Friday, April 06, 2007


"If the government failed to meet the demands of male and female students of Jamia Hafsa regarding imposition of Sharia in the country, as the deadline given by the students ends on Thursday night, we will declare Sharia and establish Sharia court in the premises of Lal Masjid after Friday prayer," said Maulana Abdul Aziz while talking to the media.

Sources said yesterday the proposed court would hear and decide cases of all kinds “in accordance with Islamic injunctions”.

They said the decision to set up the court was made by the Jamia Hafsa madressah administration a few days ago, and would be implemented after taking “scholars” attending the “Enforcement of Sharia and Glory of Jihad Conference” on board.

Not so fast!

Hundreds of Pakistani women and human rights activists rallied yesterday to urge the government to act against Islamic students associated with a couple of radical madressahs who have launched “anti-vice” patrols in the capital Islamabad.

The Gulf Times reports around 600 protesters chanted slogans calling upon the authorities to “curb the rise of extremist forces in the country that are promoting intolerance and violence."

The protest came a week after burqa-clad girls from the Jamia Hafsa religious school in the capital abducted a local woman accused of running a brothel.

Male students from the adjacent Red Mosque meanwhile have formed Taliban-style ‘Vice and Virtue’ squads urging owners of DVD and music shops to shut their business.

The students were “harassing and terrorising ordinary citizens of Pakistan in the name of Islam” and must be stopped, said a joint statement by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and a dozen non-governmental organisations.

The groups also urged people to “rise against these extremist religious bigoted forces and secure the future of the present and future generations.”

The following is from DAWN (Pakistan).

Protests in Islamabad against ‘moral police’

ISLAMABAD, April 5: Several hundred men and women protested here on Thursday against the religious militancy and ferociousness of the students of Lal Masjid madressahs who have held the capital in awe for 10 weeks.

They gathered at the Aabpara Chowk in response to a call of civil society organisations to protest against Jamia Hafsa girls, and their Lal Masjid male supporters, who have launched a campaign “to stop vices” in the city and pave way for enforcement of Sharia in the country.

“Stop terrorising people in the name of religion,” said one placard held by the demonstrators who were outnumbered by riot police.

Jamia Hafsa girls have been on the march, and in the headlines ever since they seized a public library on January 21 and forced the city authorities to stop demolishing illegally built mosques.

That success encouraged them to launch their “stop vices” campaign. They kidnapped three women alleging that they were running a brothel, and started asking owners of music and CD-DVD shops in the Aabpara Market to close down their business.

One placard at the protest on Thursday declared: “No to religious extremism, Yes to life and music”.

Other placards and slogans declared: “No to extremism in the name of religion”, “No to mullahism”, “No to religious fascism”, “Ghunda Gardi Band Karo”, “Danda Badmashi Band Karo”, and “Mullah Ki Yari Nahi Chalay Gi”.

Though the demonstration took place a few hundred metres away from the Lal Masjid, it drew no reaction from the ‘moral squads’ entrenched in the mosque.

Law-enforcement personnel were there for a couple of hours as the slogan-chanting human rights activists marched along the Aabpara Market.

Towards the end of the protests, however, police intervened when some enthusiastic women activists wanted to march towards Lal Masjid and blocked their way.

Representatives of the civil society and a number of political leaders made short speeches criticising “the self-proclaimed custodians of morality”.

They demanded that the government must use force to end Hafsa girls’ occupation of the children’s library and warned that if it was not done “the menace” would continue to be a threat for peaceful citizens.

When asked how a few hundred activists could confront the 4,000 organised and emotionally charged students of Jamia Hafsa, prominent activist Dr Nayyar said: “They have to be opposed by someone. We just want to impress upon the government that peaceful citizens of the city are really disturbed over this development where they are not safe even within the four walls of their homes.”

“There is no second opinion that the government has to establish its writ,” he added.

Ruling party MNA Mehnaz Rafi remarked that these people should keep their faith system unto themselves. “There is no need to make us more Muslim,” she said.

As soon as the protesters marched back to Aabpara Chowk to disperse, some PPP leadership, along with their supporters, appeared on the scene and almost monopolised the demonstration.

In their speeches, the party’s secretary general Raja Pervez Ashraf and information secretary Sherry Rehman criticised the government for deliberately ignoring the threat and maintain the status quo on the Jamia Hafsa issue.

“Where is the writ of the government? They take no time in throwing out elected governments but looking helpless in front of a few thousand burqa-clad students,” Raja Ashraf said.

“What do they (religious extremists) want, do they want to make us Muslims again?” he asked.

A press statement issued by the organisers of the protest said: “We believe that the students of Jamia Hafsa are playing into the hands of religious extremists who wish to impose their fascist ideology upon the state and its apparatuses — totally opposite to the views espoused by Quaid-i-Azam.

“The violent manner in which these students have tried to negotiate their political aims and agenda is proof that the anti-democratic forces have become a threat to the life and property of ordinary people.

“The responsibility for this state of affairs rests squarely with the wrong policies of the present and previous governments that promoted Jihadi culture and patronised religious extremists,” the statement said.

A veteran human rights activist participating in the protest talked about some other “ominous signs that forebode ill for the future of a civilised, pluralistic society”.


A teacher shot by Argentine police at close range with a tear gas canister on Wednesday died yesterday evening reports the Buenos Aires Herald.

Carlos Fuentealba, 41, was hit in the head from a distance of less than two metres when he was inside a car with four other people during the protest by Neuquén teachers, one of the several protests that teachers have been staging in many provinces to demand better wages.

Union leaders have called on teachers and other workers to take part in a nation-wide strike on Monday. Protests like today's in Buenos Aires, have already spread far beyond the borders of Neuquén Province. In Salta teachers tried to barricade state lawmakers inside the local legislature after an unsatisfactory vote on improving teacher's salaries. Police there attacked unionists with rubber bullets.

Argentine teachers who earn a base salary starting at US$333 (EUR250) a month complain that two years of double-digit inflation have eroded the purchasing power of their paychecks and call government offers to raise wages by 10 percent insufficient.

The following story is from BBC.

Argentine protest sparks clashes

Police in the Argentine province of Neuquen have used tear gas for a
second day against teachers protesting over pay and working

The clashes came as people gathered at a local government building
to protest against police action a day earlier.

One protester died after being injured by an exploding tear gas
canister during Wednesday's rally as police dispersed crowds
blocking a highway.

The main teachers' union is to strike on Monday in protest at the

The teachers are demanding higher wages, arguing that inflation has
reduced the spending power of their salaries.

The violence on Wednesday happened when police fired tear gas to
disperse the several hundred-strong group of demonstrators, some of
whom responded by throwing stones.

One protester, Carlos Fuentealba, was hit by a tear gas canister and
taken to hospital but later died of his injuries.

