Posted by Tom Keough - May 24, 2010 | News

A visitor admires some of the fair’s art work
(Photo: Tom Keough / NLN)

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — May 15, 2010. On Saturday , May 15, Brooklyn For Peace hosted the 6th annual Brooklyn Peace Fair. This year the event was held on the campus of Brooklyn College — and many college, high school and junior high school students visited the fair.

Fr. Roy Bourgeois, founder of the School of the Americas Watch, was the keynote speaker. Bourgeois is a Vietnam Veteran who was awarded the Purple Heart as an officer in that war. In 1972 he became a Catholic priest with the Maryknoll order and worked with the poor in Bolivia for five years. When he spoke out against the repressive dictatorship he was imprisoned and then expelled from Bolivia.

Father Roy Bourgeois: veteran and peace activist
(Photo: Tom Keough / NLN)

Undaunted, Fr. Bourgeois continued to work on the problems in Central America and in 1980 he was one of the founders of the School Of the Americas Watch. The SOA Watch focuses attention on the school run by the U.S. military to train U.S. and Latin American military officers in the skills of investigating and controlling the civilian populations in their countries -in cooperation with the U.S. military.

Mapping the Prison-Industrial Complex
(Photo: Tom Keough / NLN)

Several of the fair’s events took place at the Brooklyn College Art Lab. A large group of students were attracted to the information about the hundreds of thousands of people captured and imprisoned by the ICE immigration raids. Letters were read from prisoners at some of the nearby prisons. People were taught about the round ups and the lack of any legal human rights. It was reported that over 250,000 are being held at all times. Information was provided about the businessmen who are making huge profits on the prisons.

Turnout was good at the annual event
(Photo: Tom Keough / NLN)

A number of peace and justice activists made presentations at the Peace Fair, including: the Brooklyn Haiti Solidarity Initiate, Food Justice Brooklyn, Lutheran Family Health Centers, Global Kids, Brooklyn College Community Partnership, Samba School for Social Justice, G.I. Resistance, Fellowship Of Reconciliation, the Alliance of Conscious Documentarians, Darfur People’s Association of New York, The Health Care Professionals Against Torture, World Can’t Wait, SOA Watch, The Dialogue Project, Pastors For Peace, Brooklyn MoveOn, WBAI, NY CISPES, Veterans For Peace, Park Slope United Methodist Church, Madre, Interfaith Peace Coalition, Run For Congo Women, All Souls Bethlehem Church, Physicians for National Healthcare, the Indypendent, Peace Action NY, and the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats.

A number of elected officials supported the event, including Assemblymember Jim Brennan, Council Member Letitia James, and U.S. Representative Yvette Clarke.

Support also came from Brooklyn stores such as Met Foods, Healthy Nibble, Henry’s End Restaurant, Dewey’s Candy Store and service providers including Save Mor printers, Select Mail and Con Edison.

Musician Dave Lippman performed at the fair
(Photo: Tom Keough / NLN)

Political music and rebellious satire was provided by the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, the Raging Grannies, Dave Lippman, Stephanie Rooker, Metro Sonics, Veronica Nunn, Spirit Child, Gio Safari, the Last International, Ill-Literacy.

The annual peace fair brings together a wide variety of people who have opted to study war no more — preferring to learn, and teach about, the need for peace in today’s world.

View Photos From The Event…

Posted by Fran Korotzer - May 18, 2010 | News

Granny Jenny stands up for democracy
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — May 9, 2010. Contrary to common belief, Mother’s Day was not created by Hallmark. Julia Ward Howe, composer of the Battle Hymn of the Republic and anti-slavery advocate, called for the holiday 140 years ago in 1870. She did so in reaction to the carnage of our Civil War. In part she wrote,

“Arise then…women of this day!

Arise all women who have hearts!

Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!

Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.

We the women of one country,

Will be too tender of those of another country

To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.

Disarm! Disarm!

