Posted by TAG - September 30, 2009 | News


A “Victim Of Private Health Insurance” blocks the entrance to Aetna’s offices
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

NEW YORK — Wearing shirts that said “Victim of Private Health Insurance,” protesters occupied the Park Avenue offices of Aetna Insurance Tuesday — the sit-in ended when police arrested 17 of the activists for misdemeanor criminal trespass. Outside the office building, observers from the National Lawyers Guild, members of the press and another 30 protesters looked on. The protesters, many holding signs that said “Aetna Is A Death Panel” chanted “Arrest the real criminals” as police dragged their colleagues away.


Inside looking out
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

ARRESTED AT AETNA

Health care reform activists gathered at 99 Park Avenue, just south of Grand Central, around 10 a.m. Tuesday morning. Half an hour later several of the activists, many wearing white t-shirts that read “Victim Of Private Health Insurance” — and “Medicare For All” on the reverse — entered the building to request a meeting with Aetna officials. Their request denied, the activists sat down in front of the entrance to the building, linking arms. As the protesters chanted “Aetna profits, people die,” Aetna employees stepped over the protesters sitting in front of the main entrance. The symbolism — of Aetna personnel stepping over bodies — was not lost on this reporter. Aetna was founded in 1850 and provided insurance to slave holders (insuring the slave owners’ “property” – the slaves).

As police gathered and the building property manager looked out from behind the building’s glass facade, the activists chanted, “Patients not profits – Medicare for all!”

Half an hour into the sit-in the activists stood and entered the building. Forming a large semi-circle facing the entrance, the activists sat down in the lobby, arms linked. Chanting resumed — and reverberated.


Arrested at Aetna
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

As the activists chanted, officers from the NYPD Manhattan South Task Force arrived — with stacks of plastic handcuffs clipped to their trousers. Two prisoner transport vans idled on Park Avenue. Entering the building with police, the property manager read a statement telling the activists to leave or risk being arrested. Although she borrowed a police bullhorn to address the group, the woman’s appeal was completely drowned out by chanting. A minute or two later Lieutenant John Wolf raised his bullhorn and issued a warning: get out or be arrested for criminal trespass. No one moved. Police moved in, observers were ushered out, and the arrests began. 17 protesters were brought out in flexcuffs. Some of the arrestees declined to assist in their own arrests — and were carried out. Police said that individuals who were carried out would likely receive additional charges.

As the arrestees were loaded into the police vans, protesters watching from the sidewalk yelled to their colleagues: “Thank you!” Among those arrested were a registered nurse with 30 years experience and a licensed practical therapist with 20 years on the job.


Katie Robbins of Healthcare-Now! (right) with the Raging Grannies
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

“AETNA IS A DEATH PANEL”

Katie Robbins, an organizer with Healthcare Now!, briefed the press shortly after the arrests: “16 people were just arrested for sitting down demanding that Aetna immediately approve all doctor requested lifesaving treatment for people in critical conditions. And they were arrested. Aetna is the real criminal.”

Robbins said that the sit-in was the first of many actions to come. She said that next week protests would be held in Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

Mark Milano, an organizer from ACT UP, explained the purpose of the event — to demand Medicare-type coverage for all Americans — and commented on what he called the myth of the death panels.

“The reality is that the death panels are the people who are paid every day to deny care to people. That’s their job — the more people they deny, the bigger bonuses they get,” he said.


Veteran Bill Steyert outside Aetna
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

RETURNING TO THE SCENE OF THE CRIME(S)

The protest broke up shortly after the police vans headed downtown — with several activists following to provide jail support — but later in the day a second, much larger, protest brought demonstraters back to the Aetna offices.

At 4 p.m. activists gathered outside the offices of Bristol-Myers Squibb, the global drug company that donated $250,000 to George W. Bush’s re-election campaign. 250 protesters picketed for half an hour before starting an unpermitted march down Park Avenue to Aetna. On arrival, demonstrators held a block long picket for over an hour as police and passersby looked on. There were no additional arrests.

The sit-in and subsequent picket were part of the “Patients Not Profits campaign of the “Mobilization for Health Care for All.” The mobilization is a relatively new formation formed by longtime health care reform activists in Private Health Insurance Must Go and other organizations including the Prosperity Agenda, the Center for the Working Poor and Healthcare-NOW.

According to campaign organizers, “Patients Not Profits” looks to “End insurance abuse and build support for real reform — Medicare for All, a single payer plan. The mobilization involves civil disobedience at insurance company offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, and other cities throughout October.”


Members of Private Health Insurance Must Go
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

View Photos/Videos From The Event…

Posted by TAG - September 28, 2009 | News


High School Teachers Support Stella D’oro Workers
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Pop star Bono may be impressed with the size of Bloomberg’s wallet but at least 136 workers in the Bronx are not.

