Posted by TAG - March 28, 2010 | News


Laura Whitehorn speaking at the 2010 Left Forum
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

NEW YORK — The Left Forum returned to Pace University this year and the event, now fully established in its vertical venue, was scheduled on an anniversary — an act that underscored what some see as the divide between academia and activism.


The 2010 Left Forum was held at Pace University’s Park Row campus
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

A number of activists who ordinarily go to the Left Forum told NLN that this year they would be out of town and expressed surprise and frustration that the annual Forum was scheduled on the same weekend as two major protests.


The press room was a busy place
(press coordinator Gia Rapasadi is on the right)
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

An ANSWER protest in Washington, D.C., drew thousands of protesters who descended on the capital to express their frustration as the U.S. war in Iraq entered its seventh iteration. The protest was held on Saturday, March 20 — day two of the Left Forum.

On Sunday, an immigrant rights protest in D.C. also drew good numbers.

For New Yorkers, Saturday’s Forum panels wrapped around a 1 p.m. protest at Times Square. A number of New York protest stalwarts were visible at the Forum’s afternoon panels.

***


Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz discusses “Anarchism and Marxism”
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

NLN filmed two Left Forum panels that featured our colleague and comrade, historian-activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz.


Andrej Grubacic, Cindy Milstein and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

The first panel dealt with modern attempts to move beyond traditional Left sectarianism and bridge an apparently unbridgeable chasm: Anarchism and Marxism. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz spoke about her travels through both schools of thought and how social class and women’s struggles have impacted on her interpretation of the tensions between the traditions. Cindy Milstein spoke about a new, revitalized, libertarian Left. Andrew Curley discussed the Navajo nation’s efforts to find an indigenous path to socialism. Panel chair Andrej Grubacic discussed his youth in Yugoslavia and how it affected his interpretation of “two beautiful traditions.”


Cleo Silvers and Laura Whitehorn
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

The second panel discussed “Women, Militancy and Organizing” and featured former SDS and Weatherman activist Laura Whitehorn, former Black Panther and Young Lords Party member Cleo Silvers, and Dunbar-Ortiz. The panel was anchored by Christina Gerhardt. Whitehorn discussed the FBI war on the Black Panthers and the need to support political prisoners, Silvers talked about her experiences feeding the community and caring for children — and expressed concern about sexism and racism at the Left Forum itself. Dunbar-Ortiz talked about her experiences with Sandinista women — many of whom were from the elite, several of whom were profoundly influenced by U.S.-based feminism, including the classic “Sisterhood Is Powerful.” One such Sandinista, Sofia Montenegro, mentioned a chapter in the feminist classic that was authored by Dunbar-Ortiz herself.

These panel presentations were taped in their entirety and are available on NLN’s High Definition website — in addition to our YouTube site for readers with less bandwidth.

Enjoy!

View Photos/Videos From The Event…

Posted by TAG - | News

Then shall he say also to them on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungered, and you gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and you visited me not.’ Then shall they also answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when saw we you an hungered, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then shall he answer them, saying, ‘Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’

— Matthew 25:31-45


City Council Member Debi Rose with
Mental Health Council Co-Chair Larry Hochwald
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The vast majority of the mentally ill are not now — nor have they ever been — criminals. But they are the least among us, seen as stereotypes, blamed for their illness. And the stigma attached to having a serious mental illness makes it very difficult to attain the two things that are most effective in facilitating recovery: housing and jobs.

According to the Mental Health Council’s Co-Chair Larry Hochwald, “What we need are good places to live — and jobs. That’s what everybody needs and it’s no different for us.”

While there is a lower class I am in it; while there is a criminal element I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.

— Eugene Debs

Hochwald offered his remarks at the Staten Island Mental Health Council’s annual Legislative Breakfast, held on Friday, March 19 at the Staaten catering hall. The event was well attended by providers and consumers of mental health services, elected officials and members of Staten Island’s progressive community.


Reverend Terry Trois, director of the Project Hospitality homeless shelter
with Mental Health Council Co-Chair Larry Hochwald
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

The crowd listened attentively as Assembly Member Michael Cusick, long a friend of caregivers, warned of cuts to the budget.