The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”

So, Mother’s Day started as a cry against war and for peace. In that spirit CodePink and the Granny Peace Brigade began a tradition 4 years ago that has grown larger every year – the annual Mother’s Day Peace Stroll.

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

This year the weather was cold and threatening but close to 100 people joined in. The group met at the Merchant’s Gate of Central Park on Columbus Circle. While waiting to begin the Raging Grannies sang their songs, much to the pleasure of the strollers and other people gathered there.

Let’s Help America

(to the tune of God Bless America)

“Let’s help America, It needs us BAD!

Stand beside it, and guide it,

‘Cause it’s making the world really mad!

Climbing mountains, crossing oceans

And invading foreign soil…

Let’s help America, no blood for oil.

Let’s tell America, no blood for oil!”

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Led by the very spirited Rude Mechanical Orchestra, everyone, including grandchildren, walked north on Columbus Avenue going through a street fair, a flea market, and finally a craft fair behind the Museum of Natural History. Along the way leaflets were handed out, peace signs were carried, and “No more war” and “Bring them home now” was chanted. The group turned east on 81st Street walking briskly along to a very lively version of Bella Ciao by the orchestra. Near the Museum the Grannies gave a street corner concert. People passing by stopped and listened.

Give Us Back Our Constitution

(to the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy)

“Give us back our Constitution,

We can put it to good use.

Obama promised he would fix our laws,

So they wouldn’t cause such abuse. But

Guantanamo’s still holding pris’ners,

Torture victims still derailed.

Yankee Doodle’s still in Iraq, and Afghanista-an

Protestors still are being jailed!”

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

The march then wove through Central Park ending at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where people were sitting on the big staircase in front of the museum. The orchestra played, the Grannies sang, Julia Ward Howe’s declaration was read, and there was a moment of silence for all the people that have been killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. People on the steps responded very well, as people did wherever the walk passed through. There were cheers, applause, thumbs-up, many smiles, and lots of picture taking. The stroll ended there. The walkers left with a sense of having accomplished something, having had a good time with good people, and not at all bothered that they had, somehow, turned into a tourist attraction.

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

View Photos From The Event…

Posted by Fran Korotzer - May 10, 2010 | News

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — May 4, 2010. Thousands of Japanese peace activists came to New York to participate in talks about nuclear disarmament that were held at the United Nations. On Saturday, May 2, 15,000 people, most of them coming from Japan, marched from Times Square to the UN in support of nuclear disarmament.

On Tuesday, May 4, a very special event took place at the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Manhattan. The activist women from CodePink in Osaka, Japan met with the Granny Peace Brigade, the Ragging Grannies, and CodePink NYC for an evening of sharing stories, lessons on how to make origami paper peace cranes called “orizuru”, sing songs led by both groups, and hearing terrible stories from A-bomb survivors of Hiroshima who were children when the bomb was dropped and lost their entire family. A very talented young woman told the story with pictures, called “kamishibai”, of a young Japanese girl who, while dying, folded 1,000 cranes with the help of her friends, hoping to recover and bring peace. There was a “sakura” celebrating the cherry blossoms, a tea ceremony, and a beautiful poem for peace was read.

I want you to listen.
I want you to read.
I want you to sing.
I want you to believe.
If there is one pencil, I will write love to you.
If there is one pencil, I will write with it that I hate war.
I want to send my love to you.
I want to send my dreams to you.
I want to send spring to you.
I want to send this world to you.
If there is one piece of paper, I will write on it that I want your child.
If there is one piece of paper, I will write on it that I want you back.
If there is one pencil, I will write about the morning of August 6 (atomic bomb day) with it.
If there is one pencil, I will write about human life with it.

It was a wonderful, warm evening of sharing and bonding among women from different sides of the world but who all share the same passionate commitment to peace.

