Friday, March 28, 2008


I'd say its about time. Anyone who has ever had his or her car washed at a hands on carwash can't help but come away figuring the workers there are getting screwed. I mean, you don't have the evidence in hand, but you're gut knows it.

Well, out in LA its out in the open for all to see as a campaign to unionize car wash workers is getting underway.

A coalition of labor, community, religious, and immigrant rights organizations announced a campaign to “clean up” Los Angeles’ multimillion dollar carwash industry. The Community-Labor-Environmental Action Network (CLEAN) is supporting the union organizing efforts of the Carwash Workers Organizing Committee of the United Steelworkers (CWOC).

"We will do whatever it takes to clean up the carwash industry," said Jon Hiatt, general counsel for the AFL-CIO.

At a news conference yesterday, union leaders urged consumers to ask owners about their pay practices, and to avoid carwashes that charged less than $8 for a complete wash or that the unions had targeted for picketing.

“Carwash owners are often operating below the radar of labor, health and safety and environmental laws,” Labor Federation spokeswoman Mary Guitierrez said . “Carwash workers are often illegally paid less than the minimum wage, sometimes working for tips alone … and are regularly subjected to health and safety hazards.”

The unions said their first major target in the campaign would be the Pirian family, which owns up to eight carwashes in Los Angeles County. Labor organizers plan to picket at three Pirian-owned washes on Saturday, including the family flagship, Vermont Car Wash, on North Vermont Avenue near Hollywood Boulevard, owned by Bennie Pirian.

Paid workers at some of the other 1,000 washes throughout Southern California earn as little as $1.63 an hour even though the minimum wage rose to $8 an hour in January.

"We sweat like animals," said detailer Manuel Varela, 42.

To survive, carwasheros pool resources, cram into cheap apartments, sleep side by side on the floor like, as one worker put it, "salchichas embolsadas," or stuffed sausages.

"Employers feel out the lowest amount these workers will take," said Timothy Kolesnikow, who represents carwasheros and others in his law practice. "People don't realize the human misery involved in getting their cars washed. There is a dark side to this."

But many undocumented workers won't complain for fear of being fired, threatened or deported.

A report in the Mail Tribune out of Oregon shines a light on what it's like working in a car wash.

At Pico Car Wash, a steady flow of vehicles rolled through the wash tunnel, pulled by a chain as workers rushed to soap them.

"The chain doesn't stop," said Erick Garcia, a "secador," or dryer.

He has done every job at Pico, which has paid or settled wage claims totaling nearly $22,000 since 2000 and is embroiled in a lawsuit over wages by 13 workers, including Garcia.

Soapers, or "jaboneros," wash 500 cars on the busiest days, crouching to brush wheel rims and climbing to scour SUV roofs, Garcia said.

"Your hands have to be like lightning," Garcia said, swiftly lathering one side in less than two minutes.

As customers waited in the shade, Garcia wiped the interiors of vehicles by the midday sun, then sprayed degreaser on the wheel rims.

He and the other workers, about a dozen men ranging in age from 20 to 40, wore baseball caps over wet rags on their heads to keep from overheating.

Garcia's boss, inside an air-conditioned office adorned with a "God Bless America" banner, watched his workers on security monitors.

By comparison, Garcia's job was easy. At the entrance of the carwash, "vacumeros" were suctioning dust out of carpets and plucking out debris, including rotten food, matted dog hair and used condoms.

"You spend all day stooped over," said Garcia, who spent his first year as a vacumero. After 11 hours bent over, his back would spasm as he bicycled home.

The following is from the AFL-CIO Blog

Time to CLEAN Up the Car Wash Industry

by James Parks, Mar 27, 2008

No city loves its cars like Los Angeles, and keeping those cars looking good is big business. The city of Los Angeles has more car washes—430—than any other metropolitan area in the country.

According to the Western Carwash Association, an industry trade group, car washes in Southern California average about $1 million gross annual income and can have a profit margin of up to a whopping 29 percent. But if you are one of the thousands of workers who shampoo, wax, dry and detail cars, you don’t see any of that profit—in fact, you may not get paid at all. You also may have to work long hours in 100-degree heat, with no lunch break, no fresh water to drink and risk getting sick by being exposed constantly to harsh and dangerous chemicals.

Today, the newly formed Community-Labor-Environmental-Action Network (CLEAN) Carwash Campaign, a coalition of community, religious, environmental and immigrant rights organizations, announced plans to support Los Angeles car wash workers’ efforts to form a union with the United Steelworkers (USW). The mostly immigrant car wash workers throughout Los Angeles have formed the Car Wash Workers Organizing Committee of the United Steelworkers (CWWOC) to raise their standard of living, secure basic workplace protections and address the serious environmental and safety hazards in their industry.

Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, told a press conference today:

For too long, carwash owners have operated in the shadows, violating labor and health and safety laws with impunity. This coalition is going to do some spring cleaning of a dirty industry, and bring these injustices out into the open.

The CWWOC released a report, Cleaning Up the Car Wash Industry: Empowering Workers and Protecting Communities, which confirms that Los Angeles car wash owners often ignore labor laws, health and safety regulations and environmental protections in their pursuit of the bottom line. Car wash workers are often illegally paid less than the minimum wage, sometimes working for tips alone.

Says Saturnino Hernandez, a car wash worker:

On a sunny day, hundreds of cars might come through the car wash where I work. The boss yells at us to work faster as the cars line up down the street. We are not allowed to stop for a break or for lunch. They don’t give us any fresh water to drink. Sometimes it’s hard to breathe because of the chemicals; my eyes sting and my skin sometimes breaks out in a painful rash. For all this, I’m paid about $35 for a 10-hour day and when I get sick, I have no insurance to pay the bill.

A Los Angeles Times investigation found that hand car washes “often brazenly violate basic labor and immigration laws, with little risk of penalty.”

Half or more of carwash owners flout the minimum-wage law, estimated David Dorame, the longtime lead investigator for low-wage industries at California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement…employees at a fifth of Southern California’s carwashes in the last five years have formally accused owners of illegally underpaying them, The Times found.

Feliciano Hernandez, who has worked in car washes for more than 40 years, says the workers will gain respect with a union:

I am 63 years old now. I can tell you, it’s gotten much worse for the workers over the years. The boss used to pay us for all the hours we worked and for the overtime too. I could support my family working in a car wash back then. Now I have to work odd jobs in order to pay my rent and for gas and other bills. We used to get breaks for lunch and to take a rest. No more. Now it seems we just work for hours with no breaks and no water, even on the hottest days. And, in the end, the boss shorts our paychecks. I’m organizing with the union because I see how they treat these younger folks. The boss has no respect for us. We work hard and we don’t deserve to be treated like animals.

Many car washes use dangerous chemicals in the cleaning process. Workers are regularly subjected to health and safety hazards, such as exposure to hazardous substances without protective gear. According to the CWWOC report, car washes use highly toxic chemicals throughout the cleaning process, including benzene, zinc, hydrogen fluoride and other metals and acids. Workers regularly are exposed to these chemicals, either through direct contact or in wash wastewater, which is used to pre-soak and shampoo the cars.

Many workers do not have access to protective equipment such as gloves, boots, goggles or face masks. And many have not had any training in the use of hazardous materials as is required by law. Between October 2006 and September 2007, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health issued 99 citations for deficient hazard communications programs and 92 citations for ineffective injury and illness prevention programs for car washes state­wide.