Fuentealba's death is only likely to further fuel what is already a
volatile protest over pay and conditions, says BBC Americas editor
Will Grant.

Other teachers' protests have been reported around the country.
Police fired rubber bullets at teachers in the northern province of
Salta after they tried to prevent lawmakers leaving the local
legislature after a vote on salaries, the Associated Press news
agency said.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Peruvian workers at a U.S.-owned smelter complex ended a three-day strike after coming to deal with the company.

But not before they pretty much shut down the region (see article below).

The La Oroya smelter complex, which is owned by Doe Run Company, produces concentrates of lead, zinc, copper, gold and silver.

Workers downed their tools on Monday because they were dissatisfied with how the company redistributed a share of profits to employees -- something mining firms must do under Peruvian law.

The plant has other problems than how it deals with its workers.

Last month public health and environmental organizations from throughout the Western Hemisphere announced the filing of a petition with the human rights division of the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C. accusing the Peruvian government of doing little to halt contamination from the metallurgical complex that is impacting the lives and health of the citizens of La Oroya, Peru.

Living in Peru reports the petition claims the Peruvian government failed to place pollution controls on the metallurgical complex that operates in La Oroya, a situation that tramples on the human rights of the town's citizens. Located in the city of La Oroya, some 175 kms from Lima, the complex has been operating for 80 years. Doe Run Peru, a subsidiary of Doe Run Company of St. Louis, Missouri, USA, owns the complex.

Recent monitoring of air quality -- performed by Doe Run itself -- has shown that daily average sulfur dioxide levels are between 80 and 300 times the maximum level permitted by the World Health Organization. The Blacksmith Institute even declared the city of La Oroya one of the Top Ten Most Polluted Cities in the world.

The petition asks the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to recommend that the Peruvian government implement urgent measures to halt the grave violations against the health and lives of the citizens of La Oroya.

The following comes from Living in Peru.

Andean town shuts down against Doe Run Peru

(LIP-jl) -- According to Andina News Agency, all transport, commercial, and academic activities in the Andean city of La Oroya, Peru have shut down in support of protests against Doe Run Peru (owned by Doe Run in St. Luis, U.S.).

Regional President Vladimiro Huaroc Portocarrero informed that various social organizations from Yauli Province (located in the department of Junin) have decided to show their solidarity for striking employees who are demanding bonus-pay raises.

"The shut down started on Tuesday at midnight and the entire province is completely paralyzed - absolutely zero transportation or commerce. Every establishment is closed," affirmed the regional president.

According to Huaroc, a confrontation between protesters and police occurred at 3 a.m this morning. 15 strikers were arrested and some minor injuries were reported.

In the aftermath, Doe Run Peru officials held an emergency meeting with union representatives but, according to Huaroc, no agreement was reached.

"The history of distrust between Doe Run Peru and its employees resurfaced yesterday as charges of employee mistreatment and humiliation were made by some workers," declared Huaroc.

The regional leader insisted that both parties need to hold discussions during the next hours to avoid further problems.

"Doe Run Peru is in unfavorable position due to its history of unfulfilled environmental agreements," indicated Hauroc.

According to union officials, Doe Run Peru's 2006 profits reached US$120 million, while the company claimed just US$85 million, severely cutting employee bonuses that are mandated by Peruvian law.


Two left-wing peasant leaders, Arthur Orpilla and Dionisio Battad, missing since last week, were found dead and stuffed into garbage bags on a northern Philippine riverbank Wednesday, police said. The two, both 50 years old, are reportedly from Bagunot village in Baggao, Cagayan. Orpilla's body was found with multiple stab wounds, while remains of Battad had gun shot wounds.

Vendors found the bodies beside the Cagayan River in Lal-lo town, about 30 kilometers from Baggao municipality where soldiers had allegedly abducted them on March 27, said National Peasant Movement (KMP) spokesman Carl Ala.
Ala said KMP members have been put on a military list of suspected supporters of the underground Communist party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People's army, which has a strong presence in Cagayan, about 380 kilometers north of Manila.

He said more than 60 KMP leaders have been killed since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took office in 2001 and ordered an intensified counterinsurgency campaign by the military.

An article in the Anglican Journal reports a five-member delegation of Filipino church leaders and human rights advocates traveling across Canada says since 2001 more than 800 church workers, human rights activists, lawyers, journalists, labour organizers, peasant leaders and heads of political organizations have been killed, reportedly by police and military agents of the government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“I have been going around telling my story, but mine is only one case,” said Dr. Constancio Claver, a medical doctor serving indigenous communities in Northern Luzon and one member of the delegation in Canada, who survived an assassination attempt that killed his wife in 2006. Dr. Claver is a leader of the political group, Bayan Muna (Country First), which has been branded by the Philippine military as a communist front. Dr. Claver, who sustained three gunshot wounds, has been unable to continue his practice following serious injury to his left arm. “I’m also now without a home. I’ve had to move around constantly and clandestinely since the death threats have continued,” he told a gathering in Toronto jointly organized by the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund of the Anglican Church of Canada, the United Church of Canada, the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, and Kairos, an ecumenical peace and justice coalition.

Another delegation member Rev. Joe Dizon, chair of Kairos-Philippines and director of the Workers’ Assistance Centre, talked about how trade unions are “under siege,” following President Macapagal-Arroyo’s statement in 2005 that workers who demand labour rights “are terrorizing foreign investors.”

The article below comes from the Gulf Times.

Activists found dead in Cagayan

MANILA: Two leftist activists missing since last week in the northern Philippines were found dead yesterday, while another activist was abducted just outside the capital, police said.

The bodies of Arthur Orpilla and Dionisio Battad were found near a river in Lallo town in Cagayan province, 390km north of Manila, yesterday morning.

Police said the two victims, members of the leftist Peasant Movement of the Philippines, had been missing since March 27.

Colleagues said the two men were allegedly abducted by soldiers while they were campaigning for a leftist group vying for seats in the House of Representatives in the May elections.

Chief Superintendent Geary Barias, head of a police task force on extra-judicial killings in the Philippines, said he would travel to Cagayan today to oversee the investigation into the killing.

“I have mobilised all resources and personnel of the regional task force to lead the investigation into the death of the two peasant group members,” he said.

On Tuesday evening, six gunmen abducted a local leader of an urban poor group in Dasmarinas town in Cavite province, just south of Manila.

Lourdes Rubrico, 62, was attending a neighbourhood prayer reading when the gunmen seized her at gunpoint, according to Chief Superintendent Nicasio Radovan.

Radovan said he has formed a team to investigate the abduction.

The Philippine government has recently been under fire for its failure to put a stop to a wave of attacks against political activists in the country.

