Posted by TAG - April 30, 2010 | Editorial


Protesters tried valiantly to save St. Vincent’s

(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

NEW YORK — April 30, 2010. After serving New Yorkers for 160 years, the venerable St. Vincent’s Hospital closed its doors today.

Recently, as St. Vincent’s financial crisis worsened, residents of the West Village struggled to find a way to save their hospital: they marched and lobbied and vigiled. When it became clear that the hospital would be closed, community members worked to keep an emergency room in their neighborhood. Ultimately this effort also failed. During this period Mike Bloomberg also made news, offering his unique take on the health care crisis. Bloomberg, an advocate for working people everywhere, urged New Yorkers to use less salt. Thanks a billion Mr. Mayor.


Mike worries publicwise about sodium but mums the word
when it comes to keeping an E.R. in the West Village

Posted by TAG - April 27, 2010 | News


Protesters at Saturday’s “March For Our Lives”
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

NEW YORK — April 24, 2010. On Saturday, 250 residents of Manhattan’s Lower West Side marched to St. Vincent’s Hospital to demand that the collapsing caregiver be replaced with a facility that provides emergency room services — not the “urgi-center” proposed by health care organizations competing for a state contract. The march and rally was marked by ambivalence: while some protesters chanted, “Save Saint Vincent’s,” others carried signs demanding that the hospital be replaced by a full service emergency room. The ambivalence was understandable — and palpable. There is a human cost when a hospital is laid to rest. Community members are stunned and struggling to respond to the crisis.


(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

SERVING THE POOR, FILING FOR BANKRUPTCY

St. Vincent’s is a full service Catholic hospital — the last of its kind in New York. It was created in 1849 to serve the poor and for 160 years it has cared for its West Village community. But recently, mounting financial losses proved insurmountable and St. Vinnys, as it is known locally, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on April 14. The hospital has announced plans to shut down operations on April 30. Over 1000 employees have already been fired and more layoffs are looming. Recently, corporate media have broadcast images of staff members in tears as they struggle to accept the end of their employment and the demise of their hospital.

In an effort to preserve the institution, and the services it provides, a group called the West Side Neighborhood Alliance took up the issue.

Community organizers from WSNA, anticipating the immiment closure of their historic hospital, called for a march and rally for Saturday, April 24. Hundreds responded, assembling on Ninth Avenue near 25th Street.


A member of the West Side Neighborhood Alliance
wants more than bare bones treatment
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

A member of the West Side Neighborhood Alliance named Vivian told NLN that, “Emergency rooms all over the city are going to be totally overburdened and we’re going to have a lot of people in trouble. We need services for this town, there’s a lot of people here. Saint Vincent’s is gone but we need a hospital with an emergency room, if nothing else.”

URGI V. EMERGENCY SERVICES

Community members are skeptical about replacing an E.R. with an urgi-center and worry they will be left without proper health care. Politicians, including City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, have responded by advocating for a full service facility. Quinn spoke at the march, urging the crowd to continue the fight to get an emergency room.


Christine Quinn was heckled as protesters demanded: “Where’s Bloomberg?”
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Protesters heckled Quinn yelling, “Where’s Bloomberg?” and, “You’re selling us out, Christine!”

Quinn responded, saying that “No one sold anybody out” and urging the crowd to “Stay angry and stay focused” on the goal of getting an E.R.

Event organizer Lucas Shapiro asked the crowd to form up and the march stepped off at about 1:30 p.m.

THE “MARCH FOR OUR LIVES”


The “March For Our Lives”
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Carrying a wooden coffin and signs reading “No E.R. = DOA” and “Where will we go in an emergency?” hundreds of community members — including the elderly, people in wheelchairs, toddlers in strollers and several children on bicycles watched over by their parents — made their way south to 7th Avenue and 12th Street. Television crews filmed as the marchers filled protest pens, chanting “Save our hospital.”

St. Vincent’s employees, some wearing white lab coats, stood on the sidewalk outside the hospital, looking on. They waved at the marchers from across 7th Avenue as Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer told the crowd that the community needs a full service facility, “Not a glorified health clinic.”

SAYING GOODBYE


Saying Goodbye — and Thank You
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Standing in the shade, watching the rally, was an elderly woman holding a hand-written sign. It said, “The E.R. at St. Vincent’s Hospital saved my daughter’s life. Thank you to the great staff.”

Todd Eaton contributed reporting to this article.

View Photos From The March…

Posted by Tom Keough - April 22, 2010 | News


DOW and the NYC Parks Dept “celebrate” Earth Day, angering protesters
(Photo: Thomas Keough / NLN)

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — April 22, 2010. This is no joke— in my neighborhood, the city Parks Dept had an Earth Day event last Sunday in Prospect Park, Brooklyn’s major park. The event was sponsored by DOW Chemical and was called “Live Earth, Run for Water”.

Everyone with gray hairs had the same reaction when they heard: “NO! That’s crazy! DOW?? People under 35 would say they never heard of Bhopal or Agent Orange. That is a serious problem — many young people were there to “run for water” because they said that they were doing something good for the environment by donating $40, or $35 online, to DOW ‘s Run for Water fund.

There is a serious lack of historical memory in the U.S.

Many groups helped organize the protest including: the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, Brooklyn Greens, NY Whale and Dolphin Action League, Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign, Wetlands Activism Collective, Bhopalwater.com, Kids for a Better Future, International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, Vets for Peace and the Yes Men. The listeners of WBAI’s Eco Logic show were notified by the host Ken Gale.

This event was seen by protesters as a shameless “Green Washing” publicity stunt by DOW. Whenever DOW has tried to sponsor a “Live Earth, Run for Water” event in another country the government has stepped in — and canceled the event. Races were canceled in London, Milan, Berlin, and Sweden. At Sunday’s event on-site Dow brand managers were in damage-control mode. But their job was made harder by the hundred fake “Dow” spokespeople who loudly but clumsily proclaimed Dow’s position, “Our race! Our earth!” and “Run for water! Run for your life!”

“This dramatically under-attended Dow-sponsored ‘Run for Water’ was infiltrated and turned upside down by hundreds of furious activists, including a hundred dressed as Dow spokespeople,” a Yes Men spokesman said.

“New Yorkers who came to the park expecting a light run followed by a free concert found themselves unwitting extras in a macabre and chaotic scene as runners keeled over dead, Dow-branded grim reapers chased participants, and a hundred fake Dow representatives harangued other protesters and handed out literature that explained Dow’s green washing program in frank detail,” he added.