“Right now, these next seven days, up in Albany, next week, is going to be crunch time,” said Cusick. “The budget is due at the end of April.”

“I’m not going to sugar coat it, there are going to be cuts,” he added.

Cusick’s warning of a “devastating” budget was echoed by Janele Hyer-Spencer whose “dismal” prediction was followed by a promise that “Your needs and desires are not lost on us.”

Hyer-Spencer also spoke about the controversy surrounding the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General. Critics allege that OMIG has used audits as a revenue stream — negotiating settlements on questionable deficiencies — rather than as a legitimate enforcement tool. The Mental Health Council has asked elected officials to force OMIG to focus it audits on legitimate problems: fraud, abuse, neglect and overpayments. Hyer-Spencer agrees with the recommendation.


Assembly Member Janele Hyer-Spencer
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

“We recognize, through ourselves, our colleagues in government, that the intent of the office of the inspector general has probably gone astray, and gone astray in a negative and disingenuous direction,” she said.

Matt Titone, who currently has a bill before the Assembly that would provide separate facilities for children and adults receiving care (A05903), addressed the issue of Staten Island’s precarious situation — one of the three hospital systems providing mental health care services is teetering on the brink of insolvency.


Assembly Member Matthew Titone
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

“Saint Vincent’s has a huge footprint on Staten Island. Anything that happens to that hospital in Manhattan will affect what happens on Staten Island.”

Titone promised to advocate for keeping the hospital — and the jobs — on Staten Island.

Several health care consumers spoke about how independent living and employment has changed their lives and urged the crowd to fight the budget cuts and continue the struggle to educate the general public about the special plight of the mentally ill — who face prejudice in addition to suffering a devastating illness.


The Mental Health Council’s Larry Hochwald
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Larry Hochwald echoed these sentiments, telling the crowd that he has read a number of newspaper articles that perpetuate stigma by offering only the perspectives of residents of neighborhoods slated for new housing projects — residents who are uninformed and anxious and who often see the mentally ill as stereotypes.

“Nobody comes to the Staten Island Mental Health Council,” Hochwald said of local reporters, “nobody ever asks us for information.”

“When I read articles they always have somebody quoted who is not actually a member of the Staten Island Mental Health Council. It doesn’t surprise me that they find people who says things that go along with the gist of the article, or the gist of the thought. That pretty much makes their case,” Hochwald said, referring principally to Staten Island’s only major newspaper, The Advance.

Many of the comments posted in the apparently unmoderated silive.com reader’s forum, called “saliva dot com” by progressives who bemoan the lack of moderation, are hateful by any reasonable measure. Other comments clearly indicate a lack of fundamental knowledge and parental anxieties that should be addressed.

Hochwald said that many of the comments are about the fear parents have of new housing projects opening near public schools or other areas where neighborhood children gather.

Hochwald summarized the comments: “‘We’re afraid for our kids to walk past that building…'”

Hochwald argued that crime statistics suggest parents have far less to fear from housing projects for the mentally ill than from their neighbors. Hochwald drew applause when he said, “The reality is you need to be afraid when you walk past all those houses with the shades drawn down. Last time I checked, nobody in this room got to pick their neighbors — nobody in here got to pick who buys the house next door or who rents the apartment next door.”

Striking a conciliatory tone, Hochwald said that the issue is stigma and that everyone, including providers of mental health care, is subject to it. The cure is education.

“We don’t need to fight about it, we need to educate people,” Hochwald said.

New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Assistant Commissioner Trish Marsik agreed.


Trish Marsik, Assistant Commissioner for NYC’s DOHMH
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

“People with mental illness are us. They’re our families, they’re our coworkers and we have to figure out ways of telling our neighbors about what that means for folks. People with mental illness are far more likely to be victims of a crime than to be perpetrators. That people with mental illness die decades earlier than other individuals. And remind people that Staten Island is a community that rallies around people in need. The big, shining example is 9-11,” Marsik said.

Marsik said that “Supported housing [ projects ] is a proven way to show the support for people who really need services.”

Marsik’s boss, DOHMH Executive Deputy Commissioner Dr. Adam Karpati, tied it all together.