More than 350 activists have been killed, while more than 180 others were victims of forced disappearances in the Philippines since 2001, according to local human rights group Karapatan


Angel Rodriguez, 19, a guardsman who is slated to ship out to Afghanistan in November, received a sprained ankle and facial bruises when at least five Philadelphia cops barged into his home, wrecked his video camera and confiscated film he had taken of the cops and neighbors fighting. He was taping what he thought was police brutality.

All this happened as Philadelphia police commissioner and top commanders patrolled the streets hoping to curb some of the violence that has killed more than 100 people there this year.

Over the weekend, the city surpassed 100 murders when police found a 40-year-old woman dead in Kensington with her head covered in a plastic bag.

In addition, three men, ages 24 to 50, were shot and killed.

When asked about the surging murder count, Philadelphia, Mayor John Street said, "Well, I mean there are a number of things that go into the homicide rate," responded the Mayor. "There…this is…this is a social problem."

One major social concern within the city, reports the on-line Post Chroncile, is poverty. Philadelphia's poverty rate is the highest of any major U.S. city. To add to this, Philadelphia is overwhelmed with illegal weapons.

"It's a war going on," said Donald Cave, who spoke during a gathering at Longstreth Elementary School in Southwest Philadelphia Sunday night. It's gotten so bad, Cave said, that his brother in Iraq recently contacted him to ask, "Do you need me to send you anything?"

As for the case of the guy with the camera beaten by the same police out to "protect" the city, the Philadelphia Daily News says several Internal Affairs investigators went to the scene of the beating, and Chief Inspector Colarulo returned again last night.

"There's going to be a thorough investigation," Colarulo told Rodriguez's family.

"There will be no cover-ups."

There never are, of course.

The following is from NBC News 10 in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Man Says Police Beat Him For Taping Brutality

PHILADELPHIA -- Angel Rodriguez told NBC 10 that he needs crutches to get around because at about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, police beat him and broke his ankle.

"I was right here looking down right in front of the house," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said police were on his block making a drug arrest, but then he started videotaping what he thought turned into police brutality.

"There was like five cops on each person. They had the one lady on the floor they was kicking her and the other guy they had handcuffed against the car and they were beating him with the sticks," Rodriguez said.

The 19-year-old Army reservist said police saw him videotaping and rushed into his Lippincott Street home without a warrant.

He said within minutes, he went from being a witness to a victim.

"The one cop came punched me in my mouth then they threw me on the floor. After they were done smashing the camera then they hit me with the night stick," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez showed NBC 10 the camera he said damaged when the police ripped out the videotape.

"They left the camera here in pieces and took the tape with them," Rodriguez said.

Police officials at the 24 District confirmed to NBC 10 that they made several arrests near Rodriguez's home Tuesday night.

Police also confirmed that Rodriguez was not arrested, and NBC 10 was there when internal affairs detectives combed the neighborhood investigating the allegations.

Luis Melendez, Rodriguez's brother, said he was home at the time, and the incident has left him with a bad impression about police.

"The cops go on the news every night and we hear about how they need citizens to help them make these streets better and get guns off the streets but they're out here beating up citizens," Melendez said.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Follow the money. In America, well most places, its often all about the money.

Take the University of Illinois and its mascot Chief Illiniwek, for example. The school made $1.8 million in the fiscal year ended last June on licenses granted to reproduce all its logos, including the chief. Details were not immediately available, but a substantial portion came from chief-related licensing, university officials have said.

On top of all that, at many schools booster clubs have promised to boycott should the logos and mascots be changed. Large numbers of alumni also have made it clear that a name change will end their contributions.

At the University of North Dakota, casino magnate Ralph Engelstad committed $100 million dollars to his alma mater, with half earmarked for an 11,500-seat state of the art hockey arena. Engelstad, a former All-American player for North Dakota, was outraged when President Charles Kupchella formed a commission to study the controversy around the team nickname, the Fighting Sioux.

In a letter to Kupchella Tolerance.Org reports, Engelstad threatened to turn off the heat, cease construction of the arena, and withdraw the entire $100 million commitment. The very next day, the State Board of Higher Education voted 8-0 to keep the name.

The following is from Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.

Farewell To the Chief
By Mary Annette Pember

American Indian groups and others have largely won their battle over the use of Native images by college sports teams, but the economic backstory is seldom reported.

The battle over the use of American Indian names and mascots among college and professional athletic teams has a seldom-told economic backstory. It’s more than simple alumni sentimentality. Money, influence and power often play a significant role in decisions regarding the use of these symbols. Paraphernalia bearing the images bring in millions of dollars each year to the institutions. But the names and images have been decried as disrespectful and insensitive to American Indians.

And it is the tribes, along with philanthropic, education, professional and civil rights organizations, that are leading the movement to retire the symbols.

The National Congress of American Indians, the National Education Association, the NCAA and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights have all voiced their opposition to the mascots. Last year, the NCAA ruled that teams featuring offensive mascots would no longer be able to host postseason tournaments and would be subject to other penalties and restrictions. That rule, combined with the waves of negative publicity the mascots have generated, has led many colleges and universities to shelve the mascots permanently. According to Suzan Shown Harjo, the executive director of the Morning Star Institute and a columnist for Indian Country Today, more than 3,000 high schools and colleges featured American Indian imagery in 1970. Today, that number has dropped to less than 1,000.

The most recent and possibly most visible mascot retirement came in February when University of Illinois trustees chose to discontinue the use of the school’s mascot, Chief Illiniwek. The circumstances of the Chief’s demise shed a glimmer of light on the powerful economic forces at play behind these struggles. Buried in the fanfare of Chief Illiniwek’s last dance was the fact that the university’s board of trustees met last month to decide what the school will do with the mascot’s trademark. A group of alumni and students who formerly portrayed the Chief have asked to have it transferred to their nonprofit organization, Council of Chiefs. University chancellor Richard Hermann will determine the fate of the Chief’s copyright, a process which he reported could take up to a year. The university earned $1.8 million last year from the sale of licensed merchandise.

According to the News-Gazette of Champaign, Ill., merchandise featuring the Chief brought in six figures on its own. During the meeting, the board also ratified the February decision to drop the use of Chief Illiniwek and voted down a resolution brought by trustee David Dorris directing the school to join a lawsuit by the Council of Chiefs against the NCAA. The suit alleges that the NCAA’s sanction is a violation of free speech and academic freedom.

In 2006, Dennis Hastert, then Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, sponsored the Protection of University Governance Act, which would have allowed colleges to sue the NCAA retroactively back to 2005 and collect attorney fees and damages. The bill was co-sponsored by nine mostly Republican representatives from Illinois, as well as U.S. Rep. F. Allen Boyd. Jr., who represents Tallahassee, Fla., home of the Florida State University Seminoles. The bill went largely unnoticed by the media, with the exception of the American Indian press.

“It is virtually unheard of for Congress to provide retroactive causes of action because courts usually toss them out as unconstitutional,” says Harjo. In the end, the bill did not become law, expiring in December 2006. It was referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Last month, U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Ill., reintroduced the bill in the new House.

