News and reports

Justice for Kevin Cooper

THE 9TH U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on December 4 upheld the death sentence of California prisoner and death row activist Kevin Cooper. The recent decision comes as Cooper nears the fourth anniversary of a last-minute stay of execution.

While the ruling was disappointing to Cooper and his supporters, it was not entirely unexpected. Two of the judges, Pamela Ann Rymer and Ronald Gould, are pro-death penalty and have denied Cooper's appeals in the past.

The third member of the panel, Judge Margaret McKeown, wrote a concurrent opinion that indicts the federal Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act for limiting the ability to examine evidence and rule on issues that are now procedurally barred.

McKeown writes that she is "troubled that we cannot...resolve the question of his guilt 'once and for all.'" She also writes: "Significant evidence bearing on Cooper's culpability has been lost, destroyed or left unpursued, including, for example, blood-covered coveralls belonging to a potential suspect who was a convicted murderer, and a bloody T-shirt, discovered alongside the road near the crime scene...Countless other alleged problems with the handling and disclosure of evidence and the integrity of the forensic testing and investigation undermine confidence in the evidence."

Kevin Cooper wrote a statement about the hearing, including one example of the issues addressed in the concurrent opinion, "[McKeown] writes concerning the 2001 DNA tests on the blood sample that the state said came from me and was found in the victim's home. The DNA tests on that piece of evidence are a fraud, because that blood sample was completely consumed in pre-trial tests in 1983/1984. This is what McKeown cites from a California Supreme Court decision in 1991. How could something that was completely consumed in pre-trial tests be DNA tested in 2001?"

After the ruling, Kevin Cooper's legal team filed a petition for an en banc, or full panel, hearing. This will be a key time for the Campaign to End the Death Penalty to rebuild support for Cooper and fight to prevent any executions.

For more information about Kevin Cooper's case, including a link to the ruling, go to www.savekevincooper.org.

Rochester, N.Y., antiwar forum

ROCHESTER, N.Y.--More than 40 people packed into the Rochester Antiwar Storefront during a two-hour event, "Resisting Empire in Iraq: Veterans Present the Case for Immediate Withdrawal," hosted by the city's newly formed chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW).

With a standing-room-only crowd, Rochester Chapter President T.J. Buonomo opened the event with a scathing indictment of U.S. imperial interventions around the world. Other speakers included Rochester IVAW member Bryan Casler, the group's regional coordinator, Nate Lewis, and Phil Aliff, an IVAW national steering committee member stationed at Ft. Drum.

The speakers described how they turned against the war, discussed life in Iraq and why immediate withdrawal is the only solution in Iraq. The first-person accounts provided gripping, heart-wrenching details about a war made distant and detached by the mainstream media.

Discussion following the presentations took up the character of the Iraqi resistance, the increasingly desperate tactics of the U.S. military to simulate "progress," the role of U.S. private contractors in Iraq, and the worsening plight of veterans seeking care when they return. The meeting concluded after 90 minutes, but discussion continued informally for almost an hour beyond that.

The event not only showed the growing strength of IVAW, but also the concrete ways in which the civilian antiwar movement can help build the soldiers' and veterans' movement.

Local groups Rochester Against War, Military Families Speak Out, Veterans for Peace and the Unitarian Peace Advocates helped promote and publicize the event and hounded two major TV news stations into covering the event.

Even more significantly, the existence of places like the Antiwar Storefront and the Different Drummer Cafe outside Ft. Drum, provide a venue for soldiers and veterans to connect up, speak their mind and read antiwar literature.

Palestinian rights protest in NYC

NEW YORK--"You're glitz, you're glam, you're stealing Palestinian land!"

Throughout the busiest shopping days of the holiday season, protesters danced, chanted and sang in front of the chic new Madison Avenue jewelry store Leviev New York to protest Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev's destruction of marginalized communities in Palestine, Angola and Brooklyn.

Live music, street theater, dancing of the Palestinian circle dance Debka and "alternative" caroling marked the protests, each drawing 40 to 50 protesters.

Protests were organized by Adalah-NY: The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East, which was formed to demand an immediate, unconditional, and permanent end to U.S. and U.S.-sponsored Israeli aggression in the Middle East.

Riham Barghouti of Adalah-NY said, "Because Leviev has made it impossible for many Palestinians to live normal lives and to celebrate the holidays of Eid Al Adha and Christmas this month, we will spoil his holidays and continue our campaign against his human rights abuses."

Leviev, one of Israel's richest men, built his fortune trading in diamonds with apartheid-era South Africa. His company now buys diamonds from the repressive Angolan government and uses the profits to fund the construction of suburban developments for Israeli settlers on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank.

Leviev and his former U.S. partner Shaya Boymlegreen have also angered New Yorkers with their abusive local developments schemes. Leviev has invested $1 billion in real estate in New York City over the last year.

Leviev and Boymelgreen have employed underpaid, non-union workers in hazardous conditions and violated housing codes to construct luxury apartments that displace low-income and moderate-income residents in Brooklyn, provoking local branches of the Laborer's International Union and ACORN to launch a campaign against them.

The campaign of creative actions will continue in 2008, and may target a planned Leviev store in Dubai.

Ventura, Calif., antiwar carolers

VENTURA, Calif.--Over a dozen antiwar carolers sang peace standards and Christmas songs rewritten to oppose the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan on December 21 and 22. Hoisting a "Troops Home for the Holidays" banner, carolers took to downtown's Main Street to sing classics like "Blowin' in the Wind" and "Imagine."

Activists collaborated to write antiwar lyrics to traditional Christmas carols like "Frosty the Snowman/George Bush the Con Man," "Deck the Halls with Signs of Peace" and "The Twelve Rationales for War."

The group held an encore performance at the Saturday farmers' market. At both events, activists passed out pamphlets calling for an organizing meeting to coordinate a commemoration when the 4,000th U.S. soldier dies in Iraq. The meeting is scheduled for January 5.

The event was organized by the Ventura County Committee to Stop the War and the Iraq Moratorium/Peace Coalition of Greater Ventura.

Carolers had originally planned to hold the event at the main entrance to mall, but mall management called to threaten the carolers with arrest. The organizers decided to move the caroling downtown, despite mass publicizing for the mall event.

However, the following Monday, the California State Supreme Court ruled to uphold free speech at malls that many activists feel apply to the caroling. Activists are considering demanding an apology and holding a protest caroling.

To see the song lyrics, go to lists.riseup.net/www/info/vcstopthewar/ and click on "lyrics." To contact the Pacific View Mall, ask for Alice Love at 805-642-0605.