Dr. Adam Karpati
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

“It’s actually quite refreshing to be among people who really understand the complementary nature of things like clinics and services and medical services with things like employment and housing — and how health and mental health cannot really be achieved without thinking broadly about the needs, the global needs, of people.”

View Photos/Videos From The Event…

Posted by Fran Korotzer - | News


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil but because of those who look on and do nothing.

– Albert Einstein


On the eve of the Iraq War’s seventh anniversary:
Anti-war activists urge young people to “opt out”
of being pursued by military recruiters

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

March 19th was the 7th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq – the beginning of the Iraq war. Peace activists, some of whom are coming out of a period of slumber since the election of Obama, demonstrated all over the US during the following weekend. On the 19th about 40 people from the Granny Peace Brigade, Peace Action NYS, Grandmothers Against the War, War Resisters League, Veterans for Peace, CodePink, World Can’t Wait, and several other groups gathered at the new Army Recruiting Center on Chambers St. near West Broadway where they leafleted and then walked down the block to the Marine Recruitment Center where they did the same. These centers were thoughtfully placed on a very busy street where there is a steady stream of students from Stuyvesant H.S. and the Borough of Manhattan Community College.


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

The afternoon ended with a short march to the Vesey St. PATH entrance at the World Trade Center site where people stood with anti-war signs and handed out yet more leaflets. There were many tourists in the area and they took photographs, some posing with the Grannies, and read the literature being handed out. The leaflets pointed out that, so far, the Iraq war cost each taxpayer $5,339. 4,382 American soldiers have been killed. 31,616 (1,669 from NYS) have been wounded. We, as a nation, spent $712 billion. That includes $25 billion from NYC and $67 billion from NYS. For every $100 given to the federal government last year $29 went to the military, $8 went to the military debt, but only $3 went to education and $1 went to transportation.


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

The people that spent this weekend in the streets of Washington DC, New York, San Francisco and other cities around our nation see a great deal of sacrifice in lives and money with absolutely no gains for the American people. They want the troops home, and they want them home now.

***


Enroute to cover the opt-out action NLN’s Bud Korotzer stumbled upon a labor protest…click HERE to see the photos

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Posted by TAG - March 22, 2010 | Editorial


Self Portrait
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

I’ve always identified with the subterranean souls, the underdogs, the ones that needed a helping hand and got kicked in the teeth for it. And so, as a young firebrand, I went into health care, working with the mentally ill.

***

25 years ago I was the young supervisor of a locked psychiatric unit. It wasn’t inpatient – it was locked because the patients didn’t respond well to medication and couldn’t function without a lot of staff assistance. Like all health care workers who deal with the disenfranchised, I learned to love these folks who wanted only two things: to live on their own and to have a job. Nothing grandiose about these desires. But of course, many of my patients would never realize their dreams. What most people take for granted. So, many of them had a short term goal — to be accepted as human. Sadly, this dream also proved elusive.

One man, very tall, very ill — a Jewish man we’ll call Daniel — lived on my unit. For the most part, his symptoms didn’t respond to medication. But he was harmless, a gentle giant. I liked Daniel although I didn’t know him well. I saw him everyday and he impressed me. Despite his suffering — he heard voices that berated him — he found joy in simple things.

One day a small man, very gray and frail looking, came to the unit. It was a stark contrast, father and son. The large Daniel and the small dad. They sat together sharing some candies and chuckling occasionally over a small joke. It’s an indelible image for me.

It was a warm day, the day Daniel’s father came. And so, midway through the visit he removed his sport coat and he rolled up his sleeves. I walked by the table where father and son were conversing and as I passed I noticed the numbers. I had never seen Holocaust numbers tattooed on an arm before and it was startling. Particularly as I am German American. I still grit my teeth whenever I think of it.

After the visit I could only marvel at the father’s ability to laugh. Surviving the Holocaust only to see his son stricken with schizophrenia. I have no words to describe the combination of emotions this image elicits — 25 years later.

***

Another mentally ill man I knew responded better to his medication than most of the patients who lived on my unit.