Beau Pal” Water, the latest “DOW” product?
(Photo: Thomas Keough / NLN)

The protesters called attention to Dow’s toxic legacy in places like India (the Bhopal Catastrophe), Vietnam (Agent Orange) and Midland Michigan (Dioxin Contamination), and to the absurdity of a company with Dow’s record sponsoring an event to preserve the environment and the Earth’s water supply.

The chemical giant has a long history of being involved with issues related to the environment — often on the wrong side of the issue: Dow has refused to clean up the groundwater in Bhopal, India, site of an industrial disaster second only to Chernobyl. As a result, children continue to be born there with debilitating birth defects. Over 20,000 people were killed at Bhopal and over 100,000 were crippled and /or permanently blinded. Dow has dumped hundreds of millions of pounds of toxic chemical byproducts into the wetlands of Louisiana, and has poisoned its own backyard, leaving record levels of dioxins downriver from its global headquarters in Midland, Michigan. DOW has spent millions to combat law suits from Agent Orange victims and Bhopal residents and their seriously disabled children and grandchildren, as well as victims of their cancer causing breast implants.

A hundred Yes Men and an equivalent number of protesters from other groups showed up on short notice. Dow had a much smaller number of participants than expected and many of the participants said they were paid by their employers to show up.

Each runner received a t-shirt — made by clothing industry giant Gliden, a long time target of anti sweatshop activists. DOW had hundreds of shirts left over.

Huge areas of the public park were fenced off with temporary high anchor fences. It is not known how much of the expense was paid by the taxpayers.

View Photos From The Event…

Posted by Tim Sheard - April 19, 2010 | News


(Photo: Tim Sheard / NLN)

NEW YORK — A labor educator friend from Chicago, Joe Berry, called me out of the blue to say he was in town and his conference broke early, could I come into Manhattan and join him for a drink? “Funny you should call, Joe,” says I. “32BJ is holding a big rally on the upper east side of Manhattan. Where are you?”

“Twenty-fifth and Lexington,” says Joe.

Great. I hop on a subway and meet him at 79th street. We see thousands of working men and women from the union lining the street. The line snakes deep into Central Park. It’s an impressive sight. Inspiring. Moving.

Joe and I shake hands and walk into the line. There are speeches, chants, whistles blowing and drums banging. The mood is upbeat. It’s a gorgeous Spring day in New York – who wouldn’t be smiling? Especially with labor on the march, ready to strike, and not accepting the building owner’s cries of poverty.


(Photo: Tim Sheard / NLN)

Joe and I spoke with a few tenants who occupy the buildings on this ritzy neighborhood. They all agree, the workers from their buildings deserve a raise. They see their supers and doormen and other maintenance workers everyday, so they know how hard they work, and they know nobody ever got rich opening the door for tenants.

After the spirited march, Joe and I met for a drink at a local barb – an Irish pub, of course. We met several workers from 32BJ. I mentioned that members of my union – UAW Local 1983 – had gone out with hot chocolate and bagels to the 32BJ workers who were on strike years ago.

“What year was that?” I asked.

“Nineteen ninety-one,” said a young man with a grin. “My dad was on strike that winter. My mom took me to the picket line. Man, I’ll never forget it. Now I’m on the line doing the same thing. Is that fine or what?”

Joe and I toasted the workers and wished them success in their negotiations. The workers aren’t looking for a huge pay raise; they just want enough to keep up with inflation, New York is an expensive town. Labor is on the move.

Posted by Thomas L. Miles - | News


Rev. Dr. Victor Brown addresses the New Brighton community
(Photo: Thomas L. Miles / NLN)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — It was standing room only in the Mt. Sinai Christian Baptist Church’s Community Enrichment Center on 6 April, during the at times contentious meeting of the New Brighton Coalition of Concerned Citizens (NBCCC). A small New York City neighborhood of no more than 15 blocks in the working class North Shore of Staten Island, New Brighton residents have been meeting since 2008 to find ways out of recurring violent crime, and the ever-present pollution, garbage, deteriorating services, and poverty which dogs the area. The meetings, held the first Tuesday of every month in a church hall which was at one time a prominent North Shore synagogue, usually attract only a small group of dedicated activists, home owners, and community leaders, facilitated by Rev. Dr. Victor Brown, pastor of Mt. Sinai Christian Baptist Church on Jersey Street and Terry Troia, the executive director of the Project Hospitality homeless and community centers.

Press and community attention swelled the crowd that night to well over a hundred, come to hear the Borough President James Molinaro, as well as representatives from the Mayor’s office, the head of the local 120th police Precinct, and perhaps most anticipated of all, the Island head of the Department of Sanitation. While the prosaic concerns of garbage and street crime may seem less than controversial in many neighborhoods, in New Brighton these are issues which stir passions.

New Brighton, centered on Jersey Street, bordered on the north by the Kill Van Kull and the south by Victory boulevard, is one of Staten Island’s poorest neighborhoods. While historically covering much of the middle class areas now called “West New Brighton” and “St. George”, New Brighton has shrunk as it became home to poorer and more excluded communities. The Jersey Street area remains multiethnic cluster of single and multi family homes, laid out at the turn of the 20th century in neat grids and hillside circles. Until the 1950s the area was anchored by a busy commercial center along Jersey street. White flight and urban poverty reduced this center to mostly abandoned buildings by the 1970s, many now demolished and replaced with government owned low rise housing. The streets around are shared by aging Black, Jewish, and Italian homeowners; black, hispanic, and white lower middle class families who bought property prior to the housing bubble; and large number of houses owned by absentee landlords. Many of these old single family homes now stand vacant or became poorly maintained apartments as slightly better off Staten Islanders and others from outside the neighborhood snapped up property in the last decade, making use of government incentives to provide Section 8 housing. But when the housing bubble turned bust, building after building went vacant, and in some cases, tenants found themselves abandoned by their landlords. One building on Hendricks Ave., home to three families in a building zoned for two apartments, woke up last summer to find their electricity and gas turned off when the landlord could no longer pay his mortgage and simply walked away. Most of the residents of these and the nearby public housing are African American and hispanic, with a burgeoning Mexican American community centered to the south in Tompkinsville, many of whom also rent homes in the community. Nearby centers for Albanian, Sri Lankan, Trinidadian, Polish, and West African communities mean people of many backgrounds rent or own homes in New Brighton. The more affluent St. George neighborhood, directly to the east, has also threatened gentrification on the edges of New Brighton.

Where old houses are converted to apartments, older renters and homeowners complain of a recent rise in transient tenants, loud parties, properties strewn with trash and abandoned cars, and an upsurge in violent crime. While these may be complaints common in any working class community, the concerns over crime are quite real. There were four fatal and seven non-fatal shootings within a six block radius of the church’s Community Center in 2009. Residents allege that a local store, open 24 hours, is a front for drug dealing. Several of last years shootings were reported by residents and police alike as evidence of a power struggle over drug sales by two local gangs.