But in a statement, Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti says things are about to change:

Working men and women in Los Angeles should be paid decent wages that allow them to support their families. We want to make sure that car wash employees are paid fairly and car wash owners abide by requirements to protect the health and safety of their workers.

Members of the CLEAN Carwash Campaign include the AFL-CIO, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, California Labor Federation, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, Los Angeles-Orange County Organizing Committee, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, Pride At Work and the USW, along with other unions and numerous immigrant rights, human rights and community groups.


Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine says twenty years ago, live animals were commonly used in physiology, pharmacology, and surgery classes at medical schools. A standard lab involved anesthetizing the animal, followed by injecting pharmaceuticals or practicing surgical techniques. After the class, the animal was killed.

Today, Johns Hopkins still offers this cruel and unnecessary exercise. Johns Hopkins is the only top-20 ranked U.S. medical school to use live animals in its medical student curriculum. The school uses pigs in its third-year surgery rotation lab multiple times throughout the school year. Pigs are highly intelligent, social animals who have been shown to be more intelligent than dogs. Animal behavior experts agree, and scientific evidence suggests, that pigs are very smart and sensitive animals.

The American College of Surgeons no longer uses live animals in any of its training programs, and it promotes the use of non-animal surgical training tools. And in 2007, the American Medical Student Association passed a resolution strongly encouraging the replacement of live animal laboratories with non-animal alternatives.

Over the past two years, more than a dozen medical schools have ended their live animal programs, and all nine medical schools opening between 2007 and 2009 do not include animals in their curricula.

So why is the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine the last of the top 20-ranked medical schools in America still using live animals to train its students?

That's what a group of physicians asked as they protested outside the School of Medicine this week.

"We're asking Johns Hopkins to join its medical school colleagues around the country and end this practice," Dr. John Pippin (pictured here) told Baltimore WJZ. "Live pigs are used and then killed to introduce students to surgery techniques."

Barbara Wasserman, a retired Hopkins educated doctor said, "There is no reason to use live animals to teach medical students principals that can be taught using alternative non-animal techniques."

University of Maryland medical student Kevin Caldwell agrees."I don't see any reason why you should have to subject any animal to surgery if you don't have to." His university uses simulators.

Meanwhile, an editorial in the weekly student publication at Hopkins called urges the school to "stop killing animals needlessly." Part of the editorial reads:

"It certainly isn't worth the needless deaths that this practice requires. The pigs are purchased and delivered for the express purpose of surgical training, anaesthetized, operated on and discarded when they are no longer useful. The surgery is not beneficial to the pigs in anyway and, to put it bluntly, pointless."

It is also ethically indefensible, and perhaps that's why the School of Medicine has chosen not to actively defend it. Their obstinate refusal to consider the objections raised by professional organizations such as PCRM, and to explain the perceived necessity of their actions to media organizations such as the News-Letter, says more about the damning ethical implications of their policy than words ever could."

The following is from the Johns Hopkins News Letter.

Physicians protest use of live pigs for practice
By: Marie Cushing

A small group of physicians staged a protest in front of the School of Medicine Wednesday, decrying its use of live animals for surgical training - a practice abandoned by all but 10 of the country's medical schools - as outdated, unnecessary and cruel.

Motivated by press reports, members of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine lobbied the school to end the practice in front of members of local media.

Most medical schools are "well past the point of seeing the use of animals in live surgeries as an acceptable standard," said John Pippin, a Dallas cardiologist affiliated with the Committee.

"The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine engages in very limited use of animals in situations for which there is no adequate training substitute," said a statement released from the School of Medicine in an e-mail from Communication and Public Affairs Associate Director Kim Hoppe to the News-Letter. None of the protesting doctors were Hopkins employees.

Pippin's requests to discuss the surgeries with Hopkins went unanswered.

Protestors argued that the University should better utilize its surgery simulation devices.

Simulators "are just as good if not better as pig surgeries, or else they wouldn't be used in 90 percent of American medical schools," said Barbara Wasserman, a Hopkins medical school graduate who now practices medicine in Montgomery County.

"With human simulators, students can practice techniques more than once. Surgery on animals is not efficient and certainly not humane," she said.

Pippin saw the reluctance of Hopkins and other institutions to stop the use of live pigs in surgeries as opposition to change.

"I think people learned that way, they know that way and they think it's valuable ... There is a reluctance to change things when you feel they were successful in the past," he said.

"It's a waste of time, a waste of resources and a waste of life," protestor and Hopkins alumnus Nick Kulkarni ('96) said.

He participated in a pig surgery while a medical student at George Washington University, which has since then phased out the practice.

Now an anesthesiologist in Virginia, Kulkarni preferred using mannequins where students practice inserting central lines or intubation.

"That's more accurate. I'm not a veterinarian," he said.

While in her junior year at the Hopkins medical school, Wasserman performed surgery on a live, anesthetized dog.

"What I learned in the dog lab had no applicability to taking care of humans," she said.

It was the experience of performing surgery on a live dog - which no longer occurs at Hopkins or any other medical campus - that served as a wake-up call for Pippin.

"In the middle of surgery the dog woke up while its chest was still open ... The course instructor could not put the dog back under, so it had to be killed on the table," he said.

Pippin was comforted in his belief that the medical school will inevitably end the use of live pigs in surgeries.

"We're confident that Hopkins will change. At some point they will have to, because they will be the last school in the country [doing the surgeries]," Pippin said.

Protestors held a sign urging medical school students to contact an anonymous tip hotline with information on the pig surgeries.

Hopkins medical students have already provided information to Pippin, including reports that students can request to not participate in the surgeries.

While she has not heard responses from medical students, Wasserman said she received "very positive, supportive responses" to an opinions piece she wrote in the Baltimore Sun.

Both she and Pippin cited a recent editorial by the News-Letter condemning the use of live pigs in surgeries as a motivating factor behind the protest.


Perhaps you remember the March 18th post "THE LAWSON FILE: WE DON'T NEED "KLAN R US" IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD" . Well, as you might imagine I've received some real fan mail from those who have taken offense...Today, I got another one and I thought I'd go ahead and print it for y'all to enjoy. As you will be able to tell the writer put a whole lot of time and thought into it. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

And now here it is (roll the drums, please):
We don\'t need \"Klans R Us\" eh? Did it ever occur to you even once,
that maybe, just maybe YOU were the one with his head screwed on
Either you\'re a black, Hispanic or Jew, or your some poor deluded
white that\'s been spoon-fed liberal propaganda since birth and just
doesn\'t know any better. Like a Moonie, you\'d need a month of
de-programming just to be able to learn to think for yourself again. Whites in this
country and around the world are under attack on a dozen different
fronts, all of which are designed to destroy us as a race and a culture.
For you to make such a sickeningly politically correct rant makes me want
to puke in
my boot. Why don\'t you try thinking for yourself
for once and start investigating the facts instead
of riding on the lemming\'s cart to the cliff?

If you\'re a white, you have my pity, and if you\'re a \"minority\" you
have my warning. We\'re not dead yet, and a great many of us are
waking up now, and waking up pissed...

Thursday, March 27, 2008


Australia's most senior aboriginal politician, Northern Territory Education Minister Marion Scrymgour (pictured here) is calling for the construction and use of missionary-style dormitories to make sure children in remote areas of the country are fed, clothed and clean.

She is not alone.

For example, several members of an aboriginal community justice group, led by Martha Koowarta, widow of a local land rights hero, are also urging outsiders to take children from age nine from the community for their safety and education.