Joseph eventually graduated from a halfway house and lived in an apartment with other patients in recovery. Joseph lived simply with his one “possession” – a dog. The dog was a friendly little beast named Herman. A neighborhood girl, a grade-school-age youngster, often smiled at the dog when Herman’s owner took him for a walk. One day the girl asked if she could pet the dog. Joseph was anxious about interacting with people he didn’t know but he said OK. Later that night, the girl’s angry father showed up at Joseph’s home — armed with a baseball bat and accompanied by some like-minded individuals. They beat Joseph so severely that they fractured his skull. Several surgeries and a steel plate later the fracture was all but mended. And so, leaving Herman behind, Joseph got on a train and headed upstate. Somewhere north of the city he got off the train and walked into the woods. He sat down and waited to die from exposure. He was too frightened to continue living. The police called to let us know that he had been found dead. I don’t know whatever happened to Herman.

***

When I hear people talk about how they don’t want the mentally ill to live in their neighborhoods I think to myself that I have never met a mentally ill person who would use a baseball bat to crush another person’s skull.

If I could find a way to convey this to the intolerant, to speak out for the least among us, I would do so. I would be shouted down, perhaps threatened. But the truth would out.

Posted by Fran Korotzer - March 17, 2010 | News


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — On the evening of March 12th, at Hunter College, the Student Political Science Association hosted a meeting featuring 3 women from the leadership of the Cuban Federation of Women (FMC). They were in NY to participate in the United Nations’ annual activities for International Women’s Day (March 8th). The meeting took place in a large lecture hall holding about 200 people and most of the crowd understood Spanish and were filled with anticipation to hear what the women, Maritzel Gonzalez, Foreign Relations Representative of the FMC, Ana Violeta Castaneda, Regional Coordinator of the FMC, and Yamila Gonzalez, a jurist and law professor, had to say. The 2 chairs, Nancy Cabrero and Alison Bodine, began the evening by announcing that this event was being dedicated to Adriana Perez and Olga Salanueva, the 2 Cuban wives whose husbands, part of the Cuban 5, are in prison in the US. The US government has not allowed the women to visit their husbands for the past 12 years, despite Amnesty International and the UN supporting the US giving them visas. People in the audience were asked to remain calm, not be disruptive, and warned that if they didn’t follow the rules security would ask them to leave. As the evening went on it became clear that these warnings were unnecessary. The audience, made up of Hunter students and people from outside the college community, was excited and enthusiastic – very much in support of what they were hearing about the lives of Cuban women and of Cuba itself. Throughout the meeting speeches were interrupted by cheers and applause.


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Maritzel Gonzalez spoke first. She said that 88% of Cuban women over the age of 14 belong to the FMC – that is 4 million women. After the 1959 revolution 70,000 organized to form the FMC so that they could be part of the ongoing revolutionary process. The organization brought women together from all areas, peasants, city workers, homemakers, and professionals. This year they are celebrating their 50th anniversary and the road has not been easy. Despite the obstacles they have continued to move forward because their goal is for women to reach their full potential. Today women constitute 46% of the workforce. Education and healthcare are free and universal. In education women make up 72% of the work force, and 70% in the health professions. Cuban health workers are often required to go through jungles to remote regions many kilometers away, sometimes riding a donkey, to reach the people that need the care. In Haiti, at the time of the earthquake, there were already 400 Cuban health workers there. After the quake there were 1,400. Of the 1,400, 406 were Haitian graduates of medical schools in Cuba and 224 were doctors from the US that graduated from medical school in Cuba but were serving in other countries in Latin America. She went on to explain that the FMC was a NGO but it consulted with the government on economic and social issues. They also confer with the UN Commission on Women and the UN Commission on Human Rights dedicated to eliminating all discrimination against women. They participate in the World Social Forum except when it is in the US where they are barred from participation. In conclusion she urged people to oppose the “genocidal” US blockade of Cuba which has been going on for the past 50 years – the longest blockade in history. Cuba, she said, will continue to fight to free her 5 innocent brothers in US prisons, to work for solidarity with people in the US, and will continue ” to build our own social system.”


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

The next speaker was Castaneda. She said she was born with the revolution and that the revolution has transformed women’s lives in that it has given them opportunities for education and work. The FMC works on many issues and is part of the International Confederation of Women because “in unity there is strength.” She urged support for the 2 Cuban wives who want to visit their husbands and asked people to remember the acts of terrorism against Cuba that has killed many people. Those terrorists are walking free in the US, she said. She also asked people to work “with people of good faith” to free the Cuban 5 and to end the blockade. Then, she added, you can come to Cuba and “Cuba will welcome you with open arms and with love.”