Harjo, who is Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee, was also among a group of prominent Native leaders who filed a landmark 1992 petition with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office arguing that the agency should cancel trademarks owned by the National Football League’s Washington Redskins because the images are disparaging to American Indians. The group was victorious in court in 1999, but the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia overturned the decision on appeal in 2003, ruling that too much time had elapsed between the inception of the trademark in 1967 and the lawsuit in 1999. The court also agreed with the defense’s argument that rescinding the trademark would exert undo economic hardship on team owner Daniel Snyder. Merchandise bearing the Redskins’ logo brings in more than $5 million each year. A new case, brought by six young American Indians, is currently pending. Because none of the new plaintiffs was alive in 1967, lawyers for the Redskins won’t be able to rely on the delay defense.

Money Talks
Soon after taking office at the University of North Dakota in 1999, president Charles E. Kupchella appeared sympathetic to student and community members seeking to eliminate the team’s “Fighting Sioux” nickname. He publicly expressed his desire for a “third solution” to the mascot issue. However, by late 2000, Kupchella was publicly supporting the use of the mascot. Not coincidentally, many observers say, his change in opinion coincided closely with the publication of a letter sent to him and the state board of public education by alumni and donor Ralph Englestad. In the letter, Englestad indicated he would renege on his promise to build a $100 million hockey arena if the university changed the Fighting Sioux nickname. The day after receiving Englestad’s letter, the state board of education voted to keep the logo. Recently, North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s office filed a lawsuit on behalf of UND and the board against the NCAA. The trial, which is also seeking cash damages in addition to lifting sanctions for keeping the name, will begin later this year.

“The Ralph,” as the 10-story brick arena is known, is currently owned privately by the Englestad family trust, which stipulates that Fighting Sioux logo be kept indefinitely. The trust rents the arena to the university. Englestad, the multi-millionaire owner of The Imperial Palace Casinos in Las Vegas and Biloxi, Miss., was an eccentric figure. He publicly revered the Nazi party and kept a collection of Nazi memorabilia displayed at his casino, including a painting of himself in a Nazi uniform. Englestad also hosted birthday parties for Adolf Hitler in his casino. He was fined $1.5 million by the Nevada Gaming Commission in 1989 for actions reflecting poorly on the industry. He died in 2002 from cancer.

To date, four schools have negotiated agreements with local tribal leadership eliciting support for their American Indian-nicknamed teams and mascots: The Catawba College Indians, the Central Michigan University Chippewas, the University of Utah Utes and the Florida State Seminoles. Of the four, FSU is the only one that still maintains a mascot.

The 3,300-member Florida Seminole tribe has publicly supported FSU’s use of the Seminole name and the Osceola mascot, who traditionally opens each home football game by riding in on a horse and throwing a flaming spear into the ground. Both the university and tribal leadership insist that no money has changed hands in the arrangement, although some scholarships have been awarded to tribal members. The leadership of the 6,000-member Seminole tribe of Oklahoma also supports FSU’s use of the name and mascot.

The other three schools have arrangements with their areas’ respective tribal groups. In a public statement, NCAA senior vice president Bernard W. Franklin, said, “the decision of a namesake sovereign tribe, regarding when and how its name and imagery can be used, must be respected even when others may not agree.”


Now be honest. Given the chance wouldn't you like to throw and egg at Karl Rove. Who wouldn't? At American University in Washington the opportunity arose and some answered the call.

Students there tried to make a citizen's arrest of Karl Rove last night at one of his canned "invitation only" speeches in front of the College Republicans.

Student organizers say they organized the demonstration after compelling evidence that Rove violated an act stipulating that all presidential email be recorded on a White House server. I can think of a whole slew of better things to arrest the guy for.

Some of the rowdies even kicked and shook Karl's car. I remember way back in history when I got to do the same to a car carrying Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Lewis Walt when he came calling at the University of Kansas. That was some fun.

The following article is from that beacon of radical news known as the Washington Post.

Students Lie in Front of Car, Delay Rove After Speech
Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Heckling protesters briefly delayed the car carrying top White House aide Karl Rove last night as he left the American University campus, where he had just given a speech. No arrests or injuries were reported after Rove's invitation-only talk.

About 20 students lay in front of the car as it prepared to leave, a witness said.

Josh Goodman, an AU junior, said other students kicked the car "and tried to stop it as best as they could."

He said the car, with Rove in the back seat, left after those in front of it "were all pulled away."

Goodman estimated that the incident lasted for "close to five full minutes," but Maralee Csellar, AU's acting head of public relations, said the delay amounted to a minute or two. She said there were 12 to 15 protesters.

A White House spokeswoman said last night that Rove "is pleased to accept invitations to speak to groups, including students."

"Rarely is there a protest that is not peaceful," spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore said. "Karl was never in any danger. He appreciated the opportunity and the invitation."

Kim Bruce, a spokeswoman for the Secret Service, said that after Rove spoke, "several individuals who had gathered outside the speech area threw unknown objects at the vehicle."

In addition, she said, "some individuals ran in front of the vehicle" but "did not impede" Rove's departure.

Goodman said students went to the Ward Circle building where Rove spoke to make a "citizen's arrest" of the presidential adviser. He said the students claimed they had compiled evidence indicating that Rove had violated what they say is a presidential records act stipulating that all presidential e-mail be recorded on White House servers.

Csellar said Rove came to AU to speak to the campus Young Republican Club at its last meeting of the school year. She said he was expected to talk for about 20 minutes and take questions for a similar period. Members were given tickets for the event, she said.


If you are like me and you have an animal companion (me, I got a greyhound and that is her picture you see) you have probably been appalled and dismayed by this whole pet food recall thing. Some of you may say that this is no big deal as its just dogs and cats. To you I say, you just don't get it. This is a big deal and heads should roll.

But they won't!

My doggie by the way is fine. She eats food from Three Dog Bakery. However, because there was a possibility that she had eaten some "jerky treats" that have been recalled, I had her kidney functions tested. Everything thankfully came out okay.

What follows below are several press releases from PETA.

April 3, 2007: Damning News From Menu Foods; FDA May Be Wrong About Cause of Pet Deaths
Yesterday, the dean of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine confirmed that Menu Foods had contacted the college in early March, when cats in Menu labs stopped eating their food. Almost a full week later, the company sent tissue and urine samples from sick animals to Cornell, acknowledging that the food was toxic. Nearly two more weeks passed before Menu issued a recall.

Although the FDA continues to blame tainted wheat gluten for recent cat and dog illnesses and deaths, a mounting number of complaints about sick and dying animals who ate only dry food that did not contain wheat gluten strongly suggests that there is another source of contamination. Evidence from reputable laboratories indicates that an excessive amount of vitamin D in pet food may be to blame. Vitamin D overdoses produce symptoms similar to those seen in animals who recently got sick or died after consuming only dry foods. PETA is demanding that the FDA refocus its investigation to include other likely causes instead of pandering to the pet food industry and focusing on an ingredient that is found in only a moderate number of foods.