In addition, former Australian of the Year Galarrwuy Yunupingu agree. He said, "The missionary days were good. The missionaries looked after the kids much better than the Government does today."

Many other indigenous Australians, however, have denounced the idea for obvious reasons and find Yunupingu's comment outrageous. Even Scrymgoursome dismissed the suggestion Aboriginal children received a better education in missionary days, saying her parents had only basic skills after growing up in the system.

Former school principal Leon White says, "Quick solutions like lets move all the kids into a dormitory are problematic and don't really show the investment in time and in resources that's actually need to fix up the problems that people in communities face." He said the proposal would disempower parents. "Dormitories, I believe, don't have a place in most communities," he said.

Barbara Shaw from Tangentyere Town Council in Alice Springs told the Sydney Morning Herald removing children from their parents would be "going backwards" and she was surprised such a proposal would surface so soon after the apology to the Stolen Generation.

"This is talking about taking the kids, moving them out of their home environment and away from their families," said Shaw, who is also a member of the Intervention Rollback Working Group.

"Everybody knows that missionaries did not work well for people ... I wouldn't want them days to come back...

"I support helping the mothers become more responsible ... not chuck the kids into homes again."
For 60 years, until 1970, the Australian government took mixed-race Aboriginal children from their families and put them in dormitories or industrial schools, claiming it was protecting them.

As a result of the policy, "stolen" children lost contact with their families and heritage, received poor education, lived in harsh conditions, and often endured abuse.

By the way, The Intervention Rollback Working Group mentioned above was formed to protest the Commonwealth's Indigenous intervention in the Northern Territory and wants:

- Reinstatement of the Racial Discrimination Act
- The immediate review of the NT intervention
- An end welfare quarantines, compulsory land acquisition and 'mission manager' powers
- The implementation the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- Aboriginal control of Aboriginal affairs

The group says there is an urgent need for delivery of essential services, infrastructure and programs genuinely targeted at improving the safety and well being of children and developed in consultation with communities.

The following is from the National Indigenous Times (Australia)

Dorm call a backwards step

DARWIN, March 27, 2008: Stating the obvious today, an Indigenous activist has responded to calls for dormitories in remote Aboriginal communities saying a move is such a direction would be "going backwards."

Barbara Shaw, from Tangentyere Town Council in Alice Springs, said such a policy had failed in the past.

She opposes a call by former Australian of the Year Galarrwuy Yunupingu for government authorities to urgently build boarding accommodation for Aboriginal children.

Yunupingu said thousands of children were living without proper cooking, showering or sleeping facilities.

"The missionary days were good. The missionaries looked after the kids much better than the government does today," Fairfax newspapers quoted him as saying.

The prominent Aboriginal leader has called for the federal intervention taskforce, set up to combat child sexual abuse in Northern Territory Aboriginal communities, to urgently build boarding accommodation.

But Ms Shaw, who is also with the Intervention Rollback Working Group, said the mission model did not work well for people.

"The government just said sorry to members of the Stolen Generation for taking their kids away from their families."

"This is talking about taking the kids, moving them out of their home environment and away from their families.

"It would be going backwards. If Galarrwuy is talking about missionary days, everybody knows that missionaries did not work well for people ... I wouldn't want them days to come back."

Ms Shaw said a Catholic School in Alice Springs was already working on a more progressive model.

"They (school buses) pick them up, they take them to school, they make the kids have a shower and put the school uniform on them and, at the end of the day, the kids put their own clothes on and go home," she said.

"I support helping the mothers become more responsible ... not chuck the kids into homes again."

Ms Shaw said Aboriginal people should be working together on educating parents and providing a safe environment for children.

"They should be staffing the schools with mothers and parents, making jobs for them, and they can still feed their kids and be close to them," she said.

"Aboriginal people need to work together and help their own people ... I would want to see my kids go to school at home and rather they stay in a family house than a dormitory."

The former principal of Yirrkala School in Nhulunbuy, Leon White, agreed that a mission-type education disempowered parents.

"Quick solutions like: `Let's move all the kids into a dormitory', are problematic and don't really show the investment in time and in resources that's actually needed to fix up the problems that people in communities face," he said.


It's not the biggest problem in the world but it is indicative of the way judges look at themselves. These arbiters of justice think themselves kings, above the law, who just make pronouncement like "I hold you in contempt" and that's that.

In Queens the judges have ticked off locals by parking illegally on public property.

They're just not buying that judges should be able to do anything they want, whenever they want, wherever they want...and get away with it.

I'll tell you what, I've never been clear on why it is that judges are handed as much power as they are. I mean who are these judges anyway?

For years, says the group Transportation Alternatives, the blocks around Brooklyn Borough Hall have been the site of some of New York's "dirtiest parking abuse." They point out that, "Despite a brand new parking lot for judges a few blocks away and dozens of curbside spaces reserved for their special use, the judges are intent on maintaining their door-to-door driving commute, even if it involves crossing pedestrian plazas and parking on parkland."

Again for me its not so much parking, its the idea that some people are above the rest of us because they dress in robes. Shiiit, I have an old robe. I'm wondering if I wear it can I violate little laws I don't like and get away with it?

Now, my friends (as John McCain would say) I'm not talking about the right wing's continual concern about those famous "activist judges," by which, they, of course, mean judges who rule in a way they don't like.

Nah, I'm not even going there.

I'm just ranting on the way judges rule their courtrooms like feudal fiefdoms and go about their personal lives as if they are above it all. You know what I mean?

Anyway, that's the reason I've got to smile about the actions of those folks who today heckled Brooklyn judges who are threatening to sue the city over plans to ban them from parking on a pedestrian plaza in downtown Brooklyn.

The New York Daily News reported the protesters, members of the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, donned fake judges' robes and mocked the jurists for refusing to move to an underground garage at the new courthouse just two blocks away at 330 Jay St.

"Two blocks is too far!" chanted the half-dozen hecklers sarcastically outside the judges' "parking lot" at Joralemon and Adams Sts., which is on city parkland.

The protesters also carried mock placards reading "SOS: Save Our Spots" and "Parks are for Parking."

Speaking of the judges parking imperialism Transportaion Alternatives' Wiley Norvell said, “This is a total farce. “It’s insulting, but it is also comical. How petty can somebody get to not only refuse to park in a parking lot for free two blocks away, but to demand that Brooklynites give up their parkland so that they can park at the front door of the courthouse?”

Get this defense the judges have thrown up (literally) for their law breaking.

The 20 or so judges who park their vehicles in the park and would have to journey two blocks to an underground garage if they couldn't park there say they are scared. The judges and their supporters (which include a councilperson who parks in the park himself) claim having to go two blocks presents a security risk.

"...consider the kind of danger they’re being asked to endure,” said Councilman Lew Fidler (D–Canarsie).

As an example of the danger he's talking about, Fidler cited some racist graffiti that was scrawled on a courthouse elevator in January. Even though the graffiti would have been painted on the wall whether Judge Diana Johnson parked in the underground lot or in Columbus Park, Fidler was undeterred.

“Someone walked out of [Judge Diana Johnson’s] courtroom angry enough to scrawl hate graffiti,” said Fidler.

Poor scardey cat judges.

The following is from the Queens Legder.

Public Park Used For Parking
Protestors Slyly Call for Return of Boro Hall Promenade to the Public
By Jeffrey Harmatz

"Judges are above the law and should be allowed to park where ever they want, even if it's a public space." That is what the latest literature produced by activists at Transportation Alternatives, says, but they aren't standing behind that claim. Rather, they are speaking - sarcastically, of course - on behalf of the judges and other court officials that use the promenade at Columbus Park in downtown Brooklyn as a parking lot.