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

The final speaker, Yamila Gonzalez, said that she was glad to see so many people there because it indicated that despite much slander against Cuba there were people who wanted to hear the truth. Cuba is not a perfect society but everyday we work for “justice, solidarity, and internationalism.” She added that she is also a representative of the Association of Cuban Jurors, legal volunteers that support the revolution and want to improve the laws for the benefit of their society. The association has 15,000 members, of which 49% are women. They work with other progressive legal organizations for peace and against terrorism. They want people to know the truth of the US blockade, how harmful it is, and to expose to the rest of the world the legal irregularities in the case against the Cuban 5. That is their #1 objective as revolutionary jurors.

The Q and A period followed. One woman asked if there was still a problem with “machismo” in Cuba. Yamila Gonzalez responded saying that 50 years of revolution were not enough to end machismo in Cuba. The audience laughed. She continued, in 1965 a Family Code was written but it did not eradicate machismo, racial prejudice, and prejudice against gay people from the minds of the people. The Family Code is in the process of being updated. It deals with domestic violence against either the adults or the children in a household, custody rights, the division of domestic labor, relations with grandparents, and many other issues. New ideas are brought to the general population for discussion before including them in changes to the Family Code.

A questioner introduced herself as a member of the Cuban exile community who was opposed to the regime in Cuba. She wanted to know how the speakers reconciled their voices with the ideas of the Rosa Parks Movement in Cuba. Two of the women answered the question. One said that the movement is spreading a lie, a slander, that Cuban women have been reduced to prostitution. Cuban women are 63% of all university students, 67% of the graduate students, 48% of the technical school graduates, and Cuba has the 2nd largest percentage of women in parliament in the world. They represent 39% of the people in national leadership, 61% in the provincial governments and 51% of the judges. Women are told that prostitution is not an acceptable option but rather a remnant of the old patriarchal system. Although prostitution is not illegal, solicitation is. Castaneda, clearly upset, said that this was a very strong issue for her. Mercenaries paid by the US want to attack our country and kill our people. In the names of the Cuban mothers who have lost their children I, and my countrywomen, repudiate them. A media campaign has been unleashed against our country over the death of a prisoner who died on a hunger strike. There are others on hunger strikes because it means a lot of money for them. The Cuban revolutionaries are the first ones to be critical of our system. But we know that to go backward would have terrible consequences for our people. There are many that want to divide us. That won’t happen. That brought the audience to their feet, cheering and clapping.

This was an interesting and informative meeting on several levels. The statistics sited were very impressive, without a doubt. It was also made clear that a revolution is a work in progress. It is not fully achieved after 50 years but rather a process that continues far into the future. It seems to take generations to weed out the patriarchal and capitalistic mindset.
The Cuban people are not going to abandon their crusade to free the Cuban 5. They see these men as brothers and will keep the pressure on in any way possible until the men are out of prison.
The women were intelligent, dynamic, and anxious to communicate, to answer questions. Yet the comment about people being on a hunger strike because it means money for them was simplistic, to say the least. Much more should have been said.
The Rosa Parks question required some time with Google. The Rosa Parks Feminist Movement for Civil Rights is a self-described human rights movement headed by Tamara Perez Aquilera and is designed to appeal to Afro-Cubans, a growing demographic. They want an end to repression against Cuban political prisoners and an end to repression against human rights defenders. They will use civil obedience to attain their goals. On afrocubaweb.com there is a very different perspective. It says that the movement is allied with US funded terrorists who are working for the plantocracy whose fortunes were based on slavery and who have led efforts to put down Blacks in Cuba. They are attempting to divide Cuba along racial lines by using the names of Black heroes of the US civil rights movement. Their efforts come in the form of independent libraries, anti-abortion groups, human rights advocates, all geared to appeal to Blacks and weaken Cuba from within. There is ample evidence of US control of these groups.

It appears that while a revolution is a long work in progress, the efforts to defeat it can be just as long.

