Posted by New School SDS - April 29, 2008 | News

NEW YORK (SDS) — On Wednesday April 30 college students, community residents, and organizers will join the homeless to sleep on the street for 12 hours in protest of New York City’s affordable housing and homelessness crises. Near-record levels of New Yorkers were homeless last year, yet there is enough vacant property and lots in Manhattan alone to house all the homeless people in the five boroughs combined, according to a report by Picture the Homeless.

Speculative landlords keep buildings vacant for years, waiting to cash in on inflating property values. Meanwhile rents rise at alarming rates. Today low income New Yorkers pay over 50 percent of their annual income in rent, according to NYU’s Furman Center.

Homelessness is a systemic problem that has its roots in the housing market and its failure to provide adequate proportions of affordable housing for New Yorkers. Yet the image of homeless folks as socially dysfunctional individuals remains. The homeless are criminalized through selective enforcement of quality-of-life laws, which restrict acts like sleeping, drinking alcohol, and urinating in public, among others. These are acts that most people can perform in their homes without penalty. A survey led by Picture the Homeless found systematic discrimination against the homeless by police officers—a sign that targeting the homeless is an implicit police policy.

The housing crisis affects most New Yorkers, homeless or not. As we approach the 4 year anniversary of Bloomberg’s 5 year plan to reduce homelessness, it’s time to tell Mr. Bloomberg his plan has failed.

The groundbreaking HOUSING NOT WAREHOUSING legislation, written by homeless people and City Councilmember Tony Avella, will stop landlords from keeping vacant property and ensure that affordable housing is developed from these properties. During the Sleep Out, protesters will call their City Council members and urge them to pass this legislation.

We are staging this Sleep Out in support of civil rights and housing campaigns by the Bronx-based organization Picture the Homeless. Even if you have only an hour to spare on April 30, drop by and join us in our act of solidarity with community organizations and homeless folks. Participants are encouraged to bring cardboard and plastic for protection from the cold ground and rain.

Our message: Homelessness is not a crime. Housing is a human right. Our Sleep Out begins at 7 p.m. and will last until 7 a.m. Come sleep with us at the corner of 5th Ave and 13th St.

Members of the Staten Island branch of the NAACP
President Edward Josey is at the podium.
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is calling for both New York City Police Department and U.S. Department of Justice investigations into the behavior of three detectives involved in the 2006 fatal shooting of Sean Bell. The NAACP is also demanding that NYPD undercover detectives undergo immediate drug testing after firing their weapons.

On November 26, 2006, detectives Marc Cooper, Gescard Isnora, and Michael Oliver fired 50 shots into Sean Bell’s car as Bell left the Kalua Cabaret bar in Jamaica, Queens. Just hours before he was to be married, Bell was killed and passengers Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman were seriously wounded. All three victims were unarmed.

On March 16th, 2007, a Queens grand jury indicted the three NYPD detectives – on a number of felony charges including manslaughter and reckless endangerment. Queens Supreme Court Justice Arthur Cooperman announced his verdict on April 25, 2008. Cooperman found all three defendants not guilty – on all counts.

On the steps of Staten Island’s Borough Hall
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

The Staten Island branch of the NAACP held a press conference on the steps of Staten Island’s Borough Hall on Saturday – one day after Cooperman handed down the verdicts.

Reverend Dr. Victor Brown said that the NAACP branch was holding the conference to join the “chorus of extreme concern” surrounding the judge’s ruling in the Bell case.

“It does not seem to make sense to us that officers sworn to protect and serve us can fire over 50 bullets at a car whose occupants are completely unarmed. It does not make sense to us, this afternoon, that an officer can fully discharge his weapon, reload without assessing the situation and commence firing again,” Brown said.

Brown, said that the NAACP was asking for “a full scale departmental investigation into the actions of these officers…If these officers failed to follow [ NYPD ] protocol then they should lose their jobs just as Sean Bell has lost his life.” In addition, the NAACP wants to see “that a federal investigation by the Department Of Justice be commenced to ascertain if the civil rights of these victims have been violated.” Brown also called for “a change in policy making it mandatory that undercover officers who discharge their weapons should be tested immediately for drugs and alcohol.”