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

View Photos From The Event…

Posted by Fran Korotzer - | News

Vigilers gathered outside the Metropolitan Correctional Center
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — May 3, 2010. Syed “Fahad” Hashmi’s case was due to go to trial on April 28. Two days before prosecutors requested an anonymous jury citing as a reason that jurors might be frightened by Fahad as well as by his supporters who may fill the courtroom and share his radical Islamic views. An anonymous jury is escorted into and out of court by armed US Marshals, is sequestered, and their identity is hidden. They are made to feel that their lives are in danger. Judge Preska granted their request and in doing so, in effect, she criminalized the defendant and his supporters.

The very next day, despite implying that the jurors faced mortal danger from Fahad and the civil libertarians supporting him, the government made the offer of a plea-bargain. If he would plead guilty one count of conspiracy for allowing an acquaintance to store waterproof socks and ponchos in his apartment the other charges would be dropped and 55 years would be shaved off his sentence. Counting time already served and possible time off for good behavior he could be out of prison in eight-and-a-half years. After three years in solitary confinement, facing a frightened anonymous jury, with secret evidence and no presumption of innocence, Fahad felt there was little chance of a fair trial and he took the deal offered.

On Monday, May 3, the 19th and last vigil for Fahad Hashmi took place in the usual place opposite the Metropolitan Correctional Center at 150 Park Row in lower Manhattan. As always, Fahad’s family, his father, mother, with silent tears running endlessly down her cheeks, and his brother was there. Brian Pickett began by telling the 40 people present that it had been an emotional week for the Hashmi family and for their supporters, but what they have been doing and the movement they have built — a movement opposing extreme solitary confinement (regarded by many as torture), use of secret evidence, no presumption of innocence, and a long imprisonment before trial, is not affected by the guilty plea. These issues still exist.

Two statements of support came from people who have been at the vigil several times.

Henry Chalfant
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Documentary filmmaker Henry Chalfant read a statement from his wife, actor Kathleen Chalfant. She wrote that the plea-bargain brought an end to the agony of uncertainty for Fahad and his family and it makes it clear that, “Fahad is not and was not some grave moral threat to the country and its freedoms and principles. The grave moral threat to the country and its freedoms and principles lays somewhere else in this case. It lay in the idea that torture, and the conditions under which Fahad was held were traditionally sanctioned torture, that torture is justified in the pursuit of security. That notion will destroy this nation and its hopes more effectively than any bomb could. The strength of this country resides in its free institutions and not in adapting the policies of those we are fighting. I am very proud to have been asked to be part of this remarkable vigil. This is an example of what the best of America is. Standing in front of the Metropolitan Correctional Center, defending the constitution, and standing in support of and solidarity with people who have been denied it’s rights and protection.”

Suzanne Kelly
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Then Suzanne Kelly read a statement from Wallace Shawn and Deborah Eisenberg: “It is obviously not irrational for Americans to be afraid of terrorist attacks or to try to prevent them. But if you don’t arrive at a rational approach to prevent these attacks we will find ourselves falling to the lowest level of a police state with the speed of an elevator whose cables have snapped. At the start and at the finish of the Hashmi case tricks of the theater have been used to make a human being look terrifying to an audience by the extreme conditions by which he was restrained. He was made to look like a dangerous animal, so ferocious that only the tightest and thickest chains could keep him from eating us alive. By the methods of isolation that kept him from communication with the outside world, his words were made to seem so poisonous, so hateful and terrible, that if they could be heard they would knock down walls and devastate cities. It could appear that he belonged to a movement so vast and so mighty that it had more power than the greatest criminal gangs to strike down it’s enemies wherever they might hide. In the face of these frenzied theatrical devices that not only presumed the guilt of the defendant but screamed it out across the public square, it is hardly surprising that the defendant has lost faith that our system of justice is really based on the presumption of innocence. Faced, therefore, with trying to prove a negative, that he is not a terrorist, to the satisfaction of a terrorized jury, he has decided to withdraw his claim of innocence. Meanwhile, down the street the criminals of high finance who have undoubtedly caused the suffering and even death of countless human beings go unpunished and instead are rewarded with prizes of untold wealth.”