View Photos From The Event…

U.S. Jewish activist: Why I am protesting the Friends of the IDF dinner
By Donna Nevel (with photos from the protest by Bud Korotzer)

Reprinted from http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1154654.html


Constancia ‘Dinky’ Romilly wears her heart on her hat
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK (Haaretz) — Why am I protesting the $1,000-a-plate Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) dinner honoring Chief of the IDF Staff Gabi Ashkenazi at the Waldorf on March 9?

Like many American Jews, I grew up hearing that the IDF was the most moral army in the world. An honest look at the historical and current evidence, however – most recently documented in the report of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Israeli Invasion of Gaza (the Goldstone Report)- reveals a very different reality.


Joel Kovel (right) at the IDF protest
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

As a college student in the 1970s, I defined myself as a socialist Zionist and attended Israeli consulate-sponsored “hasbara” workshops.

The literal translation of hasbara is “explanation,” but specifically refers to Israel’s campaign to promote its public image. These sessions taught a simple strategy for “dealing with” Israel’s critics on college campuses.


Vietnam veterans joined the protest
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Begin by speaking about Israel as having the most moral army in the world. Never address the content of your opponents’ allegations.

Reference the Holocaust repeatedly, emphasizing the need for a Jewish homeland with a strong army so that those who hate the Jews will “never again” prevail.

And be sure to question the integrity of Israel’s critics, insinuating that they are anti-Semitic (or, in some cases, self-hating Jews). Those of us in the room who supported a Palestinian state (and there were a few) recognized ourselves in their descriptions of who to watch out for.

I remained active on Palestine-Israel but left my identity as a Zionist far behind, recognizing the incompatibility of Zionism (and the reality of what it was) with my support for justice for the Palestinian people.


Protesters and counter-protesters outside the Waldorf
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Recently I experienced deja vu when I saw the exact strategy I had been taught so many years ago being used by the Israeli government and the American Jewish establishment as part of a relentless hasbara campaign to denounce and discredit Justice Richard Goldstone and the Goldstone Report.

On this past International Holocaust Day, as part of this campaign, the Israeli government shamefully used this day to further its attack on Justice Goldstone and the report.

The attack has been particularly virulent, perhaps because this evidence-based report, whose lead author is internationally respected and known as a supporter of Israel, revealed the immorality of the IDF’s actions with powerful legal authority.


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

The IDF is not a “defense” force. It is an illegal occupying army that is brutalizing the Palestinian people. Why am I marching with 22 organizations to protest the Friends of the IDF dinner and the war criminal it is honoring? Quite simply: How could I not?

View Photos From The IDF Protest…

Posted by Fran Korotzer - March 11, 2010 | News


Protesters gathered at 53rd and Lexington
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

NEW YORK — On March 9, 2010, there was a $1,000 a plate fundraising dinner at New York’s Waldorf Astoria for the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) – the same folks that rained death and destruction on Gaza a little over a year ago. The dinner was sponsored by Friends of the IDF. Declaring that they would not remain silent, a substantial group of organizations (which included Adalah-NY, American Jews for a Just Peace, Brooklyn for Peace, Center for Immigrant Families, Codepink, Committee for Open Discussion of Zionism, Gaza Freedom March, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions-USA, Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews Say No!, Judson Church, Middle East Crisis Response, National Lawyers Guild-New York Chapter, NYC Anti-War Coalition, Progressive Democrats of America, Wespac, Women in Black Union Square, Woodstock Veterans for Peace and others) were determined to make the Friends of the IDF, as well as the citizens of New York, aware of their objections to what Israel had done and was doing to the Palestinian people. Many of the Jewish groups felt a particular sense of responsibility because the crimes were being committed in their name since Israel purports to speak for all Jews.


Banging the drum for peace — and justice
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Along with signs that said ‘War Crimes’ and ‘No US Military Aid to Israel’ there were hundreds of signs that listed some of the war crimes discussed in the Goldstone Report and by human rights organizations that have documented violations of international law:

  • Israeli soldiers shot at handcuffed civilians and women and children carrying white flags.
  • Israeli forces bombed a home, killing one family of 22.
  • Israeli forces bombed a playground, 3 Gaza hospitals, and a U.N. school.
  • Israeli forces destroyed more than 3,000 homes, the Gaza water plant, flour mill, egg farms, and the cement factory.