Reverend Tony Baker asked, “What does justice mean?” Noting that it has been defined as “righteousness and conforming to the law”, Baker said, “I’m wondering today if the law has been conformed to.” Baker, who served 20 years in the U.S. Army, noted that he was never taught to repeatedly fire his weapon without “assessing the situation.”

Other speakers talked about the issue of racial profiling.

“We know that we might be stopped because we are people of color. We know that we might be frisked because we are people of color. And what does it do to a parent’s heart to think that my child might be killed because of his or her color?” asked Reverend James Seawood, pastor of the Brighton Heights Reform Church. “It’s time for all of us to be recognized as human beings,” he said.

Commenting on the verdict and the outrage it provoked, Peace Action activist Sally Jones said, “Justice for Sean Bell would have been justice for every Staten Islander.”

Community organizer and City Council candidate Debi Rose asked: “How many times are we going to come together and stand on these very steps…to ask, to beg…that our children be given the same level of respect, the same level of value, as other people’s children have?”

“It is too long that fathers have to mourn the loss of their of their namesakes”, she said.

Staten Island community organizer Debi Rose
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

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Posted by TAG - April 26, 2008 | News

Protesters rally outside the Queens district attorney’s office
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

QUEENS, N.Y. — Angry protesters filled Queens Boulevard after the verdict in the Sean Bell shooting was handed down. Normally a dangerous place for pedestrians, the boulevard was temporarily closed to traffic after protesters attending a rally outside the Queens district attorney’s office spilled into the streets.

Protesters gathered outside the Queens district attorney’s office on Friday afternoon – after Queens Supreme Court Justice Arthur Cooperman handed down a not guilty verdict for three NYPD detectives charged with manslaughter and reckless endangerment in the shooting of Sean Bell.

In November 2006 Bell was shot dead and his two passengers were seriously wounded when police fired 50 bullets into his car. Bell and his passengers were unarmed and unaware the men firing on them were police officers. The officers were later indicted for manslaughter and reckless endangerment. The trial took place in Queens Supreme Court and was decided by Justice Cooperman after the defendants waived their right to a jury trial.

The Peoples Justice Coalition described the not guilty verdict as “a bold affront to the human rights of Sean Bell and all of us” and sponsored a 5:30 P.M. rally to protest the decision. In a park adjacent to the district attorney’s office, people who had lost family members in previous shootings spoke out against police violence. Later, demonstrators marched out of the park and on to Queens Boulevard. Chants of “NYPD go to hell, we are all Sean Bell” and “fifty shots equals murder” expressed the protesters’ frustration with the police department and a legal system rally organizers described as unjust. The nonviolent march ended near the site where the police shooting of Sean Bell, Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman had taken place.

A protester marches down Queens Boulevard
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Although Queens Supreme Court Justice Arthur Cooperman acquitted the three NYPD detectives charged in the 2006 shooting – the officers still face a Department of Justice investigation to determine if they violated the civil rights of the shooting victims. Attorney Sanford Rubenstein has also filed a civil suit against the detectives and the NYPD, on behalf of Bell’s fiancee, Nicole Paultre Bell.

Outraged with the verdict, Reverend Al Sharpton said more protests are planned and will include acts of civil disobedience.

NLN on YouTube

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Posted by TAG - April 24, 2008 | News

Steve Harrison squares off with Fossella supporters – and a cardboard Vito

(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

NEW YORK — Republican congressman Vito Fossella, long derided by progressives as ‘Bush’s rubber stamp’ is running for re-election. According to watchdog group Truth 13 Fossella is low on funds and his campaign is vulnerable. On April 21 billionaire oil baron David H. Koch hosted a fundraiser to help Fossella’s faltering campaign. The guest of honor at Koch’s upper east side home was another unpopular republican – Vice President Dick Cheney.

Citing Cheney’s support of torture and Koch’s record of legal difficulties – Koch Industries is responsible for more than 300 oil spills in five states and was accused of fraudulent reporting by a 1989 U.S. Senate Committee on Investigations – an array of activists held a protest outside the fundraiser. Members of the Raging Grannies, CodePINK, Peace Action, the World Can’t Wait and Movement for a Democratic Society were shunted by police to a location a block and a half away from the fundraiser but made the most of their opportunity to dissent.