Jeanne Theoharis
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Professor Jeanne Theoharis, Fahad’s former teacher, answered questions asked by people in the group. Someone asked if the “Special Administrative Measures” would be lifted now. Fahad is still being held under the SAMs. His lawyers asked for expedited sentencing and he will be sentenced on June 7. They are hoping he will be sent to a CMU (Communication Management Unit). As bad as they are — CCR has filed a suit against them and Amnesty International has condemned them — they are better than the conditions he is living under at the MCC. Judge Preska will recommend where he will be sent but she does not have the final say. Another question, what is next for those who want to pursue the human rights and civil liberties issues raised in this case? People will be meeting to decide what to do next. Issues of how people are treated in the federal system, which has been polluted by the thinking that created Guantanamo, have to be dealt with. Also, keep sending messages to Attorney General Holder expressing concern about the conditions of Fahad’s confinement. Another questioner wanted to know if Prof. Theoharis thought the activism, for example, the vigils, letters, magazine and web articles, statements by academics, journalists, and lawyers made any difference in the outcome of this case? Theoharis pointed out that the plea offer came a day after the government was granted an anonymous jury. That is not unconnected to his supporters being in the street for 6 months shining a light on the practices in this case. The brief asking for an anonymous jury is about public and media attention and there was no media attention until we began standing out here. We have to understand the landscape and that means understanding the civil rights issues and how the government comes to it’s decisions.

Anwar Hashmi (Fahad’s father) and attorney Sean Maher
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Sean Maher, Fahad’s attorney, spoke next. He began by profusely thanking the people at the vigil.

“We are here a week after someone plead guilty for material support for Al Qaeda and we have people here that understand that this is a world of a lot of gray, that things are not black and white, and that when injustice occurs it is our responsibility to stand up and talk against it. That is what you have done and you have made a difference. Show me another case, another terrorism case, that has been prosecuted in this country in the last eight years where after a conviction, after days have passed, people have come out on to a sidewalk to say, ‘You know what, there are problems going on in this country and we want people to see that we know that there are problems.'”

He added that nobody should leave here without knowing that their presence was important and mattered — the guilty plea doesn’t change that.

Maher explained that the legal defense team consistently raised three issues which have nothing to do with Fahad’s eventual plea:

1) Conditions of confinement — In a democracy where people are presumed innocent and should have due process, and they have community ties and no history of violence, they should not be caged worse than animals in a zoo. This is a political more than a legal issue.

2) Secrecy in the courts — Fahad’s lawyers challenged the Classified Information Procedures Act, they challenged lawyers having to be screened before they can get information about the case and then not being able to discuss the information with their clients. This is not a Military Commission at Guantanamo – this is a federal court. He made the point that he was speaking broadly, not about this case in particular.

3) People should not be prosecuted for terrorism based on religious of political ideology.

At trial the jury would have heard all about Fahad’s political and religious associations and the prosecution would argue that this goes to motive and intent to commit acts of terror.

The defense lost all the motions.

Maher said that Fahad made a decision that most likely saved him many, many years in prison. It was not an easy decision. The conviction rates in federal courts is 90 percent – higher in terrorism cases.

Faisal Hashmi, Fahad’s brother, then spoke. He thanked everyone and pointed out that his brother’s case was not the only one, there were many in the Muslim community. He said, “This case offered an opportunity for all of you to bear witness to what is going on. We struggle and advocate for our community and now we have more allies.”

Brian called Faisal a voice for justice and thanked him and his family for generously welcoming us into their struggle. As daisies were being handed out to the “vigil-antes” they were urged to cross the street carefully, looking both ways, and respectfully yet defiantly lay a flower at the foot of the prison. As people reached the other side of the street where the MCC stands, several federal officers suddenly appeared. One was shouting “Federal property! You can’t come here! Federal property!” As people dropped the daisies on the curb he kicked them and stomped on them. People were shocked by the vehemence and palpable hatred he exhibited toward them. Then, also suddenly, the NYPD was on the scene. By comparison they were very quiet and gently urged everyone to cross over to the side of the street that they had come from, which everyone did.