Many of the signs gave the names and ages of people killed, including babies and the very elderly.


Protesters marched past the Waldorf
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Between 500 and 600 people of all ages and backgrounds, most dressed in black, silently and militantly circled the block that the Waldorf is situated on. They did that for 2 hours as very well dressed attendees entered the hotel. Most seemed angry, many were abusive but, per instructions from the organizers, nobody (actually, almost nobody) responded. There were also a few Zionist supporters who infiltrated the demonstration by getting between the marchers and trying to provoke arguments as they walked. They were not responded to either. People who volunteered to be marshals kept the demonstrators moving at an even pace and kept reminding them to avoid confrontations. They did an excellent job keeping everything running smoothly. There were also many National Lawyers Guild legal observers with their bright green caps – always a comforting sight. However, there were no problems with the NYPD.


National Lawyers Guild legal observers with the familiar green hats
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Across Park Avenue another group of about 150 demonstrators organized by Al-Awda were also protesting against the IDF and their General Gabi Ashkenazi, often referred to as the “Butcher of Gaza,” who was at the dinner also. Their demonstration was very different. There were Palestinian flags, a sound system, and very vigorous chanting, “When people are occupied, resistance is justified”, “Free, free Palestine”, “Gaza, Gaza don’t you see – Palestine will be free”, and “Gaza, Gaza don’t you cry – Palestine will never die”. Some of the people who had walked silently joined the Al-Awda demonstration when the walk ended.


Al-Awda
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Although the styles of the 2 demonstrations were very different the message was exactly the same. Over 700 New Yorkers came out into the streets to say that they strongly objected to Israel’s destructive policies and to the US military aid being given to Israel, a gift from American tax payers. They will not buy products made in Israel or in Israeli settlements and they will continue to speak out forcefully for justice for the Palestinian people.

View Photos/Videos From The Event…


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — NLN readers are familiar with the case of Fahad Hashmi, the young Muslim man accused of giving material aid to Al Qaeda, who, while waiting for a trial, has now spent 1371 days (almost 4 years) incarcerated, 871 (almost 2 1/2 years) of them in extreme solitary confinement under the Special Administrative Measures (SAMs). This is an update. His trial is now scheduled for April 28th and his supporters are urging people to come to the Federal Courthouse at 500 Pearl St to observe the trial. The want the court to see that there are many people who not only believe in his innocence, but, more importantly, think that he has been treated unjustly. In Hashmi’s case US law and the Bill of Rights have been disregarded. For example, he has already been punished before ever being convicted of anything, he certainly has not received a speedy trial, and his writings, all constitutionally protected free speech, will be used against him at the trial.


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

On March 8th there was another vigil for Fahad outside the Metropolitan Correction Center at 150 Park Row where he is being held. These vigils, organized by THAW (Theaters Against War) have been taking place regularly since October. Anywhere from 30 (a freezing and snowy night) to 300 (MLK Day) people attend. On March 8th representatives from Care-NY and the Catholic Worker were there to protest Hashmi being tortured at the MCC – prolonged solitary confinement is a recognized worm of torture which causes people to lose their minds. Care-NY led those assembled in loud chants, hoping that Hashmi would hear them up on the 13th floor, while the others stood in silence with anti-torture signs.


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Many people read letters they wrote to Fahad Hashmi, including his former professor, Jeanne Theoharis and the actor, Bill Irwin. Some of the letters will be published in Samar, a magazine serving the South Asian community. The letters had been returned to the senders because, under the SAMs, he is not allowed to get mail. They all began the same way, Dear Fahad, You don’t know me but…. The writers introduced themselves and their families, and told him that they had come to feel that he was part of their family, and they expressed the hope that they would meet him when he was free. They expressed heartfelt empathy with him and his family, they said his treatment was unfair and unconstitutional, and said that they hoped to meet him when justice triumphed and he was finally set free. Many also said that they would pray for him.