The portion of the promenade nearest to the corner of Boerum and Remsen is currently sectioned off with chains and supervised by police officers. Behind the partition are more than a dozen cars, many bearing special government license plates.

"Brooklyn Borough Hall is ground zero for parking abuse," said Wiley Norvell, communications director for Transportation Alternatives. "Judges have been using this pedestrian pathway as a parking lot for years, even after they reached an agreement with the city to build a brand new parking lot just two blocks away."

To protest what they felt was an unfair use of public space for a private interest, members of Transportation Alternatives donned judicial robes and staged a tongue-in-cheek rally on behalf of the judges. Circling the parking lot, the "judges" shouted chants like "two blocks too far," "parks are for parking," and "hey hey, ho ho, public space has got to go."

"We want to highlight the absurdity of their arguments, and what they consider their 'need' to park at the park," Norvell added.

The judges have threatened to file a lawsuit against the City if the parking privileges are revoked, something that Norvell described as "onerous."

The practice of parking in Columbus Park has been anything but secret, and the city has been in constant negotiations to reopen the park to public traffic. As an incentive for the judges to park elsewhere, the city constructed a state-of-the art parking lot a few blocks away from the courthouse at 230 Jay Street specifically for its employees. According to Norvell, judges were unhappy with the lift system used to stack cars at the new garage, and quickly returned to Columbus Park.

"The public already subsidizes their parking with permits and new lots, but now they are asking us to subsidize their parking with public space," said Norvell. "New York City taxpayers are going above and beyond."

The city has recently made steps to remove the curb cuts from the park, thereby eliminating the parking lot usage for the area. Norvell commended the city's recent crackdown on the abuse of parking permits by government officials, and is optimistic that the situation will improve, both here in Columbus Park and across the city.

"This is a big problem in Columbus Circle, Central Park, and Chinatown," he said.
Pointing to the chained-off section of the promenade, Norvell explained that he had hopped over the chain to walk in the public space and was asked to leave by police officers.

"This level of abuse is so egregious," he said.


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has rejected all of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s demands for a new trial today. At the same time, the state was denied the right to kill Mumia without a new hearing. The court ruled that flawed jury instructions occurred during his sentencing after his 1982 conviction for the murder of officer Daniel Faulkner. Mumia was convicted during a trial where most African American jurors were systematically excluded and where critical evidence that many say would have proved the defendant’s innocence was excluded.

The State of Pennsylvania has been ordered to hold a new sentencing hearing within 180days. In that hearing the jury's decision will be limited to a finding of either life imprisonment, or execution by lethal injection. If prosecutors don’t want to give him a new death penalty hearing, Abu-Jamal would be sentenced automatically to life in prison.

Jamal’s attorneys will appeal the Third Circuit's decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mumia's lead attorney, Robert R. Bryan, said he was glad the court did not uphold the death sentence, and said he wants a new trial.

“I’ve never seen a case as permeated and riddled with racism as this one,” Bryan told the Associated Press Thursday. “I want a new trial and I want him free. His conviction was a travesty of justice.”

The following announcement is from the
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC).

New Trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal is Denied; Protests on Friday










Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Since I spent all afternoon at the dentist, I didn't have time to really do the work necessary to put out an Oread Daily. Instead, I'm giving you this article below to digest.

Why I Won’t Vote for Obama......Or for Hillary, And Certainly Not for McCain, And Not Even For Ralph
by Wayne Price

In the United States, there has developed an enthusiastic movement of support for the Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama. Besides the large forces he appeals to, especially among young adults, he is overwhelmingly supported by the left: liberals, social democrats, and Stalinists. I appreciate the movement-like aspect of his popular support, yet I personally will not vote for him. I do not try to persuade individual friends, family members, and co-workers not to vote for him, but I would like to change their attitudes. It is typical of liberals, etc. that they start elections by declaring the Democratic candidate to be the “lesser evil” (which admits that he or she is an evil). But as the election gets closer, they become convinced of the great goodness of the candidate. (In psychology, this is called the operation of cognitive dissonance. After all, who wants to believe of oneself that we are supporting someone evil? So we persuade ourselves that the evil politician is actually good.)

Let me give some anecdotes about the real Obama. In the left-liberal journal, The Nation (2/18/08), Christopher Hayes wrote a pro-Obama article, “The Choice.” He recalled, “For the Chicago left, his primary campaign and his subsequent election to the Senate was a collective rallying cry….Young Chicago progressives felt…He is one of us and now he is in the Senate (p. 20).”

And yet…. “That’s not, alas, how things turned out,” writes this supporter of Obama. “Almost immediately, Obama…shaded himself toward the center….His record places him squarely in the middle of Democratic senators (same).” This is a typical story of a young idealist becoming corrupted by playing the game of bourgeois electoral politics.

Hayes suspects that this was due to Obama having “an eye on national office.” But there were other corrupting forces. For example, Obama has boasted to campaign crowds in Iowa that he had passed a law to increase regulation of nuclear power plants. Specifically this was a response to the Exelon Corp. which had failed to inform the public about radioactive leaks at one of its plants. Senator Obama scolded both Exelon and federal regulators. He presented a bill to force nuclear power companies to disclose even small leaks. On the stump, Obama stated that this was “the only nuclear legislation that I’ve passed. I did it just last year ( New York Times, 2/3/08, p. A1).”

However, this was a lie. Obama had introduced such a bill, but it was repeatedly weakened until it no longer imposed any demands on the nuclear power industry…and then it was dropped. Obama never got any law regulating the nuclear power industry passed. Why did he cave in? The New York Times reports that Exelon was “one of Mr. Obama’s largest sources of campaign money (same, p. A17).” Since 2003, Obama has gotten more than $227,000 from officials and employees of Exelon. Two of the top executives are among his biggest donors. Obama’s chief political strategist has been an advisor to Exelon.

In short, good intentions (I assume Obama had good intentions and that it was not a fraud from the start) were overwhelmed by the influence of big business. Of course Obama is a supporter of the capitalist economy. He hopes to be the top administrator of the capitalist economy. In no way is he anti-business, no matter how many unions endorse him. No doubt he would deny that there are necessary conflicts between labor and business. The bringing together of clashing forces is one of his central ideas. For example, rather than fight for a single payer health insurance plan —which would alienate the insurance industry— he proposes a health program which would include the insurance companies, providing them with lots of cash. But like his nuclear regulation bill, the insurance companies will do all they can to water down his original plan and then to kill it if they can.

Perhaps to most people, Barack Obama’s biggest appeal is his opposition to the Iraq war. Unlike Senator Hillary Clinton (let alone John McCain), he opposed the war in the beginning. But this does not make him an anti-war candidate. He proposes that most U.S. troops withdraw, but that a significant number (precise amount unspecified) will remain to guard U.S. personnel, to train forces of the puppet Iraqi government, and to “strike at Al Qaeda.” What he would actually do in the face of a collapse of the Iraqi government is anyone’s guess.

But whether or not Obama will continue this particular war, he remains a supporter of the U.S. empire. This empire has military bases in approximately 150 countries and military alliances around the world. Despite its decline, it still dominates the international economy and drains wealth from every continent. Obama is for this empire , which he discusses in terms of the “national interest,” meaning the interest of the U.S. ruling class (including the executives of Exelon). Because he supports this empire, he is most likely to remain in this war and to get into other wars. In interviews, he has already said that he might bomb Pakistan and that he would consider military action against Iran.