As if this were not enough, New Brighton is also the home of Jersey Street Sanitation Depot, a sprawling brick warren of garages and truck service offices which dispatches garbage trucks across the north shore. Around it, amidst a horrible stench, are parked dozens of trucks and cars, blocking sidewalks, destroying roads, and leaving a fine black soot on every surface. From its birth, the NBCCC laid out as a primary goal the closure of the Sanitation Depot, and demands that its staff begin to treat their neighbors with the respect other communities receive.

Continue Reading…

Posted by Fran Korotzer - | News

“We’ll make a pastrami sandwich of them. We’ll insert a strip of Jewish settlement, in between the Palestinians, and then another strip of Jewish settlement, right across the West Bank, so that in 25 years time, neither the United Nations nor the United States, nobody, will be able to tear it apart.”

– Ariel Sharon to a British journalist at Israel’s National Press Club in 1973

NEW YORK — On March 24th, Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews Say No, and Brooklyn for Peace sponsored a meeting held at the GLBT Center in Greenwich Village. The subject of the meeting was put in the form of a question: Why are American taxpayers subsidizing the violent actions of Israeli settlers in the heart of a Palestinian city? The city referred to is Hebron, but the same situation exists in other parts of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Money raised through 5013C (non-profits) allows organizations that fund illegal settlements to raise millions of dollars from American donors, which is tax deductible to the donors, thereby encouraging giving. Since 2001 there has been over $190 million transferred from American non-profits to settlements (see SettlementsInPalestine.org, quoted by JVP). These American contributors are changing the political reality in the area by facilitating the taking of land for Jews-only housing and contributing to the misery that has become part of Palestinian life on the West Bank in an effort to drive the Palestinians out.

The Hebron Fund, a non-profit in New York, supports the violent Jewish colony in Hebron that has turned the lives of the 150,000 Palestinian residents into a living hell. The Israeli human rights group, B’tselem, calls the Hebron colony an ongoing war crime (www.btselem.org/English/Hebron/).


Adam Horowitz
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

The first speaker was Adam Horowitz, co-editor of Mondoweiss.net. He said that Mondoweiss has been covering the issue of this fundraising in the US since 2008. He became interested in the subject when he read an article about an event that had just taken place on the West Bank. The Israeli military evacuated 250 religious Jews from the Ar-Rajbi House which had become known as the “House of Contention” in Hebron. Rather than fight the Israeli military, the Jewish colonists attacked Palestinians. Horowitz described a group of 12 masked Jews surrounding a Palestinian home seeking to lynch the 20 people inside – 3 men, the rest being women and children. First they set the laundry in the courtyard on fire and then tried to set the house on fire. The family in the house called for help but their neighbors were too frightened of the settlement security guards to intervene. Journalists recording the event were cursed by the vigilantes. Horowitz called it a pogrom. A few days after reading this account he got an e-mail from a woman in the pro-settler women’s group, Women in Green, which had occupied the house of contention, and was asking for donations. She asked that money be sent to them through the Central Fund for Israel and gave a New York address. He Goggled the address and found that it was a fabric store owned by Arthur and Hadassah Marcus. When Phil Weiss, the other editor of Mondoweiss, called them they were very open. Their son lived in Hebron and worked for the Hebron Fund. Although they didn’t actively fundraise, in 2005 they raised and sent $8 million to Hebron.

Horowitz explained that while the funds are collected with one stated purpose, once on the scene it can be used for anything the group wants. Money sent to Women in Green actually pays for “early response teams” – they are the Israeli trained militias that are supposed to guard the colonies.

The organizations in the US that are getting tax free and tax deductible contributions from Americans are paying for Israeli expansion. The donors include many notable and upstanding members of the New York Jewish community such as James Tisch, CEO of the Loew’s Corp., Alan Greenberg, CEO of Bear Sterns, the Kirk Douglas Foundation, and Michael Milken, financier.

A short and very disturbing video was then played which showed a female Hebron settler physically and verbally attacking a Palestinian woman who was able to get away and escape into the wire cage that she had built to completely enclose her home on all sides. From inside this cage she could see her young child attempting to come home while being harassed and attacked. She cried, called to him, and tried to get out to help him but was stopped from doing so by someone in uniform.


Abed Ayoub
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

The following speaker was Abed Ayoub, the Legal Director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). He too started by raising a question: Why does Israel get to live by different rules than the ones that govern our relations with other countries? If an individual or an organization was sending money to what they claimed was a humanitarian group in Iraq, but instead it was going to buy bullet-proof vests for a militia it would not be tolerated. Yet thousands of organizations are doing exactly that. The ADC is not going after organizations for funding settlements, they are going after them for deceptive funding. It is being approached as a domestic tax issue. It has cost the IRS millions in lost tax revenue because contributions to these groups are tax deductible but, in actuality, shouldn’t be. The IRS is very interested.

The ADC also provides guidance for people who want to challenge the non-profits through the IRS’s complaint process. They explain that a substantial portion of the money that goes into these funds, which may total billions of dollars, is funneled into pro-Israel organizations that work with partners in Israel, or affiliates which operate in both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. That includes the Jewish Agency ($460-$570 million a year), the Jewish National Fund ($35-$45 million a year), United Jewish Appeal ($250-$380 million a year), and the International Fellowship of Christians & Jews ($70-$80 million a year). Some non-profits are set up to specifically support settlements or a particular settlement. The Hebron Fund supports the growth of the colony in Hebron. Friends of Ir David supports the growth of Silwan in East Jerusalem. From 2004 to 2006 Friends of Ir David contributed over $10 million to fraudulent home purchases and ideological archeological excavations that became a pretext for demolishing Palestinian homes. (Eldar, Akiva, “The Very Eye of the Storm,” Haaretz, 4/10/09) Or, the non-profit could support an institution in a settlement. The Central Fund, also based in New York, contributed over $27,000 to the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva in the settlement of Yitzhar near Nablus. Rabbi Yitzhac Shapira of that yeshiva said it was permissible to kill non-Jewish babies because of “the future danger that will arise if they are allowed to grow into evil people like their parents.” He also permits killing anyone “who through his remarks and so forth weakens our kingdom.” (Eldar, Akiva, “US Tax Dollars Fund Rabbi Who Excused Killing of Gentile Babies,” Haaretz, 12/15/09) Violence from Yitzhar has been so excessive that former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert described it as “pogroms against non-Jews.” (“Yitzhar Settlers Rampage Caught on Camera,” Haaretz, 9/15/08)

There are several legal bases for challenging the tax free and tax deductible status of these groups: the settlements are racially exclusive and discriminate, they increase tensions, they violate human rights, they are against the declared policy of the US, they violate international law, they violate property rights since they encroach on privately owned Palestinian land, and the non-profit engages in deceptive fundraising practices because it claims that the beneficiaries are residents of Israel but they are actually residents of the Occupied Palestinian Territory who are primarily involved in settlement activity including purchasing military hardware for paramilitary groups.