NEW YORK — Local 50 of the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco workers and Grain Millers International Union represents 136 embattled workers who are struggling to hang on to their jobs at the Stella D’oro plant in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx. On Friday, September 25, the union held a protest that started as a picket outside the offices of investment bankers Goldman Sachs, continued as a march up Broadway during rush hour, and ended with bullhorns and barricades outside City Hall.

The target of the workers’ frustration and anger: Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED?

The rally at City Hall occurred just days after pop star Bono endorsed billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg and his “enormous wallet.”

On Wednesday night, September 23, Bloomberg flew a helicopter into Giants Stadium. As he stood on the stage with U2 frontman Bono, the rocker stopped the performance to endorse the mayor — and his honor’s net worth.

“Using his enormous wallet to research new treatments for malaria and stuff, he makes me very proud, he also makes me laugh out loud. I love him very much,” Bono said.

THE CONTRAST COULDN’T BE STARKER

While Bloomberg has the resources to fly into Giants Stadium in a helicopter — to stand next to a pop star in an election year — the Stella D’oro workers are facing imminent unemployment. Local 50 organizer Mike Filippou — “Big Mike” to his coworkers — questions Bloomberg’s priorities. Addressing coworkers and supporters at the City Hall rally, Filippou said that Bloomberg could have made a telephone call — could have done something — to help the Stella workers. But the mayor chose not to help, according to Filippou.

Noting that Bloomberg has vowed to keep jobs in New York, Filippou said “I don’t believe it.”

Despite what the union sees as Bloomberg’s empty promises, Filippou vowed to fight on — this is the not the first time the underdog union has faced adversity without flinching.


It’s a long struggle
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

IT’S A LONG STRUGGLE

The family that started Stella D’oro in the 1930s sold the business to Nabisco in 1992. After Nabisco was absorbed into Kraft Foods, Kraft sought to eliminate 49 of the 56 Teamster jobs. Teamster Local 550 drivers, who delivered supplies to the plant, responded with a strike. The strike was broken but annual sales plummeted from $65 to $30 million.

Then, in December of 2005, Connecticut-based private equity firm Brynwood Partners — a firm that has bought and sold more than a dozen “underperforming” companies over the last 25 years — bought Stella D’oro from Kraft.

In August, 2008, workers at the Stella D’oro plant rejected a new contract, proposed by Brynwood, that included sharp pay and benefits cuts. The workers went out on strike and held the picket line for 11 months, never missing a day. In May, 2009, Local 50 filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming that Brynwood was negotiating in bad faith — after Brynwood had refused to release a 2007 financial statement. As the hearing approached, Brynwood asked Mayor Bloomberg to intervene. Bloomberg went to bat for the investment firm, asking a representative to mediate a meeting between management and the union. When the workers refused to accept the same set of demands, the talks ended. In July, the NLRB ruled in favor of the strikers, ordering their reinstatement, with back pay. Brynwood responded by announcing plans to close the plant. On July 29, the New York City Council passed a non-binding resolution supporting the workers’ demand the factory be kept in the Bronx.

Complicating things further, in September, 2009, Brynwood announced its intention to sell the factory to North Carolina based Lance Inc.

On September 17, Comptroller and Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Thompson wrote to Lance asking President David Singer not to move the factory — and the jobs — to a non-union facility in Ashland, Ohio.

The long struggle seems to be at another turning point as the sale of the factory itself to Lance — and the relocation of production facilities to Ohio — could happen some time in October. Although Lance has already acquired the Stella D’oro brand name from Brynwood, it has yet to purchase the plant. The union is determined to prevent this.

INVESTMENT BANKERS AND JUNK FOOD GIANTS

Friday’s march to City Hall, the latest effort to keep Stella D’oro in the Bronx, began at the offices of Goldman Sachs.

Goldman Sachs is a New York City based bank holding company engaging in investment banking. Lance is one of the firms that Goldman Sachs invests in. To highlight this connection, the Stella D’oro workers and strike support committee started Friday’s march and rally at 85 Broad Street in New York’s financial district.

Stella workers and supporters picketed for an hour outside the Goldman Sachs offices before marching up Broadway to City Hall. Arriving at City Hall, organizers, Stella workers, and activists from other unions spoke about the need to keep Stella D’oro in the Bronx, to mobilize the entire trade union movement, and to demand that Mayor Michael Bloomberg honor his pledge to keep jobs in New York.


NWU President Larry Goldbetter
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

THE VIEW FROM INSIDE THE PROTEST PENS

Protesters who filled the pens outside City Hall — listening to speakers from a variety of unions — reported that the event energized them.