–April 2, 2007; 10 a.m.: PETA Calls on FDA Head to Resign
PETA President Ingrid Newkirk has called for the commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to step down from his post after revelations that the FDA refused to name the maker of a dry pet food believed to have received the suspected contaminated ingredient. Now, two independent laboratories are claiming that the FDA was wrong when it determined that the agent causing kidney failure in cats and dogs was wheat gluten contaminated with a chemical called melamine found in plastic. The FDA has yet to recall brands of dry food that are reportedly killing dogs and cats. The FDA has deceived the public and media, both about the nature of the recall and about the FDA’s oversight of the pet-food industry. Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, has claimed to the media, “There are really no differences in the regulation of animal food and the regulation of human food. The same people that inspect human food plants also inspect pet food plants.” However, the FDA’s own Web site verifies that the agency has left “regulation” of the pet-food industry to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), a nongovernmental body with no power.

PETA is calling on law enforcement authorities to investigate whether cruelty-to-animals charges should be filed
In the wake of a massive recall of contaminated and deadly dog and cat food, Menu Foods and Iams are under fire for their cruel and unnecessary laboratory tests on animals. PETA is calling on law enforcement authorities to investigate whether cruelty-to-animals charges should be filed against the companies for alleged failure to warn consumers about the tainted food as soon as they had the information and—just as disturbingly—apparently feeding the tainted food to cats and dogs in order to test it.

Menu Foods reportedly knew of this potentially deadly food as early as February 20, 2007. When reports surfaced that its dog and cat food might have caused severe illness in customers’ animal companions, the company quietly conducted lethal toxicity tests to confirm the contamination. Dogs and cats were forced to ingest toxic and lethal food in Menu’s laboratory before the company announced the recall of pet food from stores nationwide nearly one month after the initial illnesses were reported. During this critical time, countless animal companions may have been at risk of getting sick, and many may have died.

In addition to the appalling failure to disclose information about the contaminated food to its consumers, Menu Foods chose to test the food by forcing healthy dogs and cats to ingest it—instead of using one of the reliable, humane alternatives that are readily available, including chemical analyses of the food, necropsies and tissue analyses of the already deceased animal victims, and non-animal test methods, such as the functional gastro-intestinal dog model (FIDO) or TIM-1 and TIM-2 (small and large gastro-intestinal models).

No one knows how many animals are dying in homes or how many are dying in laboratories for pet-food profits. PETA is calling on Menu Foods to provide full disclosure regarding the location of its laboratories, for law enforcement agencies to investigate whether cruelty-to-animals charges should be filed against Menu Foods in the U.S. and Canada for alleged failure to warn consumers about the tainted food as soon as the company had the information, and for Iams to stop unnecessary suffering and death by immediately ending its laboratory tests on animals.

PETA’s Investigation Revealed Cruel and Deadly Tests Conducted for Iams
For nearly 10 months in 2002 and early 2003, a PETA investigator went undercover at an Iams contract testing laboratory and discovered a dark and sordid secret beneath the wholesome image of the dog- and cat-food manufacturer. Undercover footage captured images of dogs who had gone insane from intense confinement to barren steel cages and cement cells, dogs who were left piled on a filthy paint-chipped floor after having chunks of muscle hacked from their thighs, and horribly sick dogs and cats who were languishing in their cages, neglected and left to suffer without veterinary care. In addition to suffering through painful experiments, animals in Iams labs were denied companionship and enrichment and were confined to their barren cages for at least 23 1/2 hours every day. The recent massive recall by Menu Foods, contract manufacturer for Procter & Gamble’s Iams and Eukanuba brands—of more than 60 million cans and pouches of dog and cat food is further proof that laboratory tests on animals do not guarantee that a product will be safe to use.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


In a protest over sweatshops, a group of a dozen University of Michigan students took over the reception area of the university president’s office today.

“We’re here until the president takes some action,” Blasé Kearney told the Detroit Free Press.

The group Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality led the action.

The university's administration has been asked by students and SOLE to adopt a program called the Designated Suppliers Program. The DSP requires brands such as Nike or Adidas to produce university goods from factories where workers have a right to form a union.

"While the University of Michigan has been dragging its feet, workers taking risks to stand up for their rights are losing their jobs," Aria Evert, a member of SOLE, said. "If our university is truly committed to workers' rights then we must adopt the DSP immediately, before more factories are forced to close their doors."

A representative from SOLE said 30 other universities have already committed to the DSP program.

The following articles comes from the Detroit News.

Students stage sit-in at U-M president's office to protest sweatshops

ANN ARBOR -- Students carrying sleeping bags, boxes of food, cell phones and laptop computers occupied the office of the University of Michigan's president Tuesday to protest what they said is the school's failure to follow its own policy against contracting sweatshops to make university logo apparel.

"Why am I doing this? Because this is the University of Michigan," said Jason Bates, a 21-year-old sophomore economics student from Novi. "If there is any place where decency and responsibility should be expected from our leaders, it is here."

Bates was among a dozen students who settled into chairs and onto the floor of the staff and reception area outside U-M President Mary Sue Coleman's private office in the Fleming Administration Building shortly after 9 a.m. They vowed to stay until Coleman agrees to honor a policy adopted after another student protest in 1999.

Former U-M President Lee Bollinger established a contractor's code of conduct following a 51-hour student occupation of the same office, calling for the university to contract only with vendors who meet basic humanitarian principals in dealing with workers.

The students claim the university has failed to follow that code. Their demands include Coleman's acceptance of a list of clothing suppliers that the students say pay decent wages and allow workers to unionize.

Students who spoke with a News reporter by cell phone, said they have seen police officers, but have not been threatened or told to move. They said Coleman's staff has treated them kindly. However, they were concerned about what might happen after 5 p.m., when public access to the building closes.

The group inside said more students are prepared to take up the protest by sleeping outside the administration building if they get kicked out or arrested.

University officials were unavailable for comment.

"We made it clear we were getting comfortable and she (Coleman) came out of her private office, Bates said. "We made our demands and made it clear that it is time to get serious on sweatshops. She said something along the lines of, 'We aren't interested in student demands.' "

Bates said Coleman then went back behind her inner office door.

"We let her know that when she was ready to talk, she would know where she could find us. Enough is enough. We aren't leaving. We are putting our foot down on this one."

Blase Kearney, 20, a sophomore political science and Asian studies student said his parents in Cadillac told him to not call them if he gets arrested.

"We expect the university should deal only with companies that pay a living wage and recognize the right to organize. No sweatshop conditions," Kearney said. "We're not leaving until she complies with our demands."

