle! Smash the chair! Maryland's death row is not fair!" rang out as protesters snaked between prison buildings and circled the one where death row is housed.

Most marchers were attending a regional conference of the human rights group Amnesty International, and were joined by members of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and the International Socialist Organization.

Executions are currently on hold in Maryland, nominally because of a technical legal issue about how the execution procedures were determined. But activist pressure has contributed both to the effective moratorium and to the mounting effort to get the legislature to repeal the death penalty in next winter's session. Gov. Martin O'Malley has said he favors a repeal.

Before the march, protesters gathered to hear Bud Welch, whose daughter Julie was killed in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and who, over time, came to oppose the death penalty. Protesters' chants were echoed by prisoners shouting through windows and over walls. At one point, prisoners led protesters in a chant of "They say death row. We say hell no!"

Exonerated death row prisoner and activist Shujaa Graham stressed the importance of protest. "When I was in prison on death row before a lot of people were protesting, I had given up hope. But then the protest movement grew, and that gave me hope. We have to continue to fight the power of the state."

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Protesting for Palestinian rights

NEW YORK--On November 20, the Madison Avenue jewelry store Leviev New York was the site of protests by human rights activists angered by Israeli diamond mogul Lev Leviev's settlement constructions in Palestine, and other abusive practices in Angola and New York City.

The protest, on the second day the store was open to the public, followed a noisy, surprise protest at Leviev New York's gala opening on November 13, which derailed the evening for the celebrities and socialites in attendance.

Forty New Yorkers chanted, danced the Palestinian Dabka and performed street theater. No customers entered the store during the hour and a half protest.

Protesters focused on Leviev's companies' construction of five illegal settlements on Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank; his close ties with the repressive government of Angola where he mines diamonds; and his massive New York City development projects with his former U.S. partner Shaya Boymelgreen, which have been plagued by construction problems and have frequently utilized underpaid, nonunion workers in hazardous conditions.

"We will return as often as necessary until New Yorkers understand that Leviev's triangle trade is built on human rights abuses and the destruction of marginalized communities in New York City, the Palestinian towns of Bil'in and Jayyous, and in Angola," said Ethan Heitner, a spokesperson for Adalah-NY.

For information, visit Adalah-NY: The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East on the Web at www.mideastjustice.org, or e-mail [email protected].

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