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

The next vigil will be on Monday, March 22nd, 6-7 PM, in front of 150 Park Row. Members of the clergy will be there. On Tuesday, March 23rd there will be a program by the Culture Project at Judson Memorial Church (Washington Sq. South & Thompson St. in Greenwich Village) and on Thursday, March 25th at NYU, 40 Washington Sq. South, Room 220, at 7 PM there will be a panel discussion on the subject of Preemptive Prosecution. Both of these presentations will include details about the Fahad Hashmi case. All are urged to attend and become more informed. In standing up for his civil and human rights, we are standing up for our own.

View Photos/Videos From The Event…


(Photo: Alice Embree / Rag Blog)

[This article originally appeared in the Rag Blog]

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — International Women’s Day, celebrated the world over on March 8th, has its origins in the struggle of women garment workers in the United States. But, like May Day that also commemorates a U.S. labor struggle, International Women’s Day is often ignored in this country.

It’s not ignored in San Antonio, Texas. Continuing a 20-year tradition, a coalition of San Antonio groups celebrated the power of women organizing with a march and rally that drew an estimated crowd of 2,200 on Saturday, March 6. Beginning at the doorstep of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, the rally featured Iola Scott, Hyatt employee and member of Unite Here, a union organizing hotel workers in the tourist-intensive district.

Leaving the Hyatt to the beat of indigenous dancers, the march snaked down Market to Milam Park, chanting

"Hyatt, Escucha! Estamos en la lucha."
"Money for homes, not for prisons. 
Money for healthcare, not for war."
"Se Oye! Se Siente! La Mujer Esta Presente!"

With an inspiring mix of African American, Mexican-American, Latinas, and Anglos, the march commemorated organizers past and present. Images of San Antonio 1930-era labor organizers like Emma Tenayuca of the Pecan Shellers Union danced above the crowd. Crosses commemorated the women dead in Juarez. One sign read: “End NAFTA, Stop the Femicide in Juarez.”

A somber procession honored the dead from violence against transgender people. Life-size black plywood figures stood on small altars with wheels, carrying the stories of the victims. Photos of their faces stood out in color against the black wood.

More than 20 organizations co-sponsored the march, including academic women’s studies centers, Planned Parenthood, gay and lesbian alliances, and several labor organizations. Providing 20 years of organizational stability to this kind of coalition building is the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center. www.esperanzacenter.org

At Plaza del Zacate, speakers and entertainers included Betita Martinez — Chicana social justice activist, writer and educator — Suzy Bravo, Amanda Flores, Kiawitl Xochitl, and many more.

I guess it takes 70 miles down an interstate to experience the kind of coalition work that Austin doesn’t dare to dream of. I marched with a contingent of Austin CodePink. It was invigorating to be part of an effort that transcended the divides of race, class, and sexual preference. An excerpt of the coalition’s vision statement states:

We, like women and girls all over the world, are the voices of conscience, the roots of change, and the leaders of local and global movements. We seek healthcare, housing, education, environmental justice, and fair wages not just for women, but also as people of color, as youth and elders, as immigrants and indigenous people, as lesbian, bisexual, intersex, two-spirit, transgender, and queer women, and as poor, and working class people.

We oppose all forms of violence. We advocate for reproductive choice. We call for an end to war, genocide, and occupation. We claim our own voices and come together to share them in public spaces. We march in solidarity with women and social justice movements around the world.

Posted by TAG - | News


Obama Justice?
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

NEW YORK — On March 6, 2010, Witness Against Torture activists gathered in Union Square, at the foot of the Mahamta Gandhi statue. The contingent, clad in their familiar orange prison jumpsuits, donned black masks before marching through the park on a sunny Spring day. Following the WAT procession was a video crew from Al Jazeera English — taping the action for television. At the head of the column was historian Jeremy Varon — who led the masked protesters through the park — and a protester with a sign reading “Bush Justice.” As the column wound through the park, the protester flipped his sign over to reveal the reverse: “Obama Justice.”


Click HERE to watch the Obama Justice video

(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

The procession raised a few eyebrows — and a few questions — as it traversed Union Square.


Is it ever right to mistreat prisoners?
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)


Is “Obama Justice” any different from “Bush Justice”?
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)


Is it acceptable to kidnap people if the act is masked by a euphemism?
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)


Does international law matter?
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)


Is waterboarding torture?
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)


Click HERE to see more photos…

(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)