Bernadette Evangelist of Democracy For New York City told NLN that “Democracy for NYC has been supporting the Stella D’oro workers as their struggle became more visible to the general public by sending out information to our members, posting on our web site (www.dfnyc.org) and attending the rallies. That’s how I view our role at DFNYC. We are not a union organization, but feel we need to bring in others into this fight. This was the fifth Stella D’oro rally I’ve attended, and I think it was the most visible and energetic. This isn’t just about unions, it’s about workers, families, communities, and the rule of law. Shutting down the factory here to move it to a non-union location is blatantly immoral, unprincipled, and illegal. This is a great struggle because it personalizes the reason to organize and be supported by union members and community alike.”

Larry Goldbetter, president of the National Writer’s Union (UAW Local 1981), told NLN that while the struggle to save the jobs of the Stella workers is ongoing, a major victory has already been won.

“The significance of the Stella D’oro strike is that their victory cannot be measured in dollars and cents. After 11 months, they went back under the old contract they originally struck against. Their victory is what was achieved over those 11 months of struggle, their deepened unity, their profoundly deepened understanding of this racist system and how it works, their raised conciousness and awareness. That’s what we all have to learn from them. And those things cannot be taken back in wage cuts or plant closings,” said Goldbetter.


Larry Goldbetter, Local 50′s Mike Filippou and Chuck Zlatkin
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

HUGO CHAVEZ AND THE “CRACKER FACTORY”

Chuck Zlatkin, Legislative and Political Director of the New York Metro Area Postal Union (APWU), spoke at Friday’s rally. Afterwards, he told NLN that he had recently attended an extraordinary meeting with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez — and that Chavez was interested in the plight of Local 50 workers.

On Wednesday, September 23, a hastily called meeting was held at the Venezuelan Mission to the United Nations so President Hugo Chavez could meet with a number of U. S. labor leaders. After greeting the unionists, Chavez spoke for over an hour, touching on many subjects from President Obama representing hope to Oliver Stone’s new movie and the 200-year struggle for independence in South America. Chavez then took questions.

A Stella D’oro worker asked if CITGO could buy the plant and have it run by a workers’ coop. Zlatkin was impressed by Chavez’s response.

“Chavez responded by introducing the president of CITGO, Alejandro Granado, who was seated in the first row. Chavez and Granado held a brief dialogue about CITGO’s operation in the United States. Chavez then asked the Stella D’oro workers about how many people were employed at the plant, the products produced, distribution and the ingredients used. Chavez next asked Granado to meet with the Stella D’oro workers and then prepare an analysis and get it back to him within one week. It was an extraordinary moment that offered hope to the long-suffering Stella D’oro workers,” said Zlatkin.

Chavez mentioned his interest in the “cracker factory” when he appeared on The Larry King Show later that night.


Reverend Billy Talen
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

THE “REVEREND” AND THE ROCK STAR

Stella workers and supporters from other unions were joined at City Hall by a number of sympathetic activists from other struggles — including a cleric wearing his familiar “full chicken” suit.

Reverend Billy Talen was returning home from the G20 protests in Pittsburgh when he stopped at the Stella rally. He and Church of Life After Shopping director Savitri D came straight from the airport to the protest — with their luggage in hand. Talen, who is running for mayor on the Green Party line, told NLN that he wouldn’t be speaking at the event.

“I’m getting an education,” he said.

If veteran actor and activist Bill Talen can seize an opportunity to educate himself on labor issues — maybe there’s hope for Bloomberg?

INVITING BONO TO THE BRONX

Although Lance, Inc. has acquired the Stella D’oro brand name the deal to acquire the factory has not yet been inked. Stella workers and supporters, keeping the pressure on in an attempt to stop junk food giant Lance from moving production to Ohio, have called a rally for this Friday. The “Rally with Workers and Supporters at the Stella D’oro Plant” will be held Friday, October 2, from 3 P.M. – 7 P.M. at 237th Street and Broadway, outside the plant gates.

Perhaps the Strike Support Committee should invite Bono to endorse their campaign?