As people reached the other side and looked back they saw the federal officers standing near the opposite curb watching the vigil folks and guarding the perimeter.

View Photos From The Vigil…

Click HERE To View The Video

NEW YORK — May 2, 2010. Japanese and European anti-nuclear activists joined their American counterparts for a march to the United Nations on Sunday, May 2. NLN photographer Bud Korotzer was there and filed this report.

WRL banners on display in Grand Central
(Photo: Ed Hedemann / WRL)

NEW YORK — May 5, 2010. War Resisters League organizer — author of the WRL Organizer’s Manual — and veteran photojournalist Ed Hedemann took part in Monday’s action at Grand Central Terminal that resulted in 22 arrests. Hedemann, who was arrested at Grand Central in October, is a long time practitioner of nonviolent civil disobedience. He photographed Monday’s action and afterwards agreed to share his photos and his thoughts on the action with NLN.


NLN: Congratulations on a well planned and executed civil disobedience at Grand Central Station. This was not your first protest at Grand Central. On your last visit you and others were treated roughly by MTA police and arrested on pretty dubious charges, charges that were later dropped. Why did you return to Grand Central for the no-nukes protest? Was it in part an assertion of your First Amendment rights?

EH: My first protest inside Grand Central was in 1974, so, no, this was certainly not my first one there. Our return to Grand Central had little to do with our having been there last October for the ninth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and had everything to do with Grand Central Terminal being the main subway stop servicing the UN. GCT is a concentrated point to effectively reach out not only to the general public during morning rush hour but also to UN delegates and others attending the first day of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference. We had considered a march on the UN (just a few blocks away) but decided that our numbers would be quickly dissipated by police security barricades set too far from the UN entrances.

NLN: How do you feel the action went this time?

EH: I thought the demonstration went very well but our numbers were much smaller than the event warranted.

Click on the image to see a larger version
(Photo: Ed Hedemann / WRL)

NLN: What was the response of the commuters?

EH: As usual, the commuters’ responses were varied. Mostly they were just rushing to work. However, many commuters and tourists took photos with their cell phone cameras; a few expressed their displeasure, such as a couple of white business-suited males chanting “USA! USA! USA!” ; many more were very supportive, readily took our flyers, and some even joined the action.

Ed Hedemann outside Grand Central, just before his October 2009 arrest
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

NLN: To the best of your knowledge how were the arrestees treated by the police — and what jurisdiction made the arrests, MTA or NYPD?

EH: The arrestees were treated well by the MTA police, though the police were not happy with banners of any sort. Initially, the police brass wanted us to stay in one limited area of the Grand Concourse and not pass out any flyers (“danger of slipping”). However, we reassured them that we would pick up any discarded flyers so they did not prevent us from leafleting. We also spread throughout the concourse and marched in a circle around the central information kiosk.

(Photo: Ed Hedemann / WRL)

NLN: Did you get good press coverage?

EH: A couple camera crews (WCBS and NY1), independent media, etc., but no mainstream print or wire services that I’m aware of . . . in other words, the usual pathetic NYC coverage of peace movement events.

NLN: Sources tell us that the (United Nations) demonstration on May 2 was not well attended by New Yorkers — the crowd was primarily made up of Japanese and Europeans. Was this your experience?

EH: It was a welcome sight to see so many Japanese and Europeans. However, most of the crowd was made up of people from the U.S.

NLN: The peace movement seems to have lost some of its impetus, UFPJ has scaled back its activities and apparently some of its funding has fallen away. Is the Obama Effect responsible for the peace movement slowing down?

EH: Initially, at least, the election of every Democrat president — especially following a particularly offensive retired president — the peace movement loses many of the less committed adherents. A lot of liberals feel that as long as their “guy” is in office, it would be counter-productive and even unpatriotic to undermine his leadership by demonstrating or even criticizing him during his tenure. It’s always easier to demonstrate against the policies of a “bad” guy even if the “good” guy is doing pretty much the same thing.