Another major appeal is his race. Just by being himself, an African-American, he makes the point that it is possible for People of Color to rise in our society, even to be president. However, this distracts us from the real problems of U.S. racism. Most African-Americans will remain at the bottom of society, impoverished, last hired and first fired, and subject to police violence. This will not change by having a cool Black man as president. True racial change will require a social upheaval, not just the election of one person.

When pressed, many liberals and social democrats will admit that Obama, like Hillary Clinton, is a candidate of capitalism, militarism, and imperialism. But, they argue, he is far less of an evil than Senator John McCain. In McCain the Republicans have put their best foot forward. Unlike the inept Bush, he is intelligent and witty, a war hero, and he sometimes shows some humanity (as in opposing torture, before he caved). He is still hated by the far right, which does him credit. Yet for all that, he is pledged to carry on the Iraq war, if necessary for a “hundred years..” In general he will continue the programs of the vile Bush regime. It is important to oppose him. Since the U.S. population is far from ready to support a socialist (or anarchist) alternative, it is argued, we must support Barack Obama as the lesser evil.

In response, I accept that the Democrats, however evil, are indeed the lesser evil. I only doubt that the greater evil can really be defeated by supporting the lesser evil. After all, liberals, unionists, the African-American community, the women’s movement, the environmental movement, the GLBT community, etc., etc., have been supporting the Democrats for decades, generations. And yet the Republicans have moved more to the right, and the Democrats have also moved to the right (but remain just a little bit to the left of the Republicans). Lesser-evilism has not worked very well.

Instead of comparing the Democrats to the Republicans, I propose a different standard: What is necessary to save the country and the world from disaster. Does the candidate have a program which will prevent the economic crisis we are sliding into? Will he solve the danger of ecological/ environmental/ energy catastrophe? Will he reverse the spread of nuclear weapons before there is a nuclear war? To claim that Obama (or even Ralph Nader, the independent) reaches this standard is absurd.

No one person can be an effective chief administrator of a unit as large as the United States. On the other side of the coin, any one person’s vote does not make a difference, considering the size of the country. This is just too big a social unit. We need vibrant local democracies, political, economic, and social, more than we need an imperial president.

People argue with me: But what if everyone (or if a lot of people) had your (my) negative attitude toward elections or for supporting pro-capitalist candidates? My response is: Great! Then there would be a mass movement.

The gains of the thirties labor movement were won mainly through sit-ins in the factories as part of mass strikes. The gains of African-Americans in the fifties and sixties were won through mass civil disobedience and urban uprisings (“riots”). The struggle against the Vietnam war was fought through massive demonstrations, student strikes, and a virtual mutiny in the army.

The gains of most social movements have been won through non-electoral means, not by electing lesser-evil politicians. Independent electoral actions, such as that of Ralph Nader or the Green Party, have never been very useful. If successful (as in some European countries), they will also be corrupted by the pressures of electoralism, money, and the need to administer a giant capitalist government.

My goal is not to persuade individuals to not vote. It is to raise the idea of independent mass struggle. A single general strike in a U.S. city would do more to advance the struggle for freedom than any number of Obamas.

It is exciting to see the popular response to Obama, especially by young people. This lays the basis for a new New Left, a new wave of radicalization. But that will be based on recognizing the truth and telling the truth, as best as we radicals can see it — not by capitulating to the illusions which others still have. A new radicalization will develop when people are disillusioned by Obama and the Democrats. And this will happen. Or we are all in big trouble.

Wayne Price is a long-time activist in union, anti-war, and human rights areas. He has been a member of the Revolutionary Socialist League, of the Love & Rage Revolutionary Anarchist Federation, and, currently, of the Northeastern Federation of Anarchist-Communists (NEFAC). He writes for The Utopian and for The Northeastern Anarchist, and writes monthly for

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


On this day in 1965 civil rights marchers concluded a march from Selma, AL, to the state Capitol in Montgomery to protest the denial of voting rights to blacks. At least 25,000 civil rights marchers participated in the 54-mile trek led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This march followed a previous march two weeks earlier that was broken up at the Edmund Pettus Bridge by state troopers and sheriff's deputies who used billy clubs, attack dogs and tear gas. The infamous incident became known as "Bloody Sunday." During the second demonstration, marchers, who walked an average of 12 miles a day and pitched tents as they slept in fields at night, sang freedom songs along the way. At its conclusion, an estimated 50,000 people from every state in the country gathered at the foot of the state Capitol to celebrate. That momentous event within the Civil Rights Movement helped usher in the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Now, I bring this up because I want to get it through the heads of Barack Obama supporters that they are NOT participating in a movement. At least, I haven't heard about any of them being attacked by sheriff's deputies using whips, electric cattle prods and tear gas. I haven't noticed any cops turning loose attack dogs on them. Obama supporters are free to be excited about supporting the first black man with a serious shot at being President, but puleeeze, stop with the movement talk, and stop comparing him (and yourselves) to people who put their lives on the line, it just ain't so.

You see, to support a candidate of some political party is a wee bit different then say the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, coming to Selma in 1963 to help blacks exercise their right to vote. This at a time when, for example, Dallas County, Alabama, which was majority black had only 325 blacks registered to vote, compared to 9,700 registered whites. Oh and voter ratios in surrounding Black Belt counties were similar—or much worse. SNCC's efforts which predated those mentioned above by Dr. King and SCLC received little press attention compared to what happened later (and compared to the gushing media attention received by the Obama campaign today).

Getting black folks registered to vote in the deep south back then was a little different then registering Obama supporters to vote in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania today (see article below).

Mississippi Summer was a SNCC project. SNCC finally received press coverage when Mississippi Summer volunteers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, disappeared after having been released from police custody. While the search was on for their bodies, corpses of many blacks were found buried in the Mississippi mud. The FBI who reluctantly conducted the search did eventually locate the bodies of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner as well..

SNCC and their allies also established 30 Freedom Schools in towns throughout Mississippi. Volunteers taught in the schools and the curriculum included black history, the philosophy of the civil rights movement. During the summer of 1964 over 3,000 students attended these schools and the experiment provided a model for future educational programs such as Head Start.

Freedom Schools were often targets of white mobs. So also were the homes of local African Americans involved in the campaign. That summer 30 black homes and 37 black churches were firebombed. Over 80 volunteers were beaten by white mobs or racist police officers. Others, including, of course, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were murdered by the Klan and their racist friends. This attempt to frighten others from joining the campaign failed and by late 1964 over 70,000 students had taken part in Freedom Summer.

It took guts in those days to be a black person and just register to vote. Police harassment and arrests, KKK violence including shootings, bombings, assassinations, and economic terrorism was common against those who dared to try to register.

This is different then you going out and giving a good speech to lots of applause. This is different then voting in a primary. This is different then making phone calls on behalf of a candidate.

One could go on and on and on, but I have to hope the point is made. A Presidential campaign is not a movement. Calling it one is demeaning to the many who participated in a real one.

The following is from Public Opinion (Chambersburg, Pennsylvania).

Obama supporters getting organized

Dozens of local Barack Obama supporters call it a grass-roots movement.

A month ago, most had already decided they favored Obama as the Democrat's presidential candidate, but had only a vague idea of what they could do about it.

On Monday, many of them felt they had taken the first step in making a difference in Obama's march to the Democratic Convention nomination and perhaps the presidency.