Monday, April 02, 2007


Nurses continue to represent a vanguard of the US labor movement. All across the country nurses have been at the forefront of organizing drives. And they ain't stopping.

Way back last summer an official with the National Labor Review Board ruled that administrators at Flagstaff Medical Center (see picture) repeatedly violated labor laws weeks before nurses voted whether to unionize.

The finding invalidated the results from a two-day vote in June and would have forced the medical center, known as FMC, to hold a new election in the fall, but an appeal of the ruling by FMC has long delayed a new vote.

The following is from the web page of the California Nurses Association.

Flagstaff Hospital Faces Trial for anti-RN Illegal Acts - Administration's Refusal to Settle Charges Stalls Election As Community Coalition to Urge End to Lawbreaking

Flagstaff Medical Center will go on trial May 1 for violating federal law in interfering with the democratic rights of its registered nurses to form a union.

Concurrently, a broad community coalition is forming in Flagstaff that on Tuesday will demand FMC stop its lawless activities and will express concern that FMC’s interference with the RNs’ rights undermines the nurses’ ability to provide quality patient care.

What: Community coalition press conference
When: 9 a.m., Tuesday, April 3
Where: Front entry steps, Flagstaff City Hall
211 W. Aspen Ave. , Flagstaff

For the third time in five months, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) late Friday indicted FMC for ongoing illegal actions.

Last October the NLRB issued its first complaint against FMC for penalizing nurses who testified under subpoena on the hospital’s threats of wage freezes if nurses voted for the union in June 2006 as RNs were deciding on affiliation with the National Nurses Organizing Committee, the national arm of the California Nurses Association.

In January, the NLRB ordered a new union election citing those threats which it said had prevented a fair election. In March, FMC initially agreed to settle a new round of charges, but the administration abruptly reversed course, delaying the new election. As a result, the hospital will now face trial in front of a federal administrative law judge before an election can be held. The NLRB does not conduct elections while the employer is engaged in ongoing unlawful conduct.

"We have fought hard just to have our right to a fair election,” said Nancy Swann, FMC RN. “FMC needs to stop violating the law and honor our united voices to have our union so that we can deliver the best, safest patient care for our community. It is time for FMC to stop interfering with our rights and demonstrate the same respect and dignity for nurses that we have for our patients."

According to the latest NLRB complaint, the hospital has created a bogus, management-controlled union intended to subvert the ability of RNs to form their own, independent union. The so-called Alliance for Professional Nursing Excellence has begun dealing with FMC officials on issues affecting working conditions, a clear violation of federal law, the NLRB charges.

Additionally, the NLRB charged Friday that the hospital has also broken the law by threatening RNs with the loss of pay increases and retirement benefits if they vote to join NNOC/CNA. The complaint came as a result of a thorough field investigation by labor board agents in Flagstaff involving examination of hundreds of hospital documents and talking with many nurses.

Included in the later group, the Board alleges that FMC has:

“threatened its employees with loss of wage increases and benefits if they supported the Union”
“threatened its employees with unspecified reprisals because they discussed their appraisals and other terms and conditions of employment with their fellow employees”
“created an impression among its employees that their concerted activities were under surveillance”
"FMC needs to end its serial lawbreaking, which continues even after it has been repeatedly sanctioned by the federal government. Hospital officials are also compromising the well-being of the community by refusing to respect the rights of its professional caregivers to form a strong, independent union. It's time for this behavior to stop," said NNOC/CNA organizing director David Johnson.

NNOC/CNA is one of the nation's largest and fastes- growing organizations of RNs, representing some 75,000 RNs in 50 states.


Free-Speech Activist Jello Biafra @ CSUS

Here's something to wake you up: Punk icon and free-speech activist Jello Biafra is scheduled to set foot in Sacramento as part of his current lecture/spoken word tour. The former lead singer with the Dead Kennedys, founder of the Alternative Tentacles label and longtime activist gives a lecture and spoken- word performance. And maybe the best part about an already sure-to-be-good show? It's free. Check out the ex-Dead Kennedys frontman April 9, 7:30 p.m. at the CSUS University Union Ballroom (6000 J St). For more info: (916) 278-6997.

Eric Reed Boucher (born June 17, 1958) is more widely known by the stage name Jello Biafra. A punk rock musician, political activist and owner of an influential record label, he is best known for his time as the lead singer and song writer for San Francisco punk band, the Dead Kennedys. After his time with the band concluded, he continued as a musician in numerous collaborations and as a spoken word artist. Through his record label, Alternative Tentacles, he released many of his own recordings. Politically, he is a member of the Green Party[1] and actively supports progressive political causes. He is a self-proclaimed anarchist[1] who advocates civil disobedience and pranksterism in the name of political change. Biafra is known to use absurdist media tactics in the tradition of the Yippies to highlight issues of civil rights, social justice, and anti-corporatism.

His stage name is a combination of the brand name Jell-O and the name of the short lived country of Biafra which attempted to secede from Nigeria in 1966. After four years of fighting and horrific starvation in Biafra, Nigeria regained control of the nascent Biafran state. Jello Biafra created his name as an ironic combination of a nutritionally poor mass-produced food product and mass starvation. He said he likes how two ideas clash in people's minds.

Time: Monday, April 9, 2007 - 7:00pm PST


Palestinian journalists are demanding the release of a British collegue being held somewhere in Gaza. The journalists' union took to the streets of Ramallah today to make known its concern. It wasn't the first time the union and others have expressed their displeasure over the situation and the reaction of security forces to it.

The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists, also today expressed its grave concern about the fate of the highly respected BBC journalist Alan Johnston, who is believed to have been abducted in Gaza on 12 March 2007.

Johnston has been the BBC correspondent in Gaza for three years – the only western broadcast journalist both living and working there.

Last week WAFA, the Palestinian News Agency, reported Amnesty International renewed its call for the immediate release of Johnston.

Amnesty International said that Johnston's kidnapping and disappearance was the latest in a series of abductions and other acts of lawlessness, especially in the Gaza Strip, which stem from a long-standing problem of impunity and the failure of the PA government to ensure the rule of law.

The Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat reported:
Alan Johnston was among the few foreign reporters who remained in the Gaza Strip after a series of kidnappings that had affected his colleagues more than once. All these cases of hostage-taking ended peacefully but have left fear and concern in the hearts and minds of journalists that prompted some of them to leave whilst others would only travel escorted by security teams or with local reporters and in safe locations.

One reporter who spoke to Asharq Al Awsat on condition of anonymity stated that it is easier to obtain information about the Israeli prisoner Gilad Shalit who was also kidnapped than about the BBC correspondent, Alan Johnston. He believes that Johnston may have been kidnapped by the Army of Islam group led by Mutaz Daghmash, who cannot be contacted and with whom the entire authority cannot use force because he simply does not belong to a political faction and relies on more than 13,000 armed members of his family that completely dominates an area.