NLN: How do you see the situation in Iraq?

EH: Dire.

NLN: And Afghanistan?

EH: Worse.

NLN: How do you regard Obama’s joke the other evening, in which he facetiously threatened the Jonas Brothers with predator drones?

EH: Reminds me of Reagan’s joke about ordering an attack on the Soviet Union. Obama seems increasingly comfortable slinging around military remarks and military hardware.

NLN: Where does the peace movement go from here?

EH: No matter its size and overall health, the peace movement has a responsibility to carry on organizing, continue agitating, keep being nonviolently brazen, and simply be “in place” for those times when Americans awaken from their collective complacency to rediscover a revulsion to war, injustice, poverty, and perhaps to be catalyzed by a startling incident, such as what happened at Kent State 40 years ago or Three Mile Island 32 years ago. In those two examples, outrage was effectively channeled by a rapidly building movement already in place.

Posted by Tom Keough - May 4, 2010 | News

War Resisters League activist Ruth Benn is arrested
(Photo: Tom Keough / NLN)

NEW YORK — May 3, 2010. To bring a stronger cry against the threats from nuclear weapons at this time of the UN Special Session on Disarmament there was a protest inside of the main lobby of Grand Central Station during Monday’s rush hour.

The action was organized by the War Resisters League and their friends from the Catholic Peace Fellowship, The Catholic Worker and others. Protesters carried death heads with the names of the deadly nuclear weapons states, the US, Russia, China, the UK, France, Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea.

The WRL held a moving picket at Grand Central
(Photo: Tom Keough / NLN)

Several dozen people held a moving picket line from 8 to 10 a.m. At 9 another group of activists displayed banners from the balcony. One set of banners said “Nuclear Weapons = Terrorism.” Another set said “Less Talk, Disarm.” Police quickly grabbed the banners and took them away, arresting five activists.

17 activists were arrested in the Die-In
(Photo: Tom Keough / NLN)

At that time 17 more activists staged a die in. Police looked on for about ten minutes before starting to arrest them. All who were arrested were released at 10 a.m. with a ticket. The National Lawyers Guild provided a legal observer to monitor the situation and help those who had been arrested.

View Photos From The Action…

Posted by Tom Keough - | News

“One Race, One World, One Love — Is It Not Worth It?”
(Photo: Tom Keough / NLN)

NEW YORK — May 2, 2010. On Sunday thousands marched to show opposition to nuclear weapons — activists from around the globe walked across town for peace.

The march began with a rally at Times Square and ended with a rally and educational and organizing gathering at the UN .

The Times Square rally highlighted speakers from Japan, survivors of the bombings and the aftermath. One very interesting speaker was a left political leader from Korea who strongly opposes the governments of North and South Korea — and the U.S. occupation. She opposes Korean nuclear weapons development but also fears the potential for U.S. use of nuclear weapons against North Korea.

The march was very well received by New Yorkers and tourists. The majority of marchers were people who flew to New York from Japan. Much of the organizing was done by people from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These people know more than any one about the death, pain, birth defects and long term cancer from nuclear weapons.

German activist Christiane Reymann of
sent fraternal greetings to NLN
(Photo: Tom Keough / NLN)

In addition to the huge Japanese contingent, a large group of marchers were from France. The Scottish CND was also present, as were peace activists from Italy, Puerto Rico, New Hampshire, Vermont, Virginia, Detroit, California and upstate New York.

One of the major organizers of the event was the International Trade Union Confederation. ITUC collected SIX MILLION NINE HUNDRED AND ONE THOUSAND AND THIRTY SEVEN petition signatures — demanding that the nuclear weapons states destroy their nuclear weapons. The Japanese Trade Union Confederation did a lot of the work. A petition with over a million signatures is a staggering feat – six times that amount is unheard of.