Dedicated international solidarity activists from all over the world have been working with the Palestinian resistance to slow down and stop the Israeli land grab on the West Bank. Some of the internationals, like Rachel Corrie, have been murdered. Many, many more Palestinian men, women, and children, have been murdered. And others are being tortured in Israeli prisons. Now American human rights activists have found a unique, non-violent, creative and positive way to contribute to this struggle.

View Photos From The Event…

Posted by TAG - April 15, 2010 | News


Paremos La Violencia — Stop The Violence
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — April 11, 2010. On Sunday evening 150 vigilers lined Port Richmond Avenue calling for an end to violence against immigrants — as the mother of hate crime victim Rodolfo Olmedo looked on.

On April 5, as he walked home from a local club, Rodolfo Olmedo was severely beaten by four youths wielding baseball bats and yelling anti-Mexican slurs. The four teenagers were later identified by a community member who saw the surveillance video on NY1 and called the police. The four youths were arrested and face bias crime charges. One of the four is 15-years-old. The three 17-year-old suspects face up to 25 years in prison if they are convicted. Olmedo was released from the hospital on April 9 and is recovering at home.

Sunday’s vigil against hate and violence, held near the bakery where Olmedo works, was organized by a number of Staten Island’s religious leaders and community organizers.


A young vigiler
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Some prominent members of Staten Island’s immigrant rights movement turned out, including Ramon Carreon and Gonzalo Mercado of El Centro del Inmigrante, the NAACP’s Ed Josey, Ron Speight from Eye Openers Against Violence, Sam Owusu from the Ghanaian community, Patricia Suarez from Make The Road New York, community activist Hesham El-Meligy, and Project Hospitality director Reverend Terry Troia.


Margarita Olmedo being interviewed by John Annese (SI Advance)
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Margarita Olmedo, mother of hate crime victim Rodolfo Olmedo, watched quietly as speaker after speaker called for tolerance.

Ed Josey said, “I’m sorry that we have to gather once again to address this kind of issue.”


The NAACP’s Ed Josey
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

“It puzzles me why anyone feels they have the right to assault anybody,” Josey added.

Ron Speight of Eye Openers said, “This is our home and as it says on this banner ‘We are one family, we are one community.’ The four youths who committed this act do not speak for the rest of the youth on Staten Island.”

Speight called for the creation of a “safe space,” a sanctuary in the community, where people who are being harrassed could go for to get help.


Gonzalo Mercado
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Gonzalo Mercado, who provided translation for the many of the speakers, noted that the community living in fear is nothing new — but it needs to end. He urged community members to report acts of violence to police.

Mercado translated the story of bias crime victim Hector Ortega, who was attacked a year ago as he and his cousin walked through the neighborhood. The police apprehended the alleged perpetrators but released them as they were underage.

Because the perpetrators of at least two recent attacks were youths, several speakers urged parents to act.

Sam Owusu called on parents “To make sure they know where their kids are.”

“I call on everybody to be their brother’s keeper,” he said.

Hesham El-Meligy echoed these sentiments.

“Why was he [ Olmedo ] attacked? For what purpose? For a few bucks? It doesn’t make sense. I’m calling on everybody on Staten Island to speak to your children. If you cannot do it, seek help from the house of worship or any organization near to you so this does not happen again. Our Staten Island cannot, every other day, or every other month, be a location for a hate crime. This cannot go on. We need to do something about it so our brother Rodolfo can walk in peace and nothing can happen to him or his children of any of us,” El-Meligy said.

Patricia Suarez of Make The Road New York urged victims of violence to speak up and to get help.

Her comments were translated by Gonzalo Mercado: “If you’re afraid because of your immigration status or because somebody can retaliate against you — you can come to El Centro or you can go to the Make The Road office. Please don’t be afraid and please don’t respond to violence with violence.”

Rabbi Robert Kaplan thanked the vigilers for coming.


(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

“It’s not easy to show up.” Rabbi Kaplan said. “When one is injured by hate it’s not just a physical injury, it’s an injury against our very soul.”

Rabbi Kaplan noted that the vigil was happening on the same day that the Holocaust was being commemorated in ceremonies around the world. Speaking about the Yom Hashoah observances, Kaplan said that, “Today, people lit six candles to commemorate when hate went crazy, when hate went crazy through the insanity of Nazi Germany and not only murdered millions of Jews because they were Jewish but millions of others because they were others.”

Invoking the famous story of anti-fascist German pastor Martin Niemöller who failed to defend the Jews, the Communists and the Catholics — and found himself alone when the Nazis knocked on his door — Rabbi Kaplan said that the problem then, as now, is that “No one spoke up. No one said no. They let it happen. We can’t let it happen. We have to say no to hate every single time. Because if we don’t say no once, we say it’s acceptable and it’s simply not acceptable.”


(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Struggling to hold back tears, Margarita Olmedo thanked the vigilers for their support and for their prayers on behalf of her son.

View Photos/Videos From The Vigil…

Posted by TAG - April 14, 2010 | News


Dan Ellsberg in 2010 — a picture of resolve
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

NEW YORK — My first protest happened at a place called Kent State University. The date was May 4, 1974 — four years after the murders. Speaking that day were Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda, Ron Kovic and a whistleblower named Ellsberg.

I can still hear the voices of Ellsberg, Bond and Fonda echoing through too many years and too many wars to the present day. Voices of anger, voices of determination. Voices of hope.

And like a slow dissolve in a video clip, I can hear the voices of yesteryear fade out as the Ellsberg of today, his voice emerging from the mist of memory into the modern mix — fades in, asking more whistleblowers to serve their county by coming forward. I can hear today’s Ellsberg demanding an end to nuclear madness and arguing that we cannot expect the executive branch to do anything meaningful in this direction — at least not without pressure from the Left. I can hear the 78-year-old Ellsberg commenting that Obama’s Afghanistan policy is another Vietnam.

35 years after I heard Ellsberg speak at Kent — on April 8 of this year — I heard Ellsberg speak a second time. He remains an effective, articulate speaker and a dedicated foe of nuclear proliferation and U.S. military interventions.