Abu Mujahid, the spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC),says that the PRC had been in contact with the Army of Islam on a number of occasions and the presumed parties, all of which denied that they were holding the hostage. He confirmed that at this point the responsible party and its demands are unknown. Meanwhile, he revealed that the PRC on each occasion informed the authority of the identity of the kidnappers, without the authority taking measures against them, which is tantamount to giving them permission to carry out such acts again, according to Naim Altobasi, the Chairman of the Palestinian Press Syndicate.

The report below is from the Mann News Agency. Ma'an News Agency (Ma'an means 'together' in Arabic) is a Palestinian on-line News agency that publishes up-to-the-minute news in Arabic, English, and Hebrew. Ma'an News Agency (MNA) began operation in December of 2004 and is one of the main projects of the Ma'an Network which was established in 2002 as a non-governmental organization that aims to improve local Palestinian media production.

Ma'an Network (Ma'an) is composed of nine independent TV stations and production studios located in each major city of the West Bank and Gaza. Ma'an is dedicated to promoting understanding of the Palestinian situation by strengthening cooperation between local and international media. The network shares a vision of fomenting democracy and freedom of thought and ideas in Palestine. It uses both technical and academic expertise in achieving these goals as strives towards sustainable development and human rights for the Palestinian people.

As Johnston's health deteriorates, journalists boycott government activities; Israeli media blames local photographers
Date: 02 / 04 / 2007 Time: 14:54

Ramallah - Ma'an - Dozens of Palestinian journalists participated in a sit-in demonstration, which was organized by the journalists' union in the centre of Ramallah on Monday to protest against the abduction of BBC reporter Alan Johnston.

Alan Johnston was abducted in Gaza three weeks ago.


Union head Na'im Toubasi revealed that the health of Johnston is deteriorating and that there are expectations that the kidnappers want a ransom in order to release him. Toubasi declared that the union will escalate protests if Johnston is not released.

Media institutions arranged the strike in Ramallah and announced that they will boycott the presidency and the government for three days, beginning Monday.

Al Jazeera correspondent Walid al Omari criticized the security bodies, saying that they are not paying enough attention to the attacks and assaults on journalistic establishments.

He called on the government and the presidency to take comprehensive measures in dealing with the case of the reporter and punish all those that attack media establishments or the employees of these establishments.

The strike had an increased presence of official media people, despite the decision to boycott official departments and officials.

Local collaboration

Israeli media sources have claimed that Johnston is being held by the Dughmush clan in the Gaza Strip, with the cooperation of local Gaza photographers.

In the Friday edition of the Israeli daily 'Maariv', it was alleged that "a spontaneous amalgamation of local Gaza photographers" are behind the kidnapping of foreign photo-journalists. The presence of foreign journalists threatens the local journalists' livelihoods as freelance work is taken away from them and carried out by foreign, highly-paid, correspondents.

However, Maariv adds that Johnston appears to have the support of the majority of the local Palestinian journalists. Fran Unsworth, the head of BBC news-gathering, told Maariv that local journalists "are helping very much to secure his release." Abd Al-Askar, who, according to Maariv, represents several foreign media organizations in Gaza, said, "Johnston is a friend of the Palestinian journalists."

Unsworth would not confirm that Johnston was being held by the Dughmush family.

Maariv claimed that the Dughmush family is the main beneficiary from these kidnapping operations, alleging that they receive up to US $2 million in ransom money for the release of a foreign journalist. Maariv alleges that the American news network, Fox News, paid out this amount to secure the release of US correspondent Steve Centanni and New Zealander photographer Olaf Wiig last summer.

The Israeli newspaper also affirms that the Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, is being held captive by the Dughmush family.

Maariv reported that, in the Johnston case, the British overseas intelligence agency, MI5, is involved, along with security personnel and even workers from the UN agency for Palestine refugees, UNRWA, which has a large presence in the Gaza Strip. The negotiations are being conducted in secrecy.

One of the major fears resulting from these kidnappings is that foreign journalists will no longer be based in Gaza. Alan Johnston, one of very few foreign journalists permanently residing in the Gaza Strip, was due to leave the Gaza at the start of April. It is unknown whether a new permanent Gaza correspondent will be sent to replace him.

"We must think about returning a correspondent to the field," Unsworth told Maariv. "We have to bring the story to our public but we have yet to decide how to act."

At least for the time being, however, foreign journalists are not at risk of being killed. "The positive aspect of the abductions is that there is no ideological base like there is in Iraq," an Israeli photographer told Maariv. "In Gaza, it's all a matter of money, except for the Razuri [a Peruvian photographer working for AFP who was kidnapped in January] incident. Razuri is a vegetarian and when his abductors brought him meat, he refused to eat it and they saw to it that he had vegetarian food. They have no intention of harming the abductees because in the end, they want the money and maybe to instill a little fear."


A student from Ohio has described the treatment of himself and others protesters by Mexican police in, shall we say, a less then favorable way.

His observations are, of course, anything but unusual.

A report by the U.N. Committee Against Torture last fall cited Mexico's police for their crackdowns on protests between 2004 and 2006 in which it says officers allegedly sexually abused female demonstrators and beat others.

The torture committee report called on Mexico “to guarantee that the use of force is solely employed as a last resort.” The committee is made up of 10 independent experts who meet to review countries´ adherence to the 1984 U.N. Convention Against Torture.

The following is from the Athens (Ohio) News.

OU student gets arrested, roughed up after Mexican protest
By Mike Ludwig
Athens NEWS Campus Reporter

An Ohio University student in Mexico with the Study Abroad program got more than he bargained for when Mexican police swept him up during an anti-President Bush protest on March 13.

In an interview on Friday, senior Chris Stenken, back in Athens after his harrowing experience in southern Mexico, recounted his arrest, beatings by police, and subsequent release.

On March 13, when President George W. Bush came to Merida, a mid-sized Mexican city on the Yucatan peninsula and a quick stop on his tour of Latin America, he must not have expected a warm welcome. A small army of Mexican state police and soldiers, along with a contingent of U.S. Secret Service agents, used barbed wire and concrete fences to build an armed fortress around the Hotel Americana where Bush and his aides would be staying.

As expected, hundreds of demonstrators took the streets in protest of Bush and his policies. Among them was Stenken, who had disregarded the advice the school's Study Abroad program and joined the demonstrators, armed with a digital camera and three years of education in Latin-American studies.

Stenken, back in Athens last week after his release from jail in Mexico, described the scene. "About a week before GW was to arrive in Merida, a group of about 20 to 100 people were organizing daily protests, spontaneous marches and demonstrations against the visit of Bush, imperialism and neo-liberalism," Stenken told The NEWS on Friday. "When Bush arrived, hundreds more people became involved with the protests. There were marches three or four times a day. People marched from the center of the city and tried to tear down the wall outside the Hotel Americana, place banners on the wall, do political theater, throw things at the police and at the wall, and engage the military in dialogue."

