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News and reports

December 14, 2007 | Pages 14 and 15

ARTICLES BELOW:
University of Texas tuition protest
Justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal
Supporting veterans' rights
Protesting Ashcroft at Cornell
Sanctuary for Liliana

University of Texas tuition protest
By Robert McDonald

AUSTIN, Texas--When the University of Texas (UT) administration vowed to increase tuition by 15 percent over the next two years, few thought it could be stopped. The Texas legislature deregulated tuition in 2003, and it had nearly doubled in four years.

But student organizers in the Tuition Accountability Coalition beat back the proposed changes, with the regents voting on December 6 to lower the tuition increase to only 10 percent. Although it's not a total victory, it was a direct result of student organizing.

On November 28, some 100 students rallied and marched against tuition increase. The Tuition Accountability Coalition handed out packages of Ramen noodles to passersby, and held signs that said, "I Am $20,000 in Debt" and "Can't Afford to Pay, Can't Afford to Stay."

The group marched through the UT's main administration building, chanting "We're students--we're broke and poor! We won't pay a dollar more!" Marchers descended on a public forum on the proposed tuition increases, where students filled the room and asked tough questions to UT's student body president about other ways to fund the university's budget shortfall.

But the Tuition Accountability Coalition is not done: their main goal is to force the Texas Legislature to re-regulate tuition in order to bring it down to pre-2003 levels. Now the administration, regents and legislature know what the stakes are. "We've got a victory in the first battle," said Zack Hall, a member of the student coalition. "Now back to the war."

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Justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal
By Rebecca Kurti and Lee Wengraf

AS SUPPORTERS of death row prisoner, political activist and writer Mumia Abu-Jamal await the outcome of federal appeals, opponents are turning up the smear campaign against Mumia.

In November, NBC's Today Show announced it would host Maureen Faulker and Michael Smerconish, authors of the new book Murdered by Mumia, the latest in a series of attempts by the Fraternal Order of Police to block Mumia's s fight for justice.

Maureen Faulkner is the widow of Daniel Faulkner, a Philadelphia police officer who was killed in 1981. Mumia was convicted in a trial plagued by racism, prosecutorial misconduct and witness coercion.

Forty people turned out for a protest called by the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition outside of the show, which aired December 6. Their efforts paid off when the Today Show was forced to run an interview with Mumia's lawyer, Robert Bryan, who denounced the book, saying, "It is replete with half-truths and distortions...the book's focus is on vengeance, seeing Mumia die at the hands of the executioner irrespective of the truth."

The Today Show was also compelled to air newly discovered crime scene photos that raise serious questions about the police version of events. In May 2007, the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on four issues in Mumia's case, including the exclusion of Black jurors and the violation of his due process rights due to the judge's extreme racial bias.

To find out more information about Mumia's case and read his recent articles, visit www.mumia.org. Also visit the Campaign to End the Death Penalty at www.nodeathpenalty.org.

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Supporting veterans' rights
By Brian Lenzo

WATERTOWN, N.Y.--In response to the appalling treatment of Sgt. Brad Gaskins, who the military arrested essentially for seeking outside mental health treatment, the Different Drummer Café, located outside Ft. Drum, held a public forum on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Speakers included trauma therapist Dean Anthony; Joe Gregory, the father of a Iraq combat vet who was killed after coming home with PTSD; Vietnam Veterans Against the War National Organizing Secretary Marty Webster; and Tod Ensign, attorney for Gaskins and leader of Citizen Soldier.

Some 30 people came to hear about the military's failure to treat veterans who return from war traumatized by their experiences. During the discussion, soldiers shared their firsthand stories. An Iraq veteran explained, "I go into the VA [Veterans Administration] three times a week, and all come out with is a handful of drugs and a bunch of paperwork."

Iraq Veterans Against the War members testified that the lack of veterans' health care is a logical outcome of a military machine geared to train killers and dispose of them when they're no longer "fit to serve."

Other speakers reminded the audience that the Iraqi people are facing "traumatic stress disorder, but it's not 'post' because the war is still raging for them every day." Throughout the evening, it became clear that if veterans and soldiers are to get the treatment they deserve, we are going to have to fight for it, whatever administration is in the White House.

For information on the Different Drummer Café or the IVAW, see www.differentdrummercafe.org or www.ivaw.org.

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Protesting Ashcroft at Cornell
By Nathan Mullenax

ITHACA, N.Y.--A broad coalition of student groups and community members organized a protest in response to a talk given by former Attorney General John Ashcroft at Cornell University.

Those participating in the protest included members of the Cornell Campus Antiwar Network, Cornell Organization for Labor Action, the National Lawyers Guild, the Islamic Alliance for Justice, law students, community members and members of Students for a Just Peace from Ithaca College.

Before the event, approximately 100 students congregated outside the auditorium. Chants included "When Arab-Americans are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!"

Inside the auditorium, after about 15 minutes of a fear-mongering speech from Ashcroft, approximately 70 protesters donned black hoods--symbolizing those who have been disappeared, silenced or marginalized by Ashcroft's policies--and silently stood up and turned their backs to the stage. A dismayed Ashcroft asked, "What do you want me to do?"

After standing for about 15 minutes, protesters slowly filed out of the room. Outside they regrouped and marched to an organizing meeting chanting "Whose streets? Our streets! Whose war? Their war!" and "We support war resisters: they're our brothers, they're our sisters."

"We're standing in solidarity with those people whose voices are silenced under the Patriot Act and the domestic war on our liberties that John Ashcroft was pursuing when he was in office and now spreading with his ideology," said David Jacobus.

Cornell University routinely brings right-wing speakers to lecture, but the response to John Ashcroft was the first large unified display of outcry against such a speaker in several years.

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Sanctuary for Liliana
By John Osmand

OXNARD, Calif.--Approximately 100 supporters of an undocumented immigrant mother named Liliana, who is currently in sanctuary from deportation, raised more than $900 at a benefit November 25. The proceeds will benefit Liliana's family, which is under hardship while she is in sanctuary at the United Church of Christ in Simi Valley.

Liliana has been in sanctuary with her infant son since the beginning of summer, when immigration officers threatened her with deportation, despite the fact that her entire family--including her husband and three children--are U.S. citizens. A Mexican national, Liliana was once detained for crossing the U.S.-Mexico boarder and is forever barred from gaining legal residency under present immigration policy.

In addition to entertainment from a Aztec traditional ceremony, mariachi and folkloric dance, the benefit included presentations from Liliana's husband Gerardo, a documentary of the New Sanctuary Movement (NSM), and a presentation from Alice Linsmeier of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, which organized Liliana's sanctuary. Also presenting were representatives of Frente Contra las Redadas-Ventura County (FCR-VC), Hermandad Mexicana, and Oxnard MEChA.

In a video welcome, Liliana made it clear that the struggle for her dignity is also the struggle for all families facing the threat of deportation. At the end of the event, Liliana was telephoned, and the crowd chanted slogans of support, including "Liliana, escucha, el pueblo esta en la lucha" (Liliana, listen, the people are in the struggle).

For more information on the NSM, go online to NewSantuaryMovement.org. For more information on FCR-VC, go online to myspace.com/fcr_de_vc.

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