News and reports

Danbury, Conn., immigrant rights

DANBURY, Conn.--The city council here will vote February 6 on a measure that would partner the city's local police department with federal immigration agents. City residents and community members warn that the legislation would encourage racial profiling on the part of the police and subject local immigrants, documented or otherwise, to increased scrutiny and intimidation.

If the legislation passes, local authorities would have the right to ask anyone in Danbury for proof of their national origin or immigration status and to begin deportation proceedings against those they believe are undocumented. This could limit people's access to emergency services because those without documents may be afraid that contacting emergency personnel would result in deportation.

After experiencing a series of devastating raids, Danbury's immigrant residents already live in fear of police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. In spite of this terror, hundreds of the city's residents came together at an organizing meeting last week to plan a response to the racist law.

This body has issued a regional call for a demonstration at City Hall in solidarity with the town's immigrant residents at 6:30 p.m. on the day of the vote. There will also be a citywide boycott on the same day, with more than 40 businesses in Danbury closing their doors in support.

In a city where police already aid ICE officials in carrying out raids and racist groups such as Southern Connecticut Citizens for Immigration Reform regularly roam the streets, such a demonstration is long past due.

Make Democrats debate the war

LOS ANGELES--Some 400 demonstrators turned out to the Democratic Party debate at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood on January 31, to send the message "The War Is Still the Issue."

Before the debate, Military Families Speak Out, Iraq Veterans Against the War and the International Socialist Organization held a press conference outside. The Emergency Response Network, ACORN, Code Pink, Progressive Democrats of America and ANSWER also came out for the protest.

Organized in response to the stage-managed debate going on inside the Kodak Theatre, where Clinton and Obama were dealt pre-approved questions, protesters outside chanted "What do we want? Troops home! When do we want it? Now!"

A number of people turned out who said they were going to vote for a Democrat this year, yet felt it also necessary to demonstrate. People with a wide range of political affiliations came together for this protest, with many protesters locked into conversations between chants.

Those fighting against the occupation will have to continue arguing that real change has very little to do with what goes on in carefully orchestrated "debates" and more to do with what happens in the streets.

Winter Soldier at Fort Drum

WATERTOWN, N.Y.--Members of the Fort Drum chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War held a day of fundraising events at the Different Drummer Café here January 19.

The day began with a press conference attended by local media, at which Citizen Soldier director Tod Ensign and Iraq war veterans Adrienne Kinne, Matt Howard, John Turner and Mike Blake reached out to the military community to find soldiers interested in testifying at the upcoming Winter Soldier Investigation to be held in Washington, D.C., from March 13--16.

Taking its inspiration from a Vietnam-era event of the same name, the Winter Soldier Investigation will expose how U.S. war policy in Iraq and Afghanistan has led directly to violations of international law. As one active-duty soldier said, Winter Soldier is about showing people that the war crimes of Iraq and Afghanistan are "a matter of written policy" and not just the result of "a few bad apples."

The day's events were concluded with a benefit concert, where both local and national bands played for an audience of students and GIs.

Shut down the SOA

LOS ANGELES--On January 12, several hundred people from School of the Americas (SOA) Watch Los Angeles took a step forward in promoting the struggle to shut down the terrorist training camp formerly known as the School of the Americas by attending a local re-creation of the annual vigil held outside the gates of the camp in Fort Benning, Ga.

Father Roy Bourgeois, founder of SOA Watch, was the keynote speaker at the rally in Los Angeles Park. Several victims of Central American dictatorships also spoke of the brutal interrogations they suffered, supervised by unidentified individuals with Anglo accents.

Peace activists Cindy Sheehan and Fernando Suarez del Solar, whose sons were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, also made connections to the hypocrisy of the so-called "war on terror" while the U.S. is training terrorists. Many spoke of the need to shut down the U.S. prison camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Jim Lafferty of the National Lawyers Guild also mentioned police torture and the death penalty as other sources of state-sponsored brutality. Addressing the elections, Lafferty said, "More important than who's sitting in the White House is who's marching in the streets," and called for everyone to attend the antiwar protest on the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, scheduled for March 15 in Los Angeles.

For more information on the struggle against the SOA, visit www.soaw.org.

Protesting anti-choice bigots in S.F.

SAN FRANCISCO--For the third year running, the misnamed "Walk For Life" has brought thousands of anti-choice marchers to San Francisco. The protest was timed to coincide with the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that made abortion legal.

Outrageously, this year, the gathering was also promoted as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations. King's niece Alveda King, spoke, saying, "Some women may say that we are trying to take their civil rights. But I had two abortions and one miscarriage, and I know that the civil right does not belong to me to take a life of another human being."

Fortunately, the anti-choicers were met by a small and energetic counterprotest of 200 people. The Bay Area Coalition on Reproductive Rights organized a diverse coalition of groups to take part in the demonstration, including the Raging Grannies, antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan, local Democrats and immigrant rights activists.

Speakers at the counterprotest described how far abortion rights have been rolled back and voiced a demand to increase access to abortion for every woman. Sheehan spoke to promote her campaign as an independent congressional candidate, but several speakers focused on the importance of electing a Democratic president.

Whoever is elected this year, we will still have to confront the anti-choice bigots again next year. How we organize between now and then will key to making abortion more available to more women who need them.