A flier from a protest at Kent State, May 4, 1974 (four years after the murders). I showed it to Dan Ellsberg on April 8, 2010, and asked him to sign it. He smiled and spoke fondly about the other speakers listed on the flier…I smiled too. At 78, Ellsberg continues to exude hope.

Last Thursday, Ellsberg, his voice grown softer with age — while remaining powerful and filled with resolve — joined with Jonathan Schell, Kennette Benedict and Phil Donohue to argue for change. They made the argument at the New York Society for Ethical Culture. The event was a forum on “A World Without Nuclear Weapons.”

The talk was filled with despair, anger, exhortations — and the hope that people power can correct the course of U.S. foreign policy, that it can prevent further descent into nuclear madness.

At the forum, Ellsberg argued that merely having nuclear weapons and brandishing the weapons, by stating that “no option is off the table,” is USING the weapons — as an instrument of foreign policy. And that such an act is wrong. It’s an elegant argument, one of several noteworthy observations made at the forum. And it has been preserved — for posterity and as a call to action.

You can hear Ellsberg, Schell and Benedict — along with moderator Phil Donohue — on NLN: View Video Clips From The Forum…

I hope you find the material frightening, maddening — and inspiring.


(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

BRONX, N.Y. — April 3, 2010. I spent Saturday morning in the Bronx with a group of volunteer “escorts” from the New York Coalition for Abortion Clinic Defense. The NYCACD has been showing up at Dr. Emily’s Bronx Women’s Medical Pavilion, in Mott Haven, for over a year. Recently things heated up when the anti-abortion group that is targeting the clinic declared it the focus of a “40 Days for Life” campaign — a campaign designed to culminate in the Easter holiday that marks the end of the 40-day-long Lenten season.

THE “CHURCH PEOPLE”


(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

“Here come the church people,” Jose said.

Jose, a security guard at Dr. Emily’s Women’s Health Center, was apprehensive. Clad in his orange safety vest, with SECURITY stenciled across the front, he watched the “mobile medical van” as it turned the corner. The van, according to owner Chris Slattery’s website, is a “full time mobile clinic with free onboard ultrasound.” Slattery, an attorney, heads the American Center for Pro-Life Action, an anti-abortion group.

Slattery’s interns target clinics providing abortions in an attempt to do “sidewalk counseling” of pregnant women. The goal is to convince the women to undergo a “free sonogram” in the van and ultimately to accompany the interns to the “EMC (Expectant Mother Care) Crisis Pregnancy Center” on 149th Street. Once at the center the staff will offer “prenatal care” that includes urging the woman to have the baby.

“They’ll be here in a minute,” Jose said.

“You know a lot of women come here for all kinds of services, not just abortions. HIV/AIDS prevention, IUDs, you name it,” he said.

I nodded. Irrespective of why they were coming to the facility, women who opted to use its services had to cross the threshold, the no-mans-land, the entrance to the clinic that was flanked by protesters proffering literature, security personnel keeping the protesters from blocking the entrance, and occasionally monks or nuns praying along the periphery.

Two men who had traveled to the Bronx from Staten Island to volunteer for “escort” duty — unpaid volunteers who walk women into the clinic, often past a gauntlet of anti-abortion protesters — decided to check out the rear entrance in case the protesters were already there. They were.

Outside the gated facility parking lot a lone protester stood next to a street light. He had taped a large poster to the light post, and beneath it, a cardboard sign that read: “Jesus.” I asked if I could take his picture and he said no, shaking his head vigorously.


(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

In the street two NYPD radio cars sat unattended. A short time later three cops emerged from the rear of the women’s center. I snapped a shot of the uniforms traversing the lot. One of the cops asked me to leave saying, “We don’t need anyone out here taking pictures of the disorderly groups.” My press credentials were visible but I thought it prudent not to start a discussion about the First Amendment with the cops — all three of whom appeared anxious.

After the May 31, 2009 murder of Doctor George Tiller — Tiller was shot and killed by anti-abortion extremist Scott Roeder as he attended church services in his hometown of Wichita, Kansas — it is understandable that police are cautious.

Back at the front entrance I watched as Jose scanned the area, looking for protesters. A police car pulled up and the driver motioned to me.

“You can stay here but please don’t take my picture,” the cop said. I assured him I wouldn’t be taking pictures of anyone without their consent due to the obvious tension. He thanked me and said, “We’ve had a lot of press up here lately…”

According to a source who declined to be identified, the clinic had recently had a problem with two men who claimed to be members of the press.

The week before my visit, two men, one equipped with a video camera, identified themselves to clinic security as members of the “student press” — but had no credentials. When denied access to the clinic the men waited until the security guard left the front entrance unattended for a moment and entered the lobby. When the security guard returned he told the “reporters” that they had to leave. One of the men, an African-American, accused the guard of being racist. When the security guard threatened to call the police the two “reporters” decided to leave. Although the incident was resolved relatively quickly it made the clinic staff and the escorts — and apparently the police — a little jumpy.

FETUS ENVY?

I stamped my feet to get the blood flowing — it was cold in the shade. As I watched the sunrise, Zoe, a longtime escort, appeared and Jose gave her a safety vest. As more volunteers arrived, Zoe and six other escorts agreed to divide their numbers — two would stay in front of the facility with Jose and the rest would guard the rear entrance.

“The Den Mother is here, she’s in the back” Zoe said as she headed towards the back lot.


(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Outside the back entrance the cops were long gone and a middleaged woman with dark hair stood next the Jesus poster. Called “The Den Mother” by the escorts, the woman was a reputed leader of the anti-abortion protesters. To her left, she was flanked by three monks from the Franciscan Friary of the Renewal. The trio sang as the middle monk strummed an acoustic guitar. I asked one of the monks if I could take a picture. He nodded his assent.

Despite the tension and the timing — “Holy Saturday,” the day before the “40 Days for Life” campaign was scheduled to conclude — the turnout was small and the escorts outnumbered the protesters. The protesters who did show up were known to the escorts by name and some verbal sparring went on.

“It sucks to be outnumbered, doesn’t it?” Zoe asked a young woman named Heather who spent the majority of the protest with her eyes closed as she prayed the rosary.

Heather responded, “I am not outnumbered, I have the angels and the saints with me.”

Several escorts told me that when the situation was reversed, when the escorts were the minority, some of the anti-abortion protesters had been aggressive in their pursuit of clinic patients — in violation of the New York City clinic protection bill that forbids protesters from harassing patients or obstructing the entrance to clinics. On Saturday, one protester did extend his arm across the plane, entering the protected area, as he tried to give a patient one of his brochures. An escort intervened and the protester backed off.