View Photos/Videos From The City Hall Rally…

A STELLA D’ORO TIMELINE

1922 – Joseph Kresivich immigrated to the United States from Trieste, Italy.
1932 – Kresivich and his new wife Angela, an expert baker, established the Stella D’oro plant (Bronx, N.Y.)
1992 – The Kresivich family sold Stella D’oro to Nabisco (formerly the National Biscuit Company). Annual sales were $65 million and the plant employed 575 workers
2000 December: Nabisco became part of Kraft Foods, Inc.
2003 – Teamsters Local 550 went on strike after Kraft announced plans to eliminate 49 of 56 union drivers who delivered to the Stella D’oro plant (Kraft was combining routes with Nabisco)
2004 – The Teamster strike is broken
2005 December: Hendrik Hartung Jr. and Brynwood Partners, a private equity firm based in Connecticut, buy “underperforming” Stella D’oro, intending to use “conservative leverage” to improve annual sales which had declined to $30 million (while the work force had shrunk to 180 employees)
2007 – Tobacco giant Philip Morris Companies renames itself the Altria Group and spins off Kraft Inc. (Kraft takes Nabisco with it as economic volatility continues)
2008 Spring: Brynwood proposes a new contract that demands harsh concessions: major pay and health care benefits cuts (demands including $1 an hour pay cut, one week less vacation, and 12 fewer sick days would have resulted in a net loss of 30 percent)
August: Local 50 goes out on strike, Byrnwood uses scabs to produce inferior products
2009 May: After the workers filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, Brynwood asked Bloomberg to intervene, Bloomberg sent a Columbia University professor to mediate a sit down meeting between the union and management…the talks produced no results
May 12: the workers meet with the National Labor Relations Board
July 1: an administrative law judge (NLRB) rules Brynwood negotiated in bad faith, orders workers reinstated with back pay, Brynwood allows workers back and announces plan to shutdown the plant
July 29: The New York City Council passed a non-binding resolution in support of the Stella workers.
September 10: Brynwood announced plans to sell the Stella D’oro factory to junk food giant Lance, Inc. (based in North Carolina). Lance, who bought the Stella D’oro brand name in September, plans to move production to a non-union plant in Ashland, Ohio.
September 17: NYC Comptroller Bill Thompson wrote to David Singer, president of Lance, Inc. asking Singer not to move the plant. (In July, Thompson had asked the Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System to withdraw its Brynwood investments).
September 25: the Stella workers and supporters protest outside Goldman Sachs and march to City Hall to protest Bloomberg’s empty promise to keep jobs in New York
Posted by Fran Korotzer - September 27, 2009 | News


Signs of the times
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — On Tuesday, September 22, at noon, 700 people who were brought together by MoveOn.org, SEIU Local 32BJ, and the Metro New York Health Care for All Campaign, held a “Big Insurance: Sick of It!” rally outside the offices of United Healthcare. 150 similar rallies were held in cities across the country involving many thousands of people. Shouts of “What do you want? A public option When do you want it? Now”, or, “Blood money! Blood money! Blood money!” reverberated through the midtown Manhattan streets.

Bernadette Walker from MoveOn spoke first explaining why there was a focus on United Healthcare: New York, a subsidiary of United Health Group (UHG), the 2nd largest health insurance company in the U.S. with $75.4 billion in revenues in 2008 and 70,000 employees. Data compiled by the N.Y.S. Department of Health and the N.Y.S. Insurance Department indicates that United Healthcare is the 3rd worst health insurance company in N.Y.S. It was rated 44 out of 46. In 2007 it paid a $4 million settlement to the N.Y.S. Insurance Department for errors in processing claims and in 2008 N.Y. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo reached a $50 million settlement with a part of the national company (Ingenix, Inc.) because of the way they were paying the medical providers.

Instead of improving their poor customer service UHG is working to defeat legislation that would lead to greater governmental oversight. THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY NATIONALLY IS SPENDING $641,000 DAILY LOBBYING AGAINST HEALTH CARE REFORM according to Health Care for America Now, the largest health care reform group in the country. UHG spent $7.3 million on federal lobbyists since 2008. Also, some of those appearing at Town Hall meetings were insurance company employees intimidated into taking action by their employer. UHG sent a letter to it’s employees on company stationary asking them to attend these meetings and write anti-reform letters to congress. Their main target was the public option.

Reform with a strong public option is essential to protect consumers from companies like UHG which has exhibited such a callous disregard for it’s customers. It would ban practices like pre-existing conditions limitations and rescissions, which is canceling contracts months or even years into a contract based on unintended misstatements made at the time of enrollment. Rescissions allowed UHC and Wellpoint, Inc, the country’s largest, to avoid paying $300 million in claims over a 5 year period.


Billionaires For Wealthcare
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

A very well dressed satirical group calling themselves “Billionaires for Wealthcare – if we ain’t broke don’t fix it” arrived at the rally with signs that read, Let them Eat Advil, Fight Socialism: End Medicare Now, and Because Nothing Says Freedom Like Denying Claims. They provided apples and a laugh.

Dr. Alex Blum, a member of Doctors for America spoke next. He said that most doctors want reform. When he was an intern in Washington, DC he became gravely ill with a kidney ailment while visiting Atlanta, GA. The hospital in Atlanta said he needed extensive treatment but the insurance he had in Washington wouldn’t cover his expenses in Georgia. His father, fearing that the family didn’t have enough money to cover the costs of treatment in Atlanta, drove all night, checking periodically to see if he was responsive, to get him back to Washington for medical care. People shouldn’t have to go through that, he concluded.