The march ended at the United Nations where marchers could see the boxes of signed petitions from around the world. Organizers set up a peace fair at the U.N. There was a stage, a visual display and informational tents. Over two dozen groups sponsored exhibitions.

Although this was not a labor event several unions participated. The Japan Federation of Co-op Workers Union gave away hundreds of bright green scarves, The Japan Printing and Publishing Workers Union was also present and the CGT represented France.

A Japanese protester — with an 1199SEIU bandana
(Photo: Tom Keough / NLN)

U.S. unions were noticeably absent, perhaps being unable to get there members out for what would have been the third march in four days. One U.S. union that did make an appearance was 1199SEIU. Union faithful gave out scarves labeled “Abolish Nuclear Weapons 1199SEIU.”

View Photos From The Event…

Posted by Diane Krauthamer - | News

The IWW marched on May Day
(Photo: Diane Krauthamer / NLN)

NEW YORK — May 1, 2010. There is a spirit of resistance amongst the millions of underpaid and overworked New Yorkers, and once a year, thousands of them join together in the streets of Manhattan to celebrate the real International Workers’ Holiday, May Day.

The Rude Mechanical Orchestra
(Photo: Diane Krauthamer / NLN)

With the sun shining and the sound of music blasting, dozens of labor unions, community and immigrant rights activists, political groups, religious organizations and elected officials from the New York metropolitan area kicked off this year’s May Day at Foley Square with a rally and march through downtown Manhattan.

In recent years May Day has been a day of defending immigrant rights
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

The event was organized by the Alliance for Labor & Immigrants Rights & Jobs For All, an alliance of more than 30 city and regional organizations, including national and local officers and members from the Amalgamated Federation of State and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the Communications Workers of America (CWA), Domestic Workers United, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Transport Workers Union (TWU), the United Auto Workers (UAW), the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and the United Steelworkers (USW). The rally also had a strong showing from the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), and community groups Make the Road New York and the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition.

The struggle for a living wage continues
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Demonstrators came together to demand the basic respect that all New Yorkers deserve, and showed support for living wage jobs, workers’ rights and community benefits for millions of low wage workers throughout the city. With Brooklyn-based radical marching band the Rude Mechanical Orchestra playing songs of resistance like “Bella Ciao,” the crowd queued up and walked down Centre Street, looped around City Hall Park, up Broadway and back over to Foley Square for a rally with speeches delivered by elected officials, and labor and community leaders.

Protesting the Arizona Race Law
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

While many of the demonstrators carried signs and chanted slogans which opposed the recent adoption of SB 1070 in Arizona — a bill which essentially legalizes racial profiling and strips undocumented citizens of essential rights — the demonstration did not turn a blind eye to the problems that rest here in the “melting pot” of the world.

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

All too regularly, undocumented workers are paid less than the minimum wage and are forced to work more than 40 hours per week without receiving the legally required overtime pay. Many times they work in unhealthy or hazardous conditions, and are subject to a multitude of other labor violations. But immigrants are not alone in experiencing the brunt of such labor violations. Millions of workers in the industries that keep the city running and keep the economy bustling are paid at or around the minimum wage, denied overtime pay, receive little or no benefits, and are discriminated against when they complain or attempt to form into a union.

The Irish-American Labor Coalition
(Photo: Diane Krauthamer / NLN)

According to the National Employment Law Project’s recent report which surveyed 1,432 low-wage workers in New York City, titled “Working Without Laws: A Survey of Employment and Labor Law Violations in New York City,” approximately one out of every five workers are paid less than the legally required minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. More than half of these workers are underpaid by more than $1 per hour. Meanwhile, approximately 25 percent of low-wage workers in New York are denied overtime pay, and a majority of those who said they were denied this legally required time-and-a-half pay had worked an average of 13 hours per week in overtime. Additionally, 42 percent of the workers who complained of such lousy conditions or attempted to form a union were retaliated against. Workers reported that their hours and/or pay was cut, people were fired or suspended, and bosses threatened to call immigration authorities.