It has taken them less than a month to organize, obtain a local campaign headquarters and carry out their first project: A drive to register voters for Pennsylvania's primary.

For the last 10 days, they have hit the streets, approached potential voters and even gone door to door in an effort to get local residents registered.

They feel their efforts have paid off with hundreds of new registered voters, but they also say they are having the time of their lives.

"I have been having so much fun," said an exuberant Rosanne Johnson on Monday as she prepared to hand in the results of her latest effort -- about half a dozen registration forms she had talked people into filling out that afternoon.

She stopped by the new Obama campaign headquarters at 33 S. Main Street in downtown Chambersburg to talk to her new friend, Barbara Weekley.

"It's been exciting," Weekley said. "We have signed up a lot of new voters, as well as quite a few who have switched parties."

The two women, one African-American and one white from different neighborhoods and different walks of life, first met last weekend when they were paired up to go out to register voters.

They braved the cold that Saturday afternoon, armed with registration forms and a determination to make a difference. They shivered together in the cold, ate lunch together and celebrated each new registration together.

"It was cold and windy, and sometimes discouraging, but it was a great experience also," Johnson said. "By the end of the day, we had forged a new friendship, and signed up some voters too."

Johnson and Weekley recalled that effort Monday afternoon, talking about the exuberance of volunteers as they met at the end of the day at the Obama campaign headquarters on South Main Street.

As they were wrapping things up and getting ready to leave, a man came in off the street and told them "I want to register to vote."

A cheer went up among the volunteers.

The incident was just one moment in a string of moments that encouraged and rejuvenated volunteers who have spent many long hours out in the community the past 10 days in an effort to register voters.

The aim, according to volunteers, has not been to campaign for Obama at this point, but to get voters registered so they can participate in next month's primary election.

Justin Caffrey, a senior at Shippensburg University, said College Democrats on campus registered about 700 students, most first time voters.

"Our goal is to get them interested and registered to vote," he said. "We didn't try to influence their votes, we just wanted them to participate."

He said volunteers found that many people wanted to vote but were just not sure how to register.

Volunteers in both Shippensburg and Chambersburg provided the registration forms and instructions on how to fill them out.

Weekley and Johnson said the push in Chambersburg was also to register people, and like the Shippensburg volunteers, they helped anyone who wanted to register, regardless of party affiliation.

"At this point, getting people to register was the key, so they have the option to vote April 22," Weekley said.


It's always good to know that the United States isn't alone in its paranoid fears.

The Japanese government is apparently frightened to death of Antonio Negri (the very scary looking guy pictured here) whom they have effectively barred from giving some planned lectures in Japan.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports Nigri had been scheduled to give a series of lectures at the Universities of Tokyo and Kyoto and other venues in late March and early April, but was forced to abruptly cancel his trip last week after being told he would need a permit to entry the country. Italian nationals can normally travel to Japan without visas, but a Foreign Office spokesman said “political criminals” needed “special landing permits.”

Negri began his academic career as a scholar of political philosophy centering on Marx, and shaped the theoretical foundation for a new social movement known as “Autonomia” supported by the socially disadvantaged. The movement jolted all parts of Italy. Later he was accused of masterminding the kidnapping and murder of Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro by the militant organization “the Red Brigades” and plotting to overthrow the government. Shortly afterward, although no link was ever established between Negri and the Red Brigades, he was convicted for his political activities and critical discourse against the government.

During his imprisonment awaiting trial, he announced his candidacy for and was elected to the Italian legislature. Owing to parliamentary privilege, he was permitted to leave prison, but this was abrogated a few months later. Before being arrested, he sought for political asylum in Paris. During his exile in Paris he was engaged in global intellectual movements and prolific political writings.

Later, he voluntarily returned to Italy to serve his remaining sentences and was released from prison in 2003 after serving his full sentence of 17 years.

The following is from Japan Today.

Academics protest Japan's handling of Negri's visit

A group of Japanese academics who had planned for a lecture by Italian Marxist political philosopher Antonio Negri issued a joint statement Monday in protest of Japan’s ‘‘effective refusal of entry’’ and criticized the act as a violation of freedom of thought.

‘‘While we were told in consultations with the Foreign Ministry in advance that there was no need for Negri to apply for a visa, we were suddenly requested to do so three days before he was scheduled to enter Japan,’’ said Yoshihiko Ichida, a Kobe University professor who was involved in arranging Negri’s visit. The trip by Negri, considered by many to be a symbol of anti-globalism, has been canceled as a result of the difficulties in obtaining the entry visa, the organizers said.

‘‘We were deprived of the opportunities to philosophical, academic and cultural exchanges that transcend borders and the freedom of movement, as well as freedom of belief, thought and academic knowledge of all persons involved was violated,’’ the statement said.


In the summer of 2007 Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway met the then 22-year-old Rabab Amidane from Western Sahara. She was then trying to obtain political support for her brother, who had been imprisoned since 2006.

Now Sahrawi political prisoners , including Rabab's brother, in the black jail of El-Ayoune, are in the midst of an unlimited hunger strike, which began on February 25, 2008, against the dreadful incarceration of political prisoners in the conflict. They are demanding an improvement of their conditions of detention, as well as their legitimate rights guaranteed by international conventions and treaties, as prisoners of conscience.

Other prisoners have since joined the protest.

"All the political prisoners have decided to go on a hunger strike as of Monday, 10 March,"Sahrawi prisoner El Ouali Amidane (21) told ABC News on the telephone.

With their health deteriorating rapidly the Sahrawi President has called on the UN to do something.

The Saharawi human rights activist and ex-political prisoner, Tarruzi Yehdih, described the notorious Carcel Negra or the black jail
where he was imprisoned and tortured for ten months as “A tomb for alive people." He described the Black Jail like this:

"The prison doesn’t even guarantee the conditions contained in the Law 23/98 with all its goods and wrong. Along with all the suffering of the prisoners provoked by the malnutrition, the lack of drinkable water, the deficiency of medical assistance, the non-existence of ventilation or hygienic conditions as well as the over-grouping of prisoners in one cell, the prisoners, mainly the political prisoners, endure everyday the oppression of the authorities."

The following is from the Algerian Press Agency.

Sahrawi detainees in danger: Sahrawi President calls U.N leader to intervene immediately

Bir Lehlu (Sahrawi liberated territories) – The Polisario front called the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to intervene "immediately" to save the sixty Sahrawi detainees, whose health condition "has worsened" in the Moroccan prisons. In a letter addressed to the UN Secretary General reported Monday by Sahara Press Service (SPS), Sahraoui President Mohamed Abdelaziz called the UN to intervene "immediately" to save the life of some sixty Sahrawi detainees "subject to death at any time" owing to the deterioration of their health condition after a month of strike-hunger in many Moroccan prisons.

Monday, March 24, 2008


Some kids in the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn took to the streets the other day to tell Verizon to take their microwaves elsewhere.

The kids parents are with them.

Who can blame them. Cell towers in the area have grown from 4 towers to more than 8 since January and currently face directly into classrooms and a refurbished rooftop play area.

Although the area beat back Sprint a while back when they were looking to add to the microwave melange the area faces, this time it is likely to be more difficult because of the fact the equipment is already installed, lessening the likelihood anything will be removed.

Calls from concerned parents flooded the local community board only hours after the towers were erected.

"They installed them when no one was around in hopes of falling under the radar," said Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann of the towers, which appeared on the rooftops at 8701 Ridge Blvd. "Within hours, my phone was ringing off the hook with angry parents afraid that radiation . . . was going to give their kids cancer."