Pediatrician Alex Blum
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Mark Hannay of Metro New York Health Care for All, the next speaker, said “We are here today to call on our lawmakers to stop listening to big insurance.” We want it done this year, and we demand a strong public health insurance option in any health care reform bill coming out of Congress.” “Together, we can make history. We can win real health care reform…but only if each of us takes action.” We should call Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand and our representative every week until a final bill passes. Tell them to stop listening to big insurance, he said.

As the rally was about to conclude a woman stepped out of the crowd to speak. She said she didn’t want to give her name for fear of recriminations. Then, with a voice breaking with emotion she said that United Healthcare insures her family. Now her son has cancer and is being cared for at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital for people with cancer. The day before the rally she received a notice from United Healthcare denying her claim for $25,000 for her son’s treatment at Sloan-Kettering. The reason, treatment unnecessary.

People stood shaking their heads in disbelief, staggered by the cruelty. One of the speakers mentioned earlier that Stephen Helmsley, the CEO of United Health Group “earns” $102,000 an HOUR. The profits these companies rake-in come from denying claims made by sick people that need care. Depending on one’s world view it can be seen as good business practices or it can be seen as murder.


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

View Photos From The Event…

Posted by Devra Morice - | News


(Photo: Mike Morice / NLN)

NEW YORK — On Thursday, September 24, a coalition of activists protested a luncheon appearance by right wing Columbian President Alvaro Uribe at the Essex House Ballroom in New York. Protestors have long charged the Uribe administration with human rights violations and atrocities. He has also lobbied vigorously to pass the US Free Trade Agreement – an agreement which many argue would grant extra rights to profiteering big businesses, negatively effect and further displace poor communities in Columbia, and have a devastating impact on the Amazon and Andean wilderness. This luncheon appearance was particularly egregious, organizers said, because it was hosted by Chevron, Bunge, Sikorsky, and Mizuho Bank who themselves are responsible for an array of environmental and human rights abuses around the world.


(Photo: Mike Morice / NLN)

As one demonstrator put it, “Uribe is not welcome to New York, We’re sick of violations on our loved ones and on those fighting for a more just Columbia.”


(Photo: Mike Morice / NLN)

Protest sponsors included TradeJustice NY Metro, Global Justice for Animals and the Environment, NY Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, Commun-er@s, Wetlands Activism Collective, Colombia Human Rights Committee and ProtestBarrick.net.

View Photos From The Event…

Posted by Fran Korotzer - September 24, 2009 | News


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — On September 22 Human Rights Watch issued a report stating that it “has received credible reports that police used excessive force – wielding truncheons and firing tear gas and rubber bullets – today to disperse thousands of Zelaya supporters who gathered outside the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa” where constitutionally elected President Zelaya has been staying since he stealthfully returned to Honduras on September 21st. “Given the reports we have received, and the poor track record since the coup, we fear that conditions could deteriorate drastically in the coming days” said Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch.


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

The group that is supporting the return of Zelaya and resisting the coup is reporting that the police are using tear gas, water cannons full of dirty water, batons, and other riot gear to clear the area around the embassy where as many as 100,000 people defied a curfew imposed by the police and remained on the streets. The Honduran Police and Military began a forcible house to house search in the areas around the Brazilian Embassy detaining many people. A child of 8 died asphyxiated by the tear gas. There are reports of at least 3 others being killed. Many of the forcibly detained have been taken to the National Stadium. Some of the police and army wore hoods which reminded people of the human rights violators of the 1980′s. They are also targeting groups that are part of the resistance like the teacher’s union and the Committee Of the Family of the Detained and Disappeared.

It is reported that by mid-day repression was spreading to other areas, especially San Pedro Sula. There are road blocks throughout the country to stop organized groups of people from reaching the capitol where they could support Zelaya and the people there.

The press is being repressed as well. Cell phones in Tegucigalpa have been blocked, signals have been cut and transmission equipment has been destroyed.


President Zelaya’s brother was at the protest
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

At the Brazilian Embassy President Zelaya said he would like to have a dialogue with the de facto president but Micheletti continues to say that he wants Zelaya arrested.

This situation brought many from the N.Y. Honduran community and their supporters to an area near the United Nations in N.Y.C. where a militant demonstration took place. The police, for security reasons relating to the opening of this session of the U.N. , were not allowing anyone on the street where the Honduran Consulate, the original site the demonstration was to take place, is located. There were frequent chants of “The people, united, will never be defeated” (in Spanish, of course). President Zelaya’s brother came and spoke to the crowd. Also present, in a truly internationalist spirit, were representatives of the group ‘Friends & Family of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade’. They were the first to fight fascism in Spain in 1936. Their banner was carried which bears the words, Activists Forever.