Among those present at the protest was Fossella’s congressional challenger, Democrat Steve Harrison. Harrison was “confronted” by street theatre group the “Filthy Rich for Fossella” who argued in favor of greed and torture. Harrison responded with a call to end the politics of oil and avarice – and a call to defend both the Constitution and the environment.

“Vito Fauxsella”, aka John Lawrence of Peace Action, also made an appearance. Fauxsella told the crowd that “what makes America beautiful” is that “we can spend your money in wise ways” – to make “the absurd, the immoral, seem normal and acceptable.”

Shortly after 10:30 A.M. the demonstrators jeered as Cheney’s motorcade – a fleet of black SUVs – passed by. The “Filthy Rich” cheered Cheney and urged the crowd to “embrace Dick Cheney and his Big Oil money.”

View Photos/Videos From The Action…

“Vito Fauxsella” addresses his constituents: The Filthy Rich
Posted by TAG - April 23, 2008 | Interview

A leaflet prepared by the SDS strike committee
(NYU Bobst Library)

NEW YORK — In March 1967 a Columbia University SDS activist named Bob Feldman discovered documents revealing Columbia’s formal relationship with the Institute for Defense Analyses, a Department of Defense think tank. This discovery, along with the University’s encroachment into Harlem – the attempt to build a gymnasium on public park land – triggered a series of protests that culminated in the 1968 Columbia Strike. The strike, violently put down by the NYPD, was ultimately successful in attaining two of its goals: Columbia’s disaffiliation from the IDA and the scrapping of the plan to build a gym in Morningside Park. The victory prompted Tom Hayden to urge, “Two, three, many Columbias” in a 1968 Ramparts article.

On April 23, 1968, Columbia University SDS rallied to protest the university’s relation to the Institute for Defense Analysis, the school’s encroachment into Harlem and Columbia’s placing the “IDA Six” – SDS members who had peacefully protested in the Low Library on March 27 – on probation. The rally eventually escalated into the takeover of Hamilton Hall by SDS and the Student Afro Society. Shortly afterwards SDS vacated Hamilton Hall – at the request of SAS – and took over Low Library. On the morning of April 30, 1968, the NYPD violently cleared the library, injuring 150 students and arresting over 700 protesters. In an ironic twist, Police Officer John Brower – husband of current MDS activist Elaine Brower – stood on the opposite side of the barricade from SDS in 1968.

Mark Rudd with Elaine Brower in 2007
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

After Columbia, Feldman went on to co-found the Richmond College chapter of SDS on Staten Island – in October 1968. Since that time he has continued to agitate – and educate – for peace and progress. A believer in intergenerational organizing, he is supportive of the new Students for a Democratic Society – and the new Movement for a Democratic Society as well. Feldman maintains a blog that chronicles the Columbia University strike and has autobiographical sections that provide a glimpse into the Sixties from the perspective of someone who experienced the turmoil and remains a committed radical.

Recently Feldman became involved with the Columbia University 40th Anniversary organizing committee. In his efforts to publicize the commemorative event – being held at Columbia’s School of Journalism – he works with other SDS veterans including Mark Rudd. Initially, Columbia University offered support, including financial, to the organizers. When the program didn’t evolve the way Columbia envisioned much of the support was withdrawn. However, Columbia president Lee Bollinger will speak at the Welcoming Ceremony on Thursday, April 24. Feldman and other organizers are not sure what he will say.

Mark Rudd told NLN, “There was a problem a few months ago, when it appeared that the Columbia administration didn’t want to work with our organizing committee anymore. So they pulled out and are holding some sort of official academic event the following week, when students are busy with exams. However, lately President Lee Bollinger has agreed to give a welcoming to our opening session. We’re all holding our breaths to see whether he’s going to Ahmadinejad us.”

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Posted by TAG - April 19, 2008 | News

SDSers die-in at L3 Corporation
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

NEW YORK — “Is that real blood?” a woman passing the SDS die-in at L3 Corporation said. “Where’s the ambulance?” another stunned onlooker asked Mike Morice of Movement for a Democratic Society.