Vorizon has said they might be able to angle the towers differently. But this is not enough for the folks in the neighborhood. Parents Maryann Kotsis and Dolores Lozupone, for example, maintain that given the saturation of this equipment in relation to the density of schools and childcare facilities in it's vicinity - anything less than full removal of the equipment and a moratorium on its construction will not suffice.

“This is new technology. When cigarettes first came out, doctors were on TV smoking them,” PS 185 parent Evans Kotsis told The Brooklyn Paper. “Now we know better.”

Kotsis, who has two children in the school, added, “We don’t want our kids to be guinea pigs in this.”

"I'm scared of what we don't know," said Elizabeth Juliano, whose 5-year-old son attends the school. "Without evidence either way, we should err on the side of caution. This is just stupid."

As usual the big company never bothered to talk to the neighborhood about their plans.

“There was no form of communication with either the parents or the principal,” said Tressa Kabbez, co-president of PS185’s Parent Teacher Association. “We’re going to go after Verizon. We’re mobilizing parents in the school.”

Though many scoff at the risk cell phone towers may create, the parent's are not without reason for their concerns.

Last April the Times of London for example reported clusters of cancer and other serious illnesses have been discovered around mobile phone masts, raising concerns over the technology’s potential impact on health. "Studies of the sites show high incidences of cancer, brain hemorrhages and high blood pressure within a radius of 400 yards of mobile phone masts."

Dr John Walker, a scientist who compiled the cluster studies with the help of local campaigners in Devon, Lincolnshire, Staffordshire and the West Midlands (Great Britain), said he was convinced they showed a potential link between the angle of the beam of radiation emitted from the masts’ antennae and illnesses discovered in local populations.

“Masts should be moved away from... schools and the power turned down,” he said.

Some property owners in the neighborhood like the cell phone towers which are placed on their buildings. Owners of buildings typically net $2,000 a month in rent from cellphone companies.

The following is from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Cell Phone Towers Would Be Banned Near Schools Under Bill
by Harold Egeln

BAY RIDGE -- "Take the towers down!" "I am not a lab rat!" "Verizon doesn't care!"

Those were the chants and placards of children and parents in Bay Ridge recently as more than 250 students, parents and supporters marched on a local Verizon Wireless store to protest the placement of cell phone towers atop an apartment building by P.S. 185.

The first answer to their call for the towers' removal was not from Verizon Wireless, which has not yet given a public statement to the protests, but by from Assembly-Member Janele Hyer-Spencer in Bay Ridge. She has just introduced legislation in Albany to help prevent such situations.

"Placing cell towers in such close vicinity of our children is unacceptable," said Assembly Member Hyer-Spencer (D-Bay Ridge/Staten Island East Shore). "While awaiting concrete evidence of potential health risks, we cannot sit idly by and gamble with the lives of hundreds of innocent students."

The legislation, known as bill A.10239, would prohibit placing cell towers, such as the ones about 100 feet from P.S. 185, within 500 feet of school buildings in the city. A further provision would require notification to municipalities, communities and parents of tower construction plans, and mandate local input in the placement of towers.

"With my legislation, parents can be sure that informed decisions will be made, and they will not put their children at risk for the sake of corporate profits," said Hyer-Spencer.

An array of cell phone receiving and transmitting antennae was installed early in January, without advance notice to the school nor the community, atop a six-story apartment building at 8701 Ridge Blvd., across 87th Street from P.S. 185.

Notification is currently not required by law, considered a matter of private property rights. The towers' placement immediately set off a storm of protest fueled by parents' fears on the unknown health consequences of being near electromagnetic microwave radiation.

There have been conflicting studies about the effects but no definite conclusion either way, that being a source of unease for segments of the public concerned about possible harmful effects. The cell phone towers consist of receiving and transmitting antennae, and according to local officials, the transmitters are of concern, not the receivers.

Brooklyn's Highest Cell Tower Concentration in Bay Ridge

The neighborhood has a high concentration of schools, with P.S. 185 at the center. Within a two-block radius of P.S. 185 are Holy Cross Parochial School and Adelphi Academy, and two day care centers, Stepping Stones and Tiny Tots.

Bay Ridge and the Manhattan's Upper West Side have the highest concentrations of cell phone towers in the entire city, due to advantageous geographical settings and long, broad avenues. Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights have over two dozen cell phone tower arrays, according to local officials.

Recently, noted Hyer-Spencer, the school renovated its rooftop playground for students. The playground is in a direct horizontal line across from the towers on the apartment building, and several parents won't allow their children to play there during recess.

After a recent PTA meeting at P.S. 185, where a compromise settlement with Verizon Wireless was announced by Council Member Vincent Gentile and state Senator Marty Golden to re-align the towers away from the school, parents rejected the compromise, sparking their protest march a week later. Both Gentile and Golden joined in the march to support the PTA's position.

Golden's office was informed that Verizon's policy is not to place their cell towers near schools, although the company went ahead anyway and installed the towers. He told protesters at the recent rally that Verizon was "at a loss" about how the towers were placed near the school.


White supremacists and anti-racist protesters clashed during a march by the racists which wound its way through downtown Calgary on Friday. The anti-racists confronted the white supremacist members of the so called Aryan Guard (pictured here at a rally last summer) in a city which has seen growing racist violence.

The Aryan Guard was founded in late 2006. In the past year, Aryan Guard members have been putting up posters, handing out leaflets and responding to anti-racist rallies with their own protests. They hold regular meetings and are said to be actively recruiting, particularly among city youth.

Anti-racist activists are not about to let these goons march around unopposed.

"Our message is that . . . the community is united, that racism will not be tolerated, that it shouldn't be tolerated and that we shouldn't just turn from it," said Jason Divine of Anti-Racist Action Calgary. "The message is, there's strength in numbers," Devine added. "We don't have to be afraid of people that march around with swastikas."

Many of the anti-racist protesters covered their faces with bandannas during friday's action. This has become more common since at least two fire bombings in the city this year have been tied to possible neo-Nazi activity, said Devine.

Both attacks involved Molotov cocktails being thrown at inhabited houses, Detective Brad Weinberger told the Calgary Sun last month.

In the first incident, he said there were three people at home when the bomb smashed through a window, he said.

"There was no fire internally but the potential for huge damage and loss of life was there," the detective said.

Hours later, another home with a family of six (including four children between the ages of three and nine) all of whom were home was targeted. That fire bomb struck a wall and burned a fence and patio furniture. One of the house's occupants, 29-year-old anti-racism activist Bonnie Collins said her work in standing up to white supremacists provoked the attack.

So the rally was particularly close to the Collin's heart. Despite the attack she was there unafraid of the nazi thugs.

"Canada and Calgary were not built on hate or violence . . . but on equality and for humanity," she said. "We have to stand together and fight their horrible ideas and ideology."

The racists chose Good Friday, during the United Nations' International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, to stage their march.

Pablo Fernandes, in the Calgary Sun wrote, "Apart from gaining ground in their intimidation campaign, the neo-Nazis showed they have absolute freedom of movement in Calgary." He added, " was a group of self-proclaimed anarchists, known as the flag bearers of the counter-culture, who were the most physically active in disrupting the white supremacist rally. They also paid the highest price, as at least two were detained by cops and many others were forced to give their particulars to police."

Stunned tourists and downtown shoppers watched open-mouthed as the shouting crowd marched down the popular Stephen Avenue.