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Despite the harsh events occurring in their country, spirits were very high because the participants are sure that the Honduran people, united, really will be victorious. VENCEREMOS !

View Photos From The Event…

Posted by Fran Korotzer - September 23, 2009 | News


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — On Monday, September 21, during the period that the Jewish new year is celebrated — often a time of reflection — “Jews Say No” had a quiet demonstration on New York’s upper west side. The 26 participants carried signs saying that they were against the ongoing siege of Gaza, the separation wall, and the occupation. They also handed out leaflets explaining their positions and introducing themselves as a group of concerned individuals that got together during the Israeli massacre in Gaza in December 2008 – January 2009 to express their opposition to the siege of Gaza and Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people. They pointed out that “The Israeli government claims to speak and act on behalf of Jews everywhere, but all over the world Jews are saying: NO, NOT IN OUR NAME”.


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

The response of the many people passing by was varied. Many thanked us for being there, many offered a thumbs-up, some glared in disbelief, a few argued, and a couple told us we should all be ashamed of ourselves. At one point a car stopped and two men jumped out. One started screaming that our grandparents were turning over in their graves, we must want another holocaust, and why don’t we all go live with Ahmedinejad. One of our group told him she had learned about justice as a child in Hebrew school and he demanded to know what Hebrew school she went to. As his anger and frustration level grew he became physical, grabbing a sign from one demonstrator, leaflets from another, and throwing the torn leaflet at yet another.


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Instantly most of the demonstrators were on their cell phones calling the police. Two patrol cars filled with police — including a plainclothes officer and a sergeant — arrived on the scene very quickly. A long discussion followed. The result was that the demonstrators, although assaulted, could not press charges because they were not injured. The police suggested that they be informed of future demonstrations so that they could assign an officer to the site.

Despite the incident, participants believed that the response of the public was more positive than it had ever been before.

Organizers said that another demonstration will take place in two weeks.

View Photos From The Event…

Posted by Mazin Qumsiyeh - | Poetry

We are angry at rhetoric of oppression
Hafrada-Segregation-Apartheid and Security
Two-states, one state, cantons and autonomy
The chosen state’s right to exist

While colonialism can persist
Addicts now to talk about talking
And hold meetings about more meetings

Maybe to revive the “peace process” charades

to ensure no peace for a few more decades

giving the monster created by Western powers

time to gobble more of the holy pieces

and belch its pleasure in more negotiations

devoid of human rights or UN resolutions

We are angry at statistics of oppression
11,000 political prisoners
534 Destroyed villages and towns
35% seeking stolen jobs
450 km of apartheid walls
7 million displaced or refugees

1.5 million uprooted fruiting trees

1.5 million in Gaza besieged
62 years of justice denied

We are angry at manufactured misery
Epidemics and pandemics
Genocides hidden with polemics

Swelling ranks of the disempowered

Phosphorous bombs on Gaza showered

An apartheid wall that snakes around

Running sewage in the streets abound

Continue Reading…


Danny Meyers, Lynne Stewart and Suzanne Ross
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — On September 14 the Brecht Forum in N.Y.C. hosted a meeting that would both inform and explain the campaign for a civil rights investigation by the Department of Justice into the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. The auditorium was filled with people of every age and color.

Dr. Suzanne Ross, from the N.Y. Coalition to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal spoke first. She said that their coalition had doubled in size since the Supreme Court ruled against a new trial for Mumia. They decided that working for a civil rights investigation should be the next course of action. For 27 years the courts have ruled against Mumia and the Pennsylvania courts are still trying to execute him. They thought the federal courts would be more fair but that hasn’t proved to be true. On April 11th they started to petition for a civil rights investigation. The request is being backed by Rep. Charles Rangel and the coalition is looking for additional allies: the NAACP, the congressional Black caucus, and John Conyers’ House Judiciary Committee. At their convention the NAACP agreed to work on Mumia’s behalf but so far nothing has been done. The coalition believes that Jeffrey Holder might be receptive to the idea because he is the 1st Black Attorney General in U.S. history and also because he was involved in the release of 11 Puerto Rican political prisoners in 1999. In the process of being approved by the senate for his current position he was challenged for what he did and he stood by the release of those prisoners. When asked what we could do to urge this process along Dr. Ross said we could write asking Holder to commit to the investigation and we could urge organizations we belong to to pass a resolution in support of a civil rights investigation. This was done by the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981.