A dozen members of SDS New York staged a graphic die-in at L3 Communications Corporation this Friday – as part of the national observance of the Iraq Moratorium. Covered in corn syrup died blood red, 3 protesters lay still on the sidewalk outside L3. Leaflets distributed by the protesters claimed that L3 Communications “specialize and have actively participated in torture” in places like Abu Ghraib.

L3 janitorial staff who double as security looked on as people passing by walked around the prone protesters. Standing along Third Avenue protesters held a banner that said, “Iraq War = L3 Profit”.

Uniformed police and a man identifying himself as an auxiliary police officer arrived on the scene soon after the die-in began. The auxiliary officer, wearing an “American Trash” T-shirt and an upside down silver shield on a lanyard, ordered protesters to remove the stage blood or risk arrest for disorderly conduct. Protesters mopped up the mess and, still covered in stage blood, gave out leaflets.

One of the blood stained protesters, an SDSer named Derek, told NLN, “I think we definitely made our point.”

View Photos/Videos From The Action…

NLN on YouTube: Interview with SDS organizer Derek
Posted by Next Left Notes - April 18, 2008 | News

Bill Ayers in Chicago, 2007 (Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)


There are a lot of reasons that Americans are angry about Washington politics. And one more example is the way Senator Obama’s opponents are playing guilt-by-association, tarring him because he happens to know Bill Ayers.

I also know Bill Ayers. He worked with me in shaping our now nationally-renowned school reform program. He is a nationally-recognized distinguished professor of education at the University of Illinois/Chicago and a valued member of the Chicago community.

I don’t condone what he did 40 years ago but I remember that period well. It was a difficult time, but those days are long over. I believe we have too many challenges in Chicago and our country to keep re-fighting 40 year old battles.

Posted by TAG - April 17, 2008 | News

War resisters protest on tax day as police look on
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

NEW YORK — War resisters – and war tax resisters, those who refuse to pay what they call “war taxes” – protested at the midtown office of the IRS this tax day. After the protest, demonstrators marched to the General Post Office on 8th Avenue where they held a press conference.

Protesters gathered at the IRS office on West 44th Street at 4 P.M. on tax day. Banners, pie charts graphically depicting how tax monies are spent and hand painted “bibs” that read “1 day of the Iraq War = 1 Yr Salaries For 12,478 teachers” delivered the demonstrators’ message as they leafleted outside at the IRS. Overhead an electronic sign gave the current figures for the national debt – some 9 trillion dollars – and each family’s share, over $78,000. Officers of the Federal Protective Services division of the Department of Homeland Security looked on but did not interfere with the protest.

Shortly after 5 P.M. the protesters marched west on 44th, accompanied by members of the Rude Mechanical Orchestra. Carrying large banners that read “Whose $” and “What For?”, the column wound its way past the Times Square recruiting center as it headed south on Broadway. The march ended at the General Post Office on 8th Avenue and 33rd Street. Marchers were met there by the Raging Grannies and members of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee.

About 45 protesters held signs and banners on the steps of the post office while the Rude Mechanical Orchestra played music and danced.

As protesters prepared for a press conference on the need to “redirect” tax monies from the IRS to peace oriented non-profit organizations like the People’s Life Fund, police moved in. Members of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee were told that their banner was “obstructing pedestrian traffic”. The tax resisters held their ground despite being threatened with a summons. Police wrote down the name of one protester but did not give out any tickets.

The press conference went ahead as planned and speakers urged onlookers – many on line to mail tax forms before the midnight deadline – to stop funding the Iraq War by refusing to pay taxes. After the press conference the Raging Grannies sang protest songs.

Organizers were pleased with the turnout. Frida Berrigan of the War Resisters League said, “We probably had 40 or 50 people marching and demonstrating yesterday…I thought it was a good action.”

