Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Democracy Now: Immigrant Rights

Up to 2 Million March in National Day of Action for Immigrant Justice
As many as two million people took to the streets in more than 100 cities and towns across the country on Monday to march for immigrants' rights. Undocumented workers, legal immigrants, labor unions, immigrant rights advocates and their supporters demonstrated in what was billed as the National Day of Action for Immigrant Justice. In New York, more than one thousand demonstrators crossed the Brooklyn Bridge and packed the streets in lower Manhattan for a rally near City Hall. In Atlanta, as many as 80,000 people flooded the streets. In Phoenix, an estimated 100,000 rallied at the Arizona Capitol. 25,000 marched in Madison, Wisconsin. 10,000 in Boston. 8,000 in Omaha, Nebraska. The rallies Monday followed a day of demonstrations in San Diego, Miami, Birmingham, Alabama, Utah, Idaho and Iowa. A rally in Dallas drew half a million people, the largest protest in the city's history. In Washington DC, hundreds of thousands streamed past the White House to a rally on the National Mall. The demonstration took place just yards from the Capitol, where Senators last week failed to reach agreement on wide-ranging immigration reform that would allow the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants living in this country a chance to work here legally and eventually become U.S. citizens. We'll spend the hour looking at the growing immigrant rights movement after headlines.

French Government Backs Down on Unpopular Job Law
In other news, France has scrapped a widely unpopular job law that would have made it easier for employers to fire young workers. French President Jacques Chirac announced the decision following two months of protests attended by millions of people. Student groups and unions hailed the decision as a major victory over a measure they claimed would have only worsened job security in France. Chirac said the measure would be replaced by a new initiative to help disadvantaged young people find work.

British Inquiry Rules Israeli Soldier Deliberately Shot Peace Activist
In Britain, an official inquiry into the Gaza shooting death of British peace activist Tom Hurndall has ruled he was deliberately targeted by an Israeli soldier. Coroner Andrew Reid said he would ask the attorney general to look into prosecuting the soldier's commanders. The Israeli government boycotted the entire proceedings. Hurndall was shot in April 2003 as he tried to protect Palestinian children from Israeli tanks. He was in a coma for nine months before dying in a London hospital.

No Denial From Bush on Iran Attack Plans
In his first public comments on Iran since reports emerged that his administration has drawn up plans for an attack, President Bush was dismissive -- but did not issue an explicit denial: "The doctrine of prevention is to work together to prevent the Iranians from having a nuclear weapon. I know -- I know we're here in Washington; you know, prevention means force. It doesn't mean force, necessarily. In this case, it means diplomacy. And by the way, I read the articles in the newspapers this weekend. There was just wild speculation, by the way. What you're reading is wild speculation, which is kind of a, you know - happens quite frequently here in the nation's capital."
The issue has received renewed attention following a recent piece by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker. The article cites defense officials saying the Bush administration has drawn up elaborate plans to use tactical weapons against Iranian nuclear sites. Seymour Hersh was also in Washington Monday, where he discussed the possibility of a US attack. Hersh said: "It's going into what they call operational planning, in which there's serious, consistent very carefully drawn up bombing campaigns and what you will. I mean, there's no decision made about what to do but it's not just pie in the sky, this is serious stuff."

The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by West, Molly, Keesha and Zach. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for April 11, 2006

- Up to 2 Million March in National Day of Action for Immigrant Justice
- No Denial From Bush on Iran Attack Plans
- Bush Silent on Whether He Authorized Plame Leak to Reporter
- Support for President, GOP-led Congress At New Lows
- Berlusconi Opponent Claims Victory in Italian Elections
- French Government Backs Down on Unpopular Job Law
- Chavez Threatens US Ambassador's Expulsion
- British Inquiry Rules Israeli Soldier Deliberately Shot Peace Activist
- Ex-Lt. Gen. Calls on Rumsfeld to Resign
- DA To Press Duke Rape Case Despite DNA Results
- TWU Head Sentenced to 10-Day Prison Term Over Transit Strike

Los Titulares de Hoy: Democracy Now!'s daily news summary translated into Spanish