I asked Heather if I could see one of the brochures and she said no. A woman making her way into the clinic took a brochure from Heather and handed it to an escort — who then gave it to me. The woman thanked the escorts as she entered the building.


(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

The brochure was a pair of tri-folded, bilingual photocopies, with some obvious typos. The outer, pink-colored, sheet urged pregnant women to: “Believe In Yourself And Follow Your Heart…Please Have Your Baby.”

On the back of the blue-colored insert were line drawing depictions of a fetus at 6, 8, 11 and 15 weeks.

Tucked in with the photocopies was a glossy palm card with graphic images of bloody fetuses.

Zoe told me that the anti-abortion protesters sometimes carried “fetus dolls” and one man who seemed very nervous was often seen squeezing the doll as he tried to talk to women who were visiting the clinic.

Apparently a number of firms are marketing the dolls, turning plastic fetuses into both a teaching tool — “for sidewalk counseling, for use at Crisis Pregnancy Clinics, and even carrying in your pocket or purse” — and a, presumably lucrative, commodity. The fetish dolls, adding a tactile dimension to the graphic displays that often accompany anti-abortion protests, have been around for a few years and are reputed to be a “great tool for side walk counseling and prenatal education”, according to the manufacturers.

“PURE MOTHERHOOD”

I asked Zoe about the so-called “mobile medical clinic” and the free sonograms the protesters use to entice women to agree to get in the van. She told me that the van was not staffed by medical professionals and she disputes the reliability of the data produced by the ultrasound machine. Zoe said that one of the escorts had posed as a woman seeking services at the clinic to get access to the “mobile clinic” and its ultrasound device. When the escort reported back, Zoe was convinced the machine was either fake or used improperly.

Zoe said that, “The fake sonogram is actually a machine they claim is giving an ultrasound to women who may be pregnant. However, they do not have a doctor available, nor do they have qualified technicians. The person that went in and reported for us was not pregnant, there was no possibility. When she was walking in the clinic they asked her to come to the van for the sonogram and she agreed. When they did the sonogram they told her that she was pregnant and then offered her information about having the baby, adoption, etcetera. She then told them she was not pregnant, that she had not had sex with any man. From there they told her that she did not have to be embarrassed, ‘many people have sex and regret it. there is always penance.’ She then told them that she is a lesbian and they told her that she was pregnant. She said that she has not had sex with men. Then she was told that she must have. They then offered that she may have had sex with a man while she was asleep. I do realize it is funny but what is frightening is that she was strong, and not pregnant, but for women that are in the situation and are vulnerable, they are forced into false readings and false opportunities. We have asked, many times for the contact information for the doctors that work for them but they have refused to provide it.”

The “ultrasound” device and the “mobile clinic” are part of an effort to “counsel” women who might seek abortion. According to Zoe, if the woman agrees to do so, she is “whisked away” in the medical van and taken to the EMC “Crisis Pregnancy Center” on 149th Street for additional counseling. The “crisis pregnancy center” keeps a tally of what it calls “saves” — instances where “counseling” interventions are successful in convincing women not to undergo abortions — and posts the tally on Slattery’s website.

“More than the economic dependency of the wife and children on the husband and father is needed to preserve the institution of the authoritarian family. For the suppressed classes, this dependency is endurable only on condition that the consciousness of being a sexual being is suspended as completely as possible in women and in children. The wife must not figure as a sexual being, but solely as a child-bearer. Essentially, the idealization and deification of motherhood, which are so flagrantly at variance with the brutality with which the mothers of the toiling masses are actually treated, serve as means of preventing women from gaining a sexual consciousness, of preventing the imposed sexual repression from breaking through and of preventing sexual anxiety and sexual guilt-feelings from losing their hold. Sexually awakened women, affirmed and recognized as such, would mean the complete collapse of the authoritarian ideology.”

– Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology Of Fascism

GRASSROOTS — OR ASTROTURF?

I spoke to one of the escorts at length and found her to be thoughtful and committed to human rights and nonviolence. A veteran of the anti-war movement, she was new to clinic defense.


(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

When I asked her about her work as an escort, Max said that, “Women attempting to access quality healthcare at the Dr. Emily Women’s Health Clinic in the Bronx are being targeted and harrased by anti-abortion protestors daily. Defending this clinic protects each woman who uses the clinic against physical and emotional assault, and denies political space to religious fundamentalists whose ultimate goal is to legislate their beliefs and end a woman’s right to choose abortion of a pregnancy. The New York Coalition for Abortion Clinic Defense is working to organize a city-wide collective response to current attacks on women and reproductive rights.”

At 11:20 Max told me that the protesters would be leaving soon. I asked how she knew.

“They’re paid interns,” she said. “They work until 11:30.”

And in fact, Slattery’s website has a large section devoted to interns – with photographs of Heather and others posted in the blog section.

As 11:30 approached the protesters packed up and walked down Southern Boulevard towards 149th Street.


(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Although the 40 Days for Life protest was scheduled to end the next day an escort named Peter told me that the protesters would not stop when the campaign wrapped up.

And neither would he.

***

NYCACD escorts the clinic’s patients every Saturday from eight a.m. to twelve noon. For more information contact NYCACD@gmail.com.


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Posted by Fran Korotzer - | News


Noor Elashi
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

“If this is the punishment for building homes, building schools, and feeding needy families then I’m proud to be behind bars. They can control my body but they can’t control my soul.”

– Ghassan Elashi, Holy Land Foundation, now serving a 65 year prison sentence.

NEW YORK — On March 25th there was a forum on the subject of “Preemptive Prosecutions” at the New York University Law School which was sponsored by the National Lawyer’s Guild, NYU Law ACLU, Middle Eastern Law Students Association, Law Student’s for Human Rights, and several other groups. Family members of those involved and some of their legal representatives discussed the issue of FBI entrapment. Was the FBI involved in capturing “homegrown terrorists” or are they actually creating them so that they could then arrest them? It was explained that most of the informers, acting as agent provocateurs for the FBI are felons who made a deal with the FBI. Many of those entrapped are very low income, under-educated men who live in marginalized communities and are ‘bribed’ with money, marijuana, and promises of help for whatever crisis they are facing. These cases are not isolated, they’re happening in large numbers all over the country. The people involved are from diverse backgrounds but they are united by abuses of due process.