“All I kept thinking about was just how many people oppose the war, wish the war wasn’t happening and don’t really see a clear way of doing anything about it. On tax day, everybody’s scrambling to pay the government and feeling like their hard earned dollars are being sopped up and wishing that that money went to roads and to schools and to healthcare. We were able to interject some information about where that money really goes – and to offer some alternatives…about how people can withdraw their own complicity,” Berrigan said.

View Photos/Videos From The Action…

Posted by Carly Devlin - April 15, 2008 | News

(Photo: Mike Da Cruz / Providence SDS)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (SDS) — Providence SDS organized a week of action, March 18-March 20, to target and protest against different aspects of the Iraq War.

Tuesday night, sixty Providence SDSers took to downtown Providence to Funk the War and rally community support. For two hours, students passed out handbills while dancing to a homemade speaker system powered by a car battery (stylishly located in a shopping cart). High points include the rousing speech given by two Sopehya Lambertsan of Brown SDS (’11) and Kat Poe of RISD SDS (’10) as well as the draping of a war memorial with a banner saying “Resist U.S. Empire.” For the past five years, the tone of the anti-war campaign has been largely somber. In acting in a more light-hearted manner, we hoped to raise awareness and extend ourselves to the community using different tactics.

Amidst Providence’s famous wintry mix, students from Providence SDS joined other Providence anti-war organizations to march through the streets Wednesday afternoon and rally in front of the Rhode Island State House. Protesters numbered two hundred people. Several students represented Providence SDS, delivering two of the speeches, one of which called for a move to more militant direct in opposition to the war and another of which examined the issues of race as they play out in the US occupation of Iraq.

Our culminating event was a direct action targeting the National Guard Recruitment Center. While twenty students chanted and demonstrated on the sidewalk, eight SDSers occupied the center by blocking the door. After a little over an hour, all eight were arrested.

(Photo: Mike Da Cruz / Providence SDS)

We were protesting the role of the military in U.S. society and foreign policy. In shutting the center down, we wanted to disrupt the systemically deceitful and oppressive recruitment process, attack the center’s symbolic position as the public’s interface with the military, and challenge the increasing militarization of our communities. The military is an economically motivated organization, and we will not stand for its racist, classist at homophoic practices that come at the expense of those marginalized in our society. Its fundamental flaws and the place it holds in our society are particularly troublesome as we enter the 6th year of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. We oppose the crimes against humanity perpetrated by our government in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we are increasingly frustrated with an unresponsive democratic process. We feel that taking the streets is no longer adequate action. For five years, we, anti-war communities, have been writing letters, speaking with congressmen, holding vigils and marching in the streets but the politicians aren’t listening. Their lack of accountability forces us to take more drastic action.

Providence SDS, formed in the summer of 2007, is composed of students from Rhode Island School of Design, Brown, Providence Area High Schools, Rhode Island College and other students and youth from the greater Providence area.

Reverend Demetrius Carolina, pastor, First Central Baptist Church
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Early predictions of gloom and rain did not hold out and on Saturday, April 5th, Staten Islanders awoke to blue skies and sunshine for the first truly spring day of 2008. It was an auspicious sign for the Five Years Too Many rally at First Central Baptist Church in Stapleton organized by a new coalition of church members, peace activists, political clubs, community activists, veterans, and military families. The occasion for the rally was to give voice to the frustration and grief over five relentless years of the U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan that has cost the deaths of over 4,000 American soldiers, 30,000 American wounded, and, according to some studies, over one million Iraqi deaths. The casualty statistics are as relentless as the timeframe and are coupled with a cost of $500 billion borrowed from future American generations, a debt that is expected to reach over $3 trillion before the accounting is complete.

Debra Anderson (left) of Military Families Speak Out
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

The idea for the rally started back in February, when Peace Action of Staten Island put out a call to Staten Island groups to come together to discuss how the borough should respond to the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Representatives from eighteen different groups met to hear each other out and plan the best way to organize a meaningful and family-friendly event. The reach of the war has hit many Staten Islanders and the challenge was to provide an open space where all ages would feel welcome to come and share their views of how the war had affected them. The space chosen was the parking area of the First Central Baptist Church, which has one of the most active largely African American congregations on the Island. The rally ended up falling one day after a date fraught with significance for all lovers of peace and justice – the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

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