Immigrant Rights Protests Rock the Country: Up to 2 Million Take to the Streets in the Largest Wave of Demonstrations in U.S. History

In an unprecedented wave of protests, as many as two million people took to the streets Monday in more than 100 cities and towns around the country to march for immigrant rights. We hear some of the speakers at the largest rallies in New York and Washington and we speak with some of the demonstrators about why they are taking to the streets. [includes rush transcript]

Publisher of Texas Spanish-Language Daily on Immigrant Protests: "This is a Personal Issue...A True Political Mobilization"

Texas has seen some of the largest immigrant rights protests over the past three days. On Sunday over a half-million people filled the streets of Dallas in the city's largest civil rights march ever. We go to Dallas to speak with Gilbert Bailon, publisher and editor of Al Dia, a Spanish-language daily that serves North Texas.

Dallas High School Student Describes Organizing Mass Walkout

We speak with Gustavo Jimenez, a junior at Duncanville High School who helped lead a student walk-out in Dallas last month that saw thousands of students leave classes to protest proposed anti-immigrant legislation.

Eighth Grader Commits Suicide After Being Threatened by School Official With Jail Time for Organizing Walkouts

An eighth grader in California killed himself two weeks ago after being threatened by a school official for participating in the student immigrant rights walkouts. Anthony Soltero, 14, died after he shot himself in the head on March 30th. We speak with the attorney representing Soltero's mother.

Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson Reacts to Unprecedented Immigrant Rights March

In Salt Lake City, as many as 25,000 people took to the streets on Sunday to march for immigrants rights in what may have been Utah's largest demonstration ever. We speak with Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson.

Immigrant Rights Marches Likened to Second Civil Rights Movement

Many are likening the extraordinary national mobilization for immigrant rights to a second civil rights movement. We go to Birmingham, Alabama to speak with the Rev. Lawton Higgs of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

The court martial of Dr. Malcolm Kendall-Smith has begun in England. Kendall-Smith served to two tours in Iraq but last year refused to return. Kendall-Smith entered a plea of not guilty. The Australian born Kendall-Smith holds dual citizenship (New Zealand and Great Britain). The court martial proceedings are "expected to last three days" and conviction could result in "an unlimited jail sentence." As to the issue of what changed, Kendall-Smith has maintained that last year he grasped that the war was illegal.

Kendall-Smith's attorney read his client's statement into the record:

"For me to comply with an order which I consider to be illegal, places me in breach of domestic and international law, something that I am not prepared to do," the statement said.
"I have two great loves in life: medicine and the Royal Air Force. To take this decision saddens me greatly, but I have no other choice," it added.

While the judge has declared the issue of the illegal war's legality isn't relevant to the case, Green Party MP Keith Locke had registered support for Kendall-Smith via a letter which concludes:

"I am proud of my compatriot, Flight Lieutenant Kendall-Smith, in courageously challenging the legality of the war regardless of the personal consequences."

More information is in Pru's highlight which is going to be the only highlight for this entry. But Iraq? Let's start with news of "markets." Australia's ABC reports: "As the oil-for-food inquiry drags on, new figures show US wheat exports to Iraq over the past year have grown almost five-fold." Tensions brew between the United States and "coalition" partner Australia. In Baghdad, which had been left for Iraqis to patrol, US troops are again on the streets, the Associated Press reports. By the way, for the months (we're on the eleventh day), the fatality count for US troops stands at 26 currently. In Basra, Reuters notes the "abnormaly high mortality rate" for infants which, along with unsafe water and other traditional causes, can also be attributed in Basra to the lack of ventilators, I.V. fluids, and fully staffed nursing departments. Khalid Ala states: "We've asked for help from the Ministry of Health, but they only tell us they don't have money to supply hospitals. They tell us we must wait for investment which could takes months." In Mosul, KUNA reports, the corpses of two Iraqis were found and three members of the Iraqi army were killed. Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports that the discovery of the corpses of eleven youg men in Mussayeb. CNN reports that at least three people are dead and nine wounded as a result of a mini-bus bombing.