The first speakers were the mother and aunt of David McWilliams, one of the Newburgh 4 (NYS). The young Muslim men were convicted of attempting to bomb synagogues with plastic explosives in the Bronx and plotting to shoot down planes from Stewart Airport with stinger missiles. His distraught mother, Elizabeth, spoke first. She said her son was not the monster he was made out to be and he became involved because he was promised money to help pay for medical treatment for his younger brother who is suffering with incurable cancer. Tears were flowing down her cheeks as she tried to speak. When his aunt, Alicia McWilliams spoke she presented a picture of a group of struggling, uneducated men trying to survive on the periphery of society. They had drug problems and one was schizophrenic. The FBI picked the most vulnerable county to establish their plot, one where there is “no jobs, no schooling” and “if you walk down Broadway you see it is drug infested.” “They didn’t send an agent to a mosque in Bushwick or Harlem because they would nave whooped his mother_ _.” Instead they’re “gonna pick some God damn fools and a person who can’t manage mental health.” According to McWilliams, those individuals couldn’t mastermind anything. These are who they chose to shoot missiles at planes and bomb synagogues in Riverdale? They never heard of Riverdale. “The boy is dyslexic.” “This boy is a petty crack dealer.” How did he go from that “to become a big national terrorist? He ain’t never even left New York.” He thought that the agent that entrapped him was “a good Muslim brother” who was going to get him a job and help pay doctor bills. McWilliams also pointed out that no family members were interrogated by the police or the FBI adding, they “didn’t need us when they had their own script.” She said that the families and communities that had been targeted had to stand together and let the government know that they “cannot target our families and drop a load of shit on us!”

The next speakers were 12 year old Leijla Duka, daughter of one of the Ft. Dix 5 (NJ) and her uncle, the youngest of the Duka brothers. The Ft. Dix 5 were convicted of conspiring to attack military personnel at Ft. Dix and kill as many as possible. Leijla and her uncle said that their family members were set-up by 2 Muslim agent provocateurs, Mahmoud Omar and Besnik Bakalli. Both men had been convicted of serious crimes and were willing to act as agents in return for leniency and money. It all started, they explained, with a family vacation in the Poconos when a family member made a video recording of the young men on a shooting range, shooting and shouting “Allahu Akbar”, God is great. After the vacation the recording was brought to a Circuit City store to be duplicated so that everyone involved could have a copy. The clerk was suspicious when he viewed the video and notified the police who contacted the FBI. They sent in Omar who approached one of the men, befriended him, and convinced him to download terrorist videos. All of the videos watched were at the agent’s request and then he tried to persuade him to involve his friends, the other 4. When he didn’t do so the other agent, Bakalli, an ethnic Albanian like the Dukas was brought in. The agents told the men that their Muslim brothers were being murdered overseas and that they should be ashamed of themselves because they were doing nothing to help them. A lot of money was being flashed around by the agents and weapons were offered for sale. Some of the men bought weapons so, they said, they wouldn’t have to wait to shoot at the shooting range. One, who worked at a pizza shop, showed the agent a map of Ft. Dix (used for pizza delivery) when the agent asked for one. Duka said that for a conspiracy case 2 or more defendants have to agree to a plot involving someplace or someone. That never happened in this case. The government admitted that there was no evidence that the defendants ever discussed the plot with each other. All 5 were arrested and at trial the judge said that millions had been spent on the case and “the lack of evidence doesn’t concern me.” Duka also explained that all of the jury members were either in the army or had family members in the army. Since they were personally involved in some way they should have been excluded. The prosecution showed frightening jihad films. All were convicted with some getting sentences of life plus 30 years.

The next 3 speakers, all lawyers, were Lynne Jackson from Project Salam, Support and Legal Advocacy for Muslims (www.projectsalam.org), and Kathy Manley and Steve Downs who defended Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain from Albany, NY. The agent provocateur in that case was the same person that was involved in the Newburgh 4 case, but using a different name this time. He was facing a prison sentence for selling fake drivers licenses, there was 25 civil suits pending against him, and there was the possibility of him being deported to Pakistan where it is believed that he was wanted for murder. The FBI was primarily interested in Yassin Aref, a local imam who spoke against the war and for Palestinian rights. Mohammad Hossain was collateral damage. The plot, as it was explained, was to get the men involved in purchasing a surface to air missile with money laundered through Hossain’s pizza business. That would be used to shoot down a plane with the Pakistani UN ambassador on it. Hossain needed a loan which was offered by the agent, and Aref, the imam, was asked to witness the loan, as is a Muslim custom. The money used for the $5,000 loan supposedly came from money that was earned by selling weapons to terrorists. There is no evidence that the men, especially Aref, knew anything about where the money came from or of the missile plot, but the fact of Aref witnessing the loan tied him to terrorists. Both were arrested, convicted, and got 15 year prison sentences.


Leijla Duka
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

The next speaker was Faisal Hashmi, brother of Fahad Hashmi. Fahad, a student and an activist in the Muslim community, has spent the past 3 years awaiting trial under conditions of extreme solitary confinement, the SAMs (Special Administrative Measures), because, they said he has a proclivity to violence even though he has never been arrested for anything. He is accused of giving material aid to terrorists in the form of waterproof sox and ponchos that were briefly stored in his apartment by a guest, Junaid Barber, now a “cooperating witness” and the actual culprit. Barber is trying to reduce his sentence by giving names of people in several countries claiming that they are all co-conspirators. Hashmi explained that his brother’s 1st amendment, constitutionally protected speeches and writings will be used against him at the trial. Secret evidence that he has never seen or heard of will be used against him at the trial also. There is concern that after 3 years of isolation his mental state will have deteriorated to the extent that he won’t be able to assist in his own defense. Faisal concluded that the US government, including Obama, is trying to deny the humanity of the 2-3 million Muslims in this country. The American people think that this is all part of a game plan to protect them, he said.

Noor, the daughter of Ghassan Elashi of the Holy Land Foundation, spoke next. She began by lovingly and eloquently introducing her father as a truly decent and caring man, who had marched with Latino immigrants as they demanded their civil rights in Texas. He was the son of a Palestinian woman evicted from Jaffa in 1948 during the Nakba, leaving her “heart and home.” The 1st intifada deeply affected her father, he wanted to relieve the suffering of Palestinians, she said. The Holy Land Foundation was established in 1989 – it first gained status for helping refugees from Bosnia, Albania, and Turkey. It gave humanitarian aid in the US too, opening a food pantry in NJ, helping flood victims, and helping people after the Oklahoma City bombing. It became the biggest Muslim charity in the US. It also sent food, books, and medicine to Palestine.