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

The illegal workplace violations are just one part of the problem. With 10 percent of the city’s population receiving unemployment benefits, New Yorkers are struggling to get by. This figure has dropped since December 2009, when the unemployment rate was 10.6 percent — its highest in nearly 17 years — but much of the labor movement is in agreement that job creation is not enough for hard-working New Yorkers. Labor unions in New York and throughout the country are demanding that employers guarantee a living wage with benefits, and the right to organize into a union without threat or intimidation.

The National Writers Union marched on May Day
(Photo: Larry Goldbetter / NWU)

In the face of rampant discrimination and the stripping of labor rights, New Yorkers proved once again that the spirit of resistance is as powerful as it was in 1886, when thousands walked off their jobs, striking for the eight-hour work day. Many things have changed since then, but one thing remains the same: New York is still a union town.

View Photos From May Day

A protester urges labor to “Reclaim America”
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

NEW YORK — April 29, 2010. Thousands of union members marched down Broadway on Thursday. They were separated from traffic by a long row of police but in the end a protester’s sign found its way to the top of a tour bus.

Tom Good and Larry Goldbetter
(Photo: Daniel Millstone / NLN)

Larry Goldbetter, president of the National Writers Union (United Auto Workers Local 1981), and a few thousand of his closest friends in the labor movement, including UAW members from several locals, gathered outside City Hall on Thursday afternoon.

Goldbetter and the UAW were present to take part in the “Good Jobs Now – Make Wall Street Pay” march and rally. Organized by the AFL-CIO, the march demanded that Wall Street banks: “1. Pay your fair share to restore the jobs you destroyed. 2. Stop fighting financial reform. 3. Start lending to communities, to small business and to others starved for credit so they can create jobs.”

The UAW contingent
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

The UAW contingent included members of the Legal Services Staff Association (Local 2320), the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys (Local 2325), the Technical Office Professional (TOP – Local 2110), the National Writers Union (Local 1981), and officials from UAW Region 9A. This reporter is a member of Local 1981, the Writers Union.

Members of the Jewish Labor Committee
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Near the UAW crew were members of the Transit Workers Union Local 100, Communications Workers of America Locals 1180, 81359 and 1033, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3, the United Federation of Teachers and the Jewish Labor Committee. Marching with the workers was a contingent from Veterans For Peace (Chapter 34). Numerous other unions and political organizations streamed past City Hall enroute to their meetup points. Daniel Millstone, columnist from the Daily Gotham, was also spotted.

Judith and Daniel Millstone
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

The march kicked off around 4:30 p.m. and the UAW contingent found themselves marching behind a stage prop. A one-dimensional representation of a home, perpendicular to the UAW contingent — but very visible to tourists passing by on siteseeing buses, was pushed down Broadway by a group of Theatrical Teamsters. Nailed over the front door of the “house” was a big red sign that said “Bank Foreclosure.” The prop got a lot of attention from onlookers, film crews and the otherwise disinterested NYPD officers flanking the protest.

A prop that hit home
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

It appeared the fear of losing one’s home resonated.

At one point the road narrowed and a tour bus passed very close to the protesters’ ranks. A marcher handed a sign up to a tourist sitting in the open-top bus. A short time later the bus could be seen making its way down Broadway, passing the famous bronze bull, with the tourist waving his new sign. It said, “People First Economy!”

(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)


During the rally outside City Hall, conversation in the UAW ranks turned to New York City’s Congressional Delegation and conservative Democrat Mike McMahon who represents the 13th Congressional District — Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn. McMahon has angered many in the labor movement, particularly health care workers in 1199SEIU, by his opposition to health care reform. Seen by some in his district as a “DINO” — a Democrat In Name Only — McMahon is unpopular with progressives who want him out. George Albro, a member of UAW Local 2325 (Legal Aid Attorneys) and the Working Families Party, was adamant that Brooklyn attorney Steve Harrison should be pressed to run against McMahon in a primary. Goldbetter agreed — and the two activists consented to say so on camera.

(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

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