News and reports

March 21, 2008

Protesting Rove in Iowa

IOWA CITY, Iowa--Former Bush advisor Karl Rove avoided, denied, lied, obfuscated, smeared and spun the truth at a $40,000 University of Iowa (UI) Lecture Committee-sponsored event here March 9. Both his talk and his after-party at the 126 restaurant in Iowa City, however, were interrupted by a crew of protesters calling for his arrest.

More than 200 people joined in a pre-speech protest inside the Iowa Memorial Union. One activist, dressed in a Rove mask, held a giant $40,000 check asking students to sign it so he could get paid. Others dropped colorful banners off a parking garage across the street and put on a hilarious anti-Rove puppet show.

Rove was heckled by a raucous student crowd for the duration of his interview and question-and-answer session. Dozens of protesters turned their backs on him, about 20 walked out, and at least two were kicked out for attempting a "citizen's arrest."

But the real action happened after Rove's speech, when the UI Antiwar Committee, a chapter of the Campus Antiwar Network, received word that the UI Lecture Committee was treating Rove to dinner and drinks at the tony 126 restaurant.

About a dozen people rolled up to 126, unfurled banners, and began speaking through a bullhorn: "Karl Rove, we know you're in there. We have the place surrounded. Come out with your hands up."

Area students began pouring out of their apartments, and many joined in the picketing. When Rove tried to sneak out the back door, protesters ran around and blocked his escape out of the alley. Rove ran back inside and eventually walked out the front door and drove off.

Iowa City police were stationed in a squad car outside of 126 part of the time, but never asked protesters to leave or to turn off megaphone.

Watch Des Moines Catholic Worker Frank Cordaro make the case against Rove:

Justice for Jason

AMHERST, Mass.--A multiracial crowd of more than 200 rallied here March 12 to demand "Justice for Jason!"

Jason Vassell, is a 23-year-old Black student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, who is facing serious charges for defending himself against a racist attack.

On February 3, Jason was sitting in his first-floor dorm room with two white, female friends, when two white men, not students, smashed in his window and repeatedly called Jason the n-word. The two men then broke into Jason's dorm building and attacked him in the hallway. In the course of the attack, Jason stabbed and wounded the assailants, and had his own nose broken.

Outrageously, police arrested Jason and charged him with two counts of assault with intent to murder and two counts of aggravated assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. He has been suspended from campus since the incident, ruining the biology major's plans to graduate this spring.

One of his assailants has been charged with two hate crimes and disorderly conduct, while the other man has not been charged at all.

Outraged by this vicious example of "Jena Justice," Jason's friends, professors and activists have formed the Justice for Jason Committee.

Ekwueme Michael Thelwell, a professor of Afro-American studies, commented at the rally, "This is, after all, America, and whenever race is involved it gets at something very ugly, and we need to communicate to the university and to law enforcement that we are concerned to see that social justice takes place. I think we all know the response would have been really different if the intruders had been two Black men from inner-city Boston."

At the March 12 rally, organizers handed out flowers representing the number of hate crimes committed in the United States each year. The crowd marched to Jason's dorm and wove the flowers into the fence out front. More protests are planned.

To find out how you can support Jason, visit Sign an online petition at

Blackwater kept out of San Diego County

SAN DIEGO--In the face of widespread local opposition, mercenary contractor Blackwater International announced on March 6 that it has withdrawn its proposal to set up a military training facility in rural San Diego County.

North Carolina-based Blackwater has been attempting to develop an 824-acre abandoned chicken ranch in rural Potrero, 50 miles east of downtown San Diego, as a military and police training site just miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.

When the local planning board endorsed Blackwater's development proposal, the community organized a successful recall drive, replacing all the pro-Blackwater committee members with Blackwater opponents.

Potrero residents organized with San Diego antiwar and environmental activists to build a hundreds-strong demonstration against the development. Blackwater's stated reason for the change in plans cited its inability to meet California guidelines for noise from its rifle ranges.

However, Blackwater West Vice President Brian Bonfiglio's claim that Blackwater's withdrawal had nothing to do with local protests was greeted with skepticism from local activists. Raymond Lutz, a prominent Blackwater opponent told the San Diego Union Tribune, "There was such fierce opposition to this in the public that I'm sure that played into their decision."

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