According to Stenken, the majority of the protesters were peaceful, though some people did engage the police physically. Tensions between protesters and police finally climaxed during the last march, which ended up outside Merida's municipal building, known as the Municipal Palace. Demonstrators attempted to enter the building but were kept out by police, so they gathered outside to protest. When small bands of protesters tried to force their way into the Palace, the police called for backup.

"I'd say about 10 minutes later, two to five hundred state police jumped out of the back of pickup trucks and began running at the population in the city center, the majority of whom ran away from them," Stenken recalled. "These people weren't necessarily protesters but often just out for the night or returning home from work. I ran into a shoe store to hide myself, where I greeted an employee and told her the police were chasing people. A few moments later, about three police officers came in, threw me on the ground, started punching and kicking me and jabbing me with their police batons before dragging me out by my feet."

Stenken claimed that, like a majority of people who were arrested, he was not doing anything wrong when the police picked him up.

"I was simply sitting with my friend on the curb when the police came," he said. "I believe the police pursued me because I ran from them and was wearing an anti-Bush T-shirt."

Several members of the Mexican state police dragged Stenken from the shoe store and out into the street, he said, beating him and smashing his camera along the way.

Megann Walsh, a fellow OU student and friend of Stenken who had been standing with him when the police arrived, caught up to them and tried to explain to the police that her friend had done nothing wrong.

"After everything cleared, I went out to the street and saw Chris getting arrested and I tried to talk to them, saying es ami amigo, he is my friend, and es un estudiante conmigo, he is a student with me," Walsh said on Saturday. "I saw them beating him, especially when he tried to reach out to me. I saw them dragging him away. They didn't even care, you know? I was just a stupid white girl to them."

The police put Stenken in the back of a truck along with others who had been arrested. He said they were continuously beaten and verbally intimidated during the 15-minute drive to a local jail, where they were interrogated and beaten further.

"I was not resisting. I told them I didn't do anything, that I was a tourist and that I was not from Mexico," Stenken said. "We got to the jail where they threw us out of the truck and put us against a wall with out hands behind our heads. They yelled at us and they punched me in the rib and kicked me in the back of the leg. I suffered several baton blows to the ribs. They also took the back of my head and slammed it against the wall three times."

According to Stenken, he and the others were then taken inside the jail where they gave a urine sample before being locked in a holding cell.

"The other people in the cell seemed to be normal citizens," he said. "One was an oboe player with his instrument returning home from a concert. Another was a kid who seemed like he was at the protest. The third was an older man who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. All of them had been beaten by the police."

After a period of time in the holding cell, Stenken and his cellmates were taken to another jail called Le Ministerio. Stenken recalls about 60 others being there, most of whom had been arrested during the protest outside the Municipal Palace.

"I was basically lied to and intimidated the whole time," he said. "I was never allowed to make a phone call. They never formally told me what was charged against me."

Outside the jail walls, friends and families of the prisoners began organizing support, he said. People visited the jail and brought home-cooked meals for the inmates. Walsh also tried to visit Chris with the help of a woman named Marta, who works for a local non-profit Indignacion.

"I tried to visit Chris and they didn't want to let me," Walsh said. "I remember Marta saying, 'This isn't justice, this isn't liberty, you are not giving him his individual rights.' When I did get to see Chris, I saw two girls from the (protest) walking by and crying. They were prisoners and I know they hadn't been destructive."

With the help of a high-profile lawyer and the U.S. consulate, Stenken said he was released after three days of being held prisoner without any formal charges or hint of whether he would be out in time to return to the United States with his Study Abroad program.

"I was one of eight people who have been released that I know of," he said. "The other 60-some are presumably still in jail last I heard. They are facing $500 to $5,000 charges or significant jail time, some for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time."

STENKEN AND WALSH ARE not the only Americans with Athens connections who have been affected by the recent protests and social upheaval in southern Mexico. In the city of Oaxaca last Oct. 27, independent journalist Brad Will was shot and killed, allegedly by para-military patrolmen operating in the city with the support of the Oaxacan state government and its governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, while video-taping protests calling for Ortiz's resignation. Will had family in Athens, and his cousin, Susan Mitchell of Athens (a classified ad rep at The Athens NEWS), has joined the family's efforts to raise awareness about his murder and pressure Mexican authorities to bring justice to his case and to the people of Oaxaca.

"[Brad] went down there to give oppressed people a voice. All he cared about was helping people, and he paid for it with his life," Mitchell said. "We don't want any other families to go through this, so we are raising awareness about Brad and the others who have been killed."

Since Will's death, Mitchell and her family have written letters to senators and congressmen, helped organize a press conference at the National Press Club, and worked with such organizations as Friends of Brad Will, Amnesty International, Global Exchange and Reporters Without Borders, which recently rated Mexico as a "difficult situation" regarding freedom of press and the safety of journalists.

Will's parents recently went to Oaxaca to demand a fair investigation of his death. The case should be cut and dried, as several media sources have identified the gunmen in photos and Will's final video as police and/or thugs under the employ of the state. Ortiz's government, however, is allegedly dragging its feet on the issue.

"When they tried to contact the prosecutor, she was unresponsive," Mitchell said. "There is no prosecutor in the world who could witness such a videotape and not charge someone with a homicide. This prosecutor was appointed by the governor and has tried to blame the protesters when there is documented evidence that it was not them."

EVEN BEFORE THE DEATH of Will, human-rights organizations were condemning the Mexican state police for murder and repression in Oaxaca.

"Illegal militias in Oaxaca are participating in the security forces' 'dirty work'," Amnesty International's Americas Programme Director Javier Zuniga said in a statement released last August. "This needs to be urgently investigated, militias disarmed and disbanded, and those responsible for human rights abuses brought to justice." He was quoted in a letter sent to Mexico's procurador (attorney) general by U.S. Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, D-Ariz. Grijalva's letter was inspired by a conversation with Mitchell at the National Press Club and expresses concern about the situation in Oaxaca and a proper investigation to bring justice in Will's case.

"We are in it for the long run and will not stop until there is justice for Brad and the people he was giving a voice to," Mitchell said of Will's friends and family. "Although we are in pain, our pain is overshadowed by our pride."

Stenken and Walsh have not given up either. They have formed an organization in Athens called Companeros (comrades or companions) to raise awareness and financial support for those still imprisoned for speaking their minds in Merida.

"We've been talking to several bands on campus and plan to hold a benefit, Walsh said. "We do have contacts in Merida to send any money for direct support."

To find out more about supporting political prisoner in Merida, Walsh suggested people contact her at More information on Brad Will, Oaxaca and attempts to bring justice there can be found at and