The next speaker was attorney Lynne Stewart. She said that we are in a no holds barred situation with Mumia – we are almost at the end of a trail. He is close to having a death order signed and we don’t have many places to go. People know he did not get a fair trial and now they are coming to realize that he is innocent. If we could get an investigation of the Philadelphia Police Department from the Justice Department it would help Mumia. It should be pointed out to the NAACP that Mumia’s case has echoes that go back to the Scottsboro Boys and the NAACP’s fight for an anti-lynching law. She ended by saying that we are in a protracted struggle. We have to organize to get all political prisoners out of prison and she quoted Fred Hampton Jr. saying “Free ‘em all.”

Then Danny Meyers, President of the N.Y. chapter of the National Lawyers Guild and one of the original Attica lawyers who fought N.Y.S. for over 30 years on behalf of the prisoners that were tortured in Attica, spoke. He said that the torture in Attica was worse than Abu Ghraib. “Attica is all of us”, he continued. 39 years ago this morning, Governor Nelson Rockefeller ordered a massacre. The prisoners had taken over the prison because of the horrible conditions there. The lawyers that defended the prisoners through decades of litigation were all from the National Lawyers Guild. They established that torture has always been part of American history. He said that the NLG supports the civil rights campaign for Mumia. It is not a rejection of the efforts of dedicated lawyers who have worked for Mumia in the courts over many decades – it is a complimentary effort. There is a contradiction, or an irony, that lawyers advocating zealously for their clients are now going to the government and telling it that it too has a role to play in maintaining the myth of equal justice. He said there was a lot of work and research to be done. Were the judges hand picked? There are 3 judges in N.Y. County that have tried every political case. Also, judges are not immune when they function outside their normal jurisdiction (extra judicial activity). Were there any ex parte communications (communication between the judge and the prosecution or the judge and other parties) in Mumia’s case? It has already been reported that Judge Sabo was heard to tell someone outside the court that he is going to “fry the nigger”.


Alton Maddox
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Alton Maddox, “attorney at war”, spoke next but he led the room in a chant first: “No justice, no peace. What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now.” He said he was glad to be among people who love justice and do something about it. He remembered being called by Pam Africa when she asked him to help pack the courtroom everyday while Mumia was being tried. He brought people there everyday. He said we have to be organized to struggle because, in the words of Fredrick Douglass, “Power cedes nothing without struggle”. The lives of Blacks were worth more in the courts when there was slavery – they had value as property, In today’s courts Blacks have no value and get no justice. He believes that the Supreme Court traded Troy Davis’ life for Mumia’s, stopping the execution of Davis but not Mumia. Attorney General Jeffrey Holder, he said, can do anything if “he can find the starch in his back”. Judge Sabo, “Executed more Black men then anyone in the country.” “Mumia is one of the most important”. He then referred to the racism of Rep. Joe Wilson calling Obama a liar during Obama’s speech before congress. They didn’t openly attack LBJ for signing the Voting Rights Act after the tragedy in Selma. Civility toward a president has never been breached in the history of congress. The struggle for Mumia’s life “can and will be won”, he concluded.


Pam Africa
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Pam Africa, who has led the struggle to free Mumia for very many years, was the final speaker. She said we are fighting 2 beasts, capitalism and the courts. We must organize and mobilize. The government will drag things out and try to exhaust us but we must keep fired-up. They will wait for the fire to go out and then attack. We can’t let that happen. Seth Williams, a Black man, is running for the position of District Attorney in Philadelphia. One of the top items in his platform is the execution of Mumia. All the other candidates have made that a priority too. Philadelphia is a police state and there is a cesspool in the Police Department. Some police have been prosecuted. It is a corrupt system aggravated by racism and the Justice Department should focus on the possibility of a racist conspiracy in Pennsylvania.

All over the world people know that Mumia is innocent. In Paris they named a street after him. We have to save him, we cannot falter. He is still alive today because the people in the streets have kept him alive.


Lawrence Hayes
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

One of the speakers mentioned that there were several former prisoners in the room. One of them, Lawrence Hayes, who was on death row before he was exonerated, stood to speak. He said that someone should investigate the policies of the judges that ruled against Mumia. Racism is very strong in the criminal justice system. That system has killed more people, more communities, and more families than any war.

When the meeting ended there was a general feeling of optimism for the first time since the Supreme Court ruled against Mumia. Mumia’s supporters left the auditorium with a sense of hope and a renewed determination to stop the murder of an innocent man.

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Posted by Fran Korotzer - September 20, 2009 | News


Tiokasin Ghosthorse
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — On September 12, Leonard Peltier’s 65th birthday, people gathered in the Judson Memorial Church Assembly Hall in N.Y.C. for an evening of remembrance. It was a time to think about political prisoners. This country claims that there are none but, unfortunately, that is not the case. There are about 220 political prisoners in U.S. prisons representing many issues from civil rights to environmentalism. The MCs for the evening were Paulette D’Auteuil from the Jericho Movement and Benjamin Ramos from the Pro Libertad Freedom Campaign. After a blessing was given by Tiokasin Ghosthorse in the Lakota language 3 dynamic women, the Mahina Movement, sang songs in English and Spanish that they composed.