Before we get to Pru's highlight . . . What follows is a combination of sections I typed at lunch and sections that have been dictated more than once plus a member sharing her own experience. If my narrative has a start-stop feel or if the tenses change, we'll all just have to live with it. Thank you to Diana for permission to post her remarks.

Gilbert Bailon apparently has his own award from this community: Most Despised Guest ever on Democracy Now! They've had people from the right, from the left, from the center, but Bailon's boos and hisses conveyed in e-mails put him far ahead of everyone else.

I haven't listened (or seen) anything today but the headlines. The hope was to knock this entry out during lunch time with Jess, Ava and myself all hitting the e-mails (members account only) for any highlights. Didn't quite happen. "Oh look! Another e-mail on Bailon," pretty much sums up the lunchtime conversation on our part. So this entry was put on hold and added to repeatedly.

Apparently Bailon makes a lame statement about the Mexican flag. I noted here last week:

I'm not in the mood for nonsense today. That includes the gatekeepers who want to gripe at the young adults who bring flags of Mexico to a protest -- exactly where do they think many of the immigrants targeted are coming from? Ohio?

As Kat noted, those remarks were made as a direct result of complaints from students participating in the demonstrations. Bailon?

Members from his area were quite vocal.

"Belo flunky" was one of the kinder remarks.

Al Dia -- who owns it? Belo.

Because apparently DFW can't have enough of Belo.

I'm not clear on all the comments so I'll just note that DFW refers to the Dallas-Fort Worth area and that we'll focus on Dallas (proper) which I did grasp. In Dallas, Belo owns Dallas Morning News. The only English language daily based in the city. It also owns WFAA (channel eight). Wow. "They own a daily and a TV channel?" We're not done yet. They own channel 52 (no call letters given in the e-mails). So they actually own two broadcast channels. And the English language paper. And the Spanish language paper. (And a paper in Denton.) What else? They own the local cable news channel. In addition the Al Dia (a daily that's given out for free), they have another daily entitled Quick.

Members do not like the Dallas Morning News (or Belo) for many reasons. If you are someone who was bothered by Bailon's remarks, imagine being one of the Dallas members who can get those types of remarks in three daily papers, on two broadcast stations or on the local cable news station.

I didn't hear the interview. (I heard the headlines and that was it.) This section on Belo/Bailon has been written, rewritten, dictated and now dicated again. "It is what it is" to be Kat about it. His opinions are probably very popular in many boardrooms. They have little to do with the student activism.

Diana said we could share her e-mail. She went to the protest last Sunday with her husband and children:

Watching Bailon this morning, I wondered where he was? In the multi-level Belo building looking down on City Hall? He didn't really seem to have anything to share. His comments were those of someone who had read Monday's coverage. Was he there getting a story or was he just watching from his office?
Here is what I saw. Sunday, we drove downtown. We parked at the West End Transfer Station which has parking lots on either side. My husband didn't have any one dollar bills, our kids claimed they had no cash on them and I had left my purse at home since we would be marching. He wasn't going to stick a ten dollar bill in the board so he said we'd just pay the ticket.
We walked to the Church where people were already gathered well before the one o'clock start of the march. At first, it was like small waves were moving forward along the march route. The police had set up barriers along the route. My family was in the third or fourth wave and the police were behind the barriers, by their squad cars. All the sudden, they go rushing to their cars. I look over my shoulder and see all these people pouring in behind us.
They got out of their cars eventually but still seemed nervous. Some of then played with a black device that extended out like a wand.
There was no reason for them to be nervous. It was a peaceful march. As we headed for City Hall and the stage set up by the Convention Center, there was a young man who threw a water bottle and some young people around us chanted "Not cool! Not cool!" which pretty much ended that.
We were in the early waves, the third or the fourth, but by the time we got closer the stage, we weren't marching because there was no room left. I don't think I had realized how many people were taking part until right then. We couldn't move any further forward and I looked behind us and saw a sea of people.
The speeches rallied us and I will agree with Billie that Domingo Garcia gave one of the best speeches