Noor said her father had been under FBI surveillance since the 90′s. A small group of NY politicians and Israeli lobbyists wanted the US Department of Justice to go after the Holy Land Foundation. They wanted to keep Palestine weak and helpless, she added. Three months after 9/11, after meeting with Ariel Sharon, Bush had the Holy Land Foundation closed, calling it an important step in the war on terror. He said that it is used by Hamas to indoctrinate children to become suicide bombers. The government went through thousands of wiretapped phone messages and thousands of pages of bookkeeping records but could not find a connection to Hamas. Finally, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that no money had gone to Hamas but by giving humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people the Holy Land Foundation had enhanced the image of Hamas, which the Bush Administration considered a terrorist organization. In 2007 the Holy Land Foundation, the most expensive case in US history, went on trial. The prosecutors used an Israeli agent with the pseudonym “Avi” to testify. Noor said that he claimed he could “smell Hamas.” The prosecutors showed the jury films of suicide bombings and Palestinian children marching on a stage with fake grenades. All completely unconnected to the Holy Land Foundation but intimidating and frightening to the jurors. The Holy Land Fund was also accused of guilt by association, Elashi’s 2nd cousin’s husband was a member of Hamas. After 2 months of testimony the jury couldn’t reach a decision. In 2008 the government tried the case again and all were convicted. Their sentence was 65 years in prison. The prosecutor, James Jack, is now trying to have Elashi transferred to a Communications Management Unit (CMU) in a prison far from his family where he will be allowed very limited contact with his family.

The final speaker was to be Mauri Saalakhan, Director of the Peace and Justice Foundation in Washington, DC. He said he wanted to lay a foundation by bringing some other voices to the table. The first voice was that of Judge Bruce Wright because, he explained, there are striking parallels between the African-American experience of justice and what Muslims are going through today in America. Reading from Wright’s book, “Black Robes, White Justice,” he quoted him as saying that “White judges refuse to see a color problem that lies deep within themselves and is the grotesque product of their daily lives from the time that they are born – white skin’s entitlement to privilege.” The next voice chosen was that of Bill Kunstler. Writing in “My Life as a Radical Lawyer”, years before 9/11, in a chapter titled ‘The Despised Muslim’, Kunstler wrote, “Today Muslims are the most hated group in America. The moment a Muslim is accused of a crime the specter of terrorism is raised and everyone panics.” SaalaKhan said, that pattern has existed for a very long time. Vice President Quayle warned of a threat from the Muslim world and so did some in the Reagan Administration. 9/11 legitimized and deepened it. Saalakhan also introduced the voice of Naomi Klein who wrote in her book “The Shock Doctrine”, that any kind of national disaster puts people in a collective state of shock which some elements in the society take advantage of. The shocked societies give up things that they would ordinarily fiercely protect. And yet another voice, in 2007 Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in an article, “The war on terror has created a culture of fear in America. The Bush Administration elevating these 3 words to a national mantra since the horrific events of 9/11, has had a pernicious effect on American society, on American democracy, on America’s psyche, and on US standing in the world. The damage these 3 words have done, a classic self-inflicted wound, is infinitely greater than any dreams entertained by the fanatical perpetrators of the 9/11 attack….” Saalakhan added, after 9/11 160 sites were listed by congress as potential terror sites where attacks may occur. By the end of 2003 the number went to 1,289 possible sites, 28,360 in 2004, 77,769 in 2005, and now 300,000 sites are on the list. Ashcroft, he said, openly admitted profiling the Muslim community. He thought that any Muslim male between the ages of 18 and 35 from a country where Al Qaida has a strong presence is under suspicion. Ashcroft said that if he isn’t squeaky clean we will arrest him. This is happening in case after case. The “web of deceit” is expanding to include Muslim women, as in the case of Dr. Afia Siddiqui who was just convicted without any forensic evidence against her, and it will eventually include non-Muslims. The prosecution of Lynne Stewart was a warning to lawyers, “Don’t cross a certain line.” Mauri Saalakhan concluded by saying that we patriots should make our country live up to the better part of itself. It is a moral imperative. All of us need the courage to speak truth to power. There is no neutral ground. Everyone has to stand-up, speak out and push back. Silence is not an option when our Bill of Rights is being eviscerated before our eyes.


Elizabeth McWilliams
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

At this point 3 members of the audience asked for a moment to speak. One was a mother who spoke with the aid of a translator. Holding up a picture of her son she described him as 18 years old, immature, and with brain defects. In 2004 an agent kept visiting her son and showing him photographs of Muslims being abused in Palestine and Pakistan. Graphic photos of rape and babies being cut out of their mothers. The agent asked how he could see this and do nothing. When he agreed to do what the agent asked him to (there were no specifics) he was arrested and sentenced to 30 years in prison. The other 2 speakers, young women weeping profusely, explained that they were the sister and fiancĂ©e of a young Albanian-American who was born and raised in Brooklyn. He went to visit family is Kosovo and was seized there one morning on his way to the mosque. He was charged with having weapons in the apartment he was staying at but said that they weren’t his and he knew nothing about them. He was returned to the US where he is facing life in prison for conspiring to commit murder in a foreign country and giving material support to terrorism. The young women said that there is no evidence against him, only assumptions.

All of the people that spoke came to the front of the room to answer questions. One of the group said that they were all a family. It was a very emotional moment. People were crying and hugging each other. When asked what we could do about what was happening there were many answers: enlighten yourself, know what is going on, remember that you don’t have to speak to the FBI. Some people get into trouble by saying something untrue to the FBI when they didn’t have to speak to them in the first place. Know that there are provocateurs in the mosques and centers where young people gather. Muslims have connections to other Muslims and know that genocide is going on, reactions are strong. Responsible people in mosques should guide the people so they do not become involved in anything dangerous or stupid. Also, the Muslim community should have ties to a good legal network. One questioner asked why these preemptive prosecutions were taking place. There were many answers to that question too. It is being done to frighten and silence the Muslim community at a time that the US is involved in endless wars in the Middle East. The political economy – individuals and corporations are making a lot of money as a result of these wars and don’t want any pressure for them to end. Warmongers with religious zeal are hoping for a cataclysmic explosion in the Middle East that would bring about the long awaited rapture. And, unfortunately, the Israel lobby is anti-Muslim and is pushing for war against Iran.

One speaker spoke of Cheney’s 1% Doctrine – if there is just a 1% chance of an attack occurring treat it as a certainty. If there is a 1% possibility of someone becoming involved in a terrorist act he should be incarcerated even though there is no evidence of a crime occurring or being planned. That is what preemptive prosecution is. When examining these prosecutions we should be asking ourselves if there would have been a criminal act, or a plan, if no agent provocateurs had become involved. The overwhelming answer in these cases seems to be no. And that is what entrapment is about.

View Photos From The Event…