Mike Kuzma, Leonard Peltier’s Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) lawyer spoke next. He has been trying to get Peltier’s file from the FBI and the CIA. They gave his lawyers 3500 pages but there are 142,579 pages still being kept by the government on “national security” grounds. He then described what happened at Peltier’s parole hearing on July 28th. Eric Seitz, his parole lawyer, represented Leonard. Appearing against him and for the government was a representative of the FBI, the assistant U.S. attorney from South Dakota, the son of one of the FBI agents that was killed, and Ed Woods, an anti-Peltier blogger. The FBI and the Justice Department said that the release of this “violent, armed criminal would jeopardize the public welfare”. Further, Leonard Peltier had repeatedly engaged in violent crime and the killing of an FBI agent is an attack on the law of the nation. Then this Bush appointed parole board, after a few weeks, denied parole for Leonard. Several of his supporters, including his 2 sisters, have been standing outside the White House trying to speak to Obama. His sister Betty chained herself to the gate. Another supporter just ended a one week fast. Obama has not met with them. Since 2003 Leonard has been trying to get transferred to a prison closer to his home. By law prisoners are not to be incarcerated more than 500 miles from their home. In an effort to accomplish this Kuzma has written to the Bureau of Prisons several times but has never received a response.

He then told us about someone named Frank Blackhorse who, in actuality, is named Frank DeLuca and has no aboriginal blood at all. He was arrested in Canada with Leonard and faced the same charges. Before that, in 1973, he allegedly shot an FBI agent. He was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury a year later but didn’t appear for his trial in April, 1975. Frank Blackhorse had worked his way into the trust of the Indian movement. He even became the head of security for AIM. It now appears that Frank Blackhorse was a paid FBI operative. When he was brought back to the U.S. with Peltier the government dropped the 1973 attempted murder charges against him. In an interview on Law & Disorder Radio (April 2009) Kuzma said that in doing his work on FOIA it became clear that, along with others, Leonard Peltier had been targeted by the FBI under Cointel Pro. Blackhorse/DeLuca is now living free in Canada. Kuzma wonders if he is the man that killed the 2 FBI agents at Pine Ridge, SD in 1975.

That was followed by an excellent musical performance by Ghosthorse on a flute, 2 guitarists, and a drummer.

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(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — September 9, 2009. The long and narrow Revolution Bookstore in New York’s Chelsea was packed on September 9th when Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize winning foreign correspondent who covered wars all over the world for 20 years, came to launch his new book, EMPIRE OF ILLUSION: THE END OF LITERACY AND THE TRIUMPH OF SPECTACLE. People that could not fit into the store listened outside in the street. He was introduced by Andy Zee who said that the book described today’s culture and the way it trains people not to think critically. He pointed out that in 2007 80% of the homes in this country did not read a book.



Chris Hedges
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Chris Hedges began his presentation by talking about Michael Jackson as an example of the celebrity culture that has (not accidentally) been developed. In a celebrity culture we destroy what we cherish. Michael Jackson “carved his African-American face into a death mask”. He covered his pedophilia and fear of aging with an illusion of endless childhood. His funeral, filled with pop entertainment and watched by 31.1 million people, was a “variety show with a coffin”. The big finale.Stories about Britney Spears and O.J. Simpson are also examples of lurid dramas presented as news, mini dramas with unexpected endings. Human beings turned into a commodity by enablers, professional puppet makers. When you spend your life as a celebrity you never know who you are. We watch this, getting absorbed in the drama, and become totally unmindful of who we are and what our needs are.

The fantasy of celebrity culture is designed to have us chase illusions and divert us from fighting back. Last year 12 million people had plastic surgery. A moral nihilism is created where we want to see others fail. Decency has no value. People are cast aside in reality shows. Life is about the humiliation of those that oppose us. People are commodities to be discarded if they (we) fail. There is an incapacity for remorse. Image over substance. The cult of self, just get wealth and fame. How one gets there is irrelevant. This is the ethic of corporations, of banks, of Wall Street, of unfettered capitalism where freedom equals the free market.

American culture is being destroyed by mass corporate culture and being replaced with junk culture. Junk culture is being replaced with junk politics where nothing changes. Threats from abroad are being maximized and threats at home are minimized. In an inverted totalitarianism the economic dominates the political. The corporate state, he said, is a “slow motion coup d’etat”.

After Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam there was a decline in the American empire. The empire of production became an empire of consumption. Everything possible is outsourced.

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