"I think it's horrible," said Cindy Fredricks, wiping away tears after she found herself in the thick it while out for a walk.

"You realize what this is about, it's pretty scary. Everybody should feel safe here," she said.

A flyer distributed by Calgary’s Aryan Guard promoting their march declared, “We, a local White Civil rights [sic] activist group are hosting a march on March 21st as a declaration of our freedom and pride.”

“White Pride is clearly and solely a euphemism for hatred,” says Devine . He points to the Aryan Guard’s website as proof. “It’s completely disingenuous. They say they’re non-violent, but pose with weapons. These people have violent tendencies, at the very least.”

Cody, an anti-racist activist from Calgary, who asked that only his first name be used, told Vue Weekly that the intent of such groups is more about intimidation than pride.

“Just a few months back, there was an incident [in Calgary] where two neo-Nazis stabbed someone in a Safeway parking lot,” he says. “They went to court and got convicted on assault charges. They consider themselves ‘pro-white activists’ but from my experience, I would classify them as racist terrorists. They use fear tactics to spread their political beliefs.”

“A year ago, it would be rare to see these neo-Nazis walking around. Now they’re all over the place,” Cody says. “You can find them on buses and trains, in parks and at bars. They’re all over the place now and they're growing.”

“We can’t just sit around and wait for the police,” Devine argues. “Essentially, the police’s hands are tied. Until they break the law, it’s our job to alert the community. We show up to let them know that we’re watching them and that the community doesn’t have to be afraid.”

The following is from the Edmonton Sun (Canada).

Neo-Nazis, activists clash in Calgary

CALGARY -- White supremacists and anti-racist demonstrators clashed in Calgary's downtown core yesterday.

A group of white supremacists named the Aryan Guard staged a march from the Mewata Armoury down 8th Avenue to city hall, prompting anti-racism activists to stage their own demonstration.

The activists, plus union leaders, anarchists, minority groups, passersby and gay activists held their own rally as a counter-demonstration to the white supremacists, said Anti-Racist Action Calgary's Jason Devine.

"Our message is that there's strength in numbers ... that the community is united, that racism will not be tolerated, that it shouldn't be tolerated and that we shouldn't just turn from it," he said.

Approximately 25 Aryan Guard members gathered at the Franklin LRT station, rode the C-Train to downtown and started making their way down to the Mewata Armoury, when they were blocked by counter-demonstrators along 7th Avenue, in front of a seniors' centre.

The animosity between the two groups reached an instant peak, prompting police to set up a human barrier between the two groups.

An anarchist, who asked to be identified only as Mike, said he was saddened by the fact the last time his group stood up against the Aryan Guard, the neo-Nazis had a fraction of the numbers they had yesterday.

"Calgary's the only city where they can go out in public, show their faces and hand out leaflets," he said.

"They're cancerous and we have to fight them every time they show up in our community."

Many of the counter-protesters covered their faces with bandanas, which has become more common since at least two fire bombings in the city this year have been tied to possible neo-Nazi activity, said Devine.

"If you're denouncing a group that likes to pose with guns and talks about how much they love Adolph Hitler, I think it would be a little foolish not to have a little bit of ... caution," said Devine.

From the seniors' centre and under police escort, Aryan Guard members made their way down 7th Avenue, taunted by anti-racism demonstrators, which by this time had swollen to more than 200.

The two groups faced off again on the steps of city hall, with police between the two.

After almost two hours, police brought in a school bus and escorted the neo-Nazis - one of whom launched at a female demonstrator but was pulled back by officers - onto the bus, which drove away with flags and Nazi salutes showing out the windows.

The rally was particularly close to the heart of Bonnie Collins, whose home was the target of a Molotov cocktail attack last month.

"Canada and Calgary were not built on hate or violence ... but on equality and for humanity," she said.

"Instead, what they do is promote ignorance, hatred and they promote violence and anger."


It isn't Tibet and China and no one is paying attention, but maybe the media should be looking at the response of Turkish police to unrest in Kurdish regions of the country.

Tens of thousands gathered in Istanbul's Kazlıçeşme square yesterday after the call by the Democratic Society Party (DTP) along with other organizations to mark the coming of the spring festival, Nevruz. Turkish Daily News says the celebrations in Istanbul started under strict security measures. Along with police forces, military forces were on guard beside Kazlıçeşme square as well. People were allowed onto the square after a police search. Although police did not allow the presence of posters of Abdullah Ocalan (one of the founders and chairperson of Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK)), and some banners in Kurdish, Öcalan posters found their way to the square. People were also carrying banners saying, “We are hungry, not for spaghetti, but for peace and fraternity.”

France 24 is reporting clashes broke out in Wan, located in Turkish-occupied Kurdistan (see map), when thousands of protesters tried to march through the streets to denounce the death of a 35-year-old man from a bullet wound he sustained during a protest at the weekend. Police used batons on Monday to beat back the demonstrators --members of Turkey's main Kurdish party, the Democratic Society Party -- in Wan on the ground that their march was illegal.

Two Kurdish demonstrators died in southeastern Turkey as clashes between the police and Kurdish continued today.

On Sunday in the morning Kurds gathered to celebrate in Gewer (Yüksekova). During celebrations the security forces attacked civilians including women and children. During the conflict one of the demonstrators named Ikbal Yasar, 20, was shot dead in his heart by the police. According to eyewitnesses who spoke to Roj TV, “when Ikram was injured, he could be taken to the hospital but they were hindered by the police. So he died.” Military forces also intervened as clashes spread throughout the town and police forces were unable to restore order

The celebrations quickly turned into demonstrations in support of Kurdish separatists. Protests continued there today.

In Amed, hundred thousands of people gathered and called for an “Autonomous Democratic Kurdistan’, amnesty for Abdullah Ocalan, and release of other political prisoners, as well as a democratic political solution for Kurdish issue.

Scores of Kurds have been rounded up and detained by Turkish police as well.

US Vice President Dick Cheney held talks with Turkish leaders in Ankara on Monday. There are no reports of Cheney denouncing the Turkish crack down on Kurds.

The following is from EuroNews.

Fresh violence as Turkish police clash with Kurdish protesters

There has been fresh violence on the streets of southeastern Turkey, where security forces have once again clashed with stone-throwing Kurdish protesters. Days of disturbances have centred on the city of Van and the town of Yuksekova. Unrest at pro-Kurdish rallies at the weekend in both locations left two people dead.

Today, injuries and arrests were reported as trouble continued to flare. Feelings are running high as Turkey's Kurdish population celebrates the Newroz spring festival. It is often a flashpoint for confrontation between the authorities and Kurds, campaigning for greater rights and autonomy.

In their hunt for those who had taken part in the protests, police even piled into a hospital.

Turkey recently carried out a cross-border ground offensive, targeting armed Kurdish rebels Ankara says have been using northern Iraq as a springboard for attacks on Turkish soil.

The raid has further heightened tension between security forces and Kurds in southeastern Turkey.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


By now you've probably read that Sara is back in prison. She was, if you don't know, detained by California Department of Corrections officers as she prepared to board a flight home to Minnesota. She was escorted to her mother's house for the night and then taken to prison Saturday morning.

I hesitate to say anything for fear of inflaming an already delicate situation. However, surely the authorities in California must understand what has happened, for whatever reason, amounts to cruel and unusual punishment not only of Sara but of her family. Sara obviously is no threat to society. Many will benefit from her freedom. No one will benefit by her being incarcerated any further. I can only hope there is a judge in California with the courage to let Sara go home to her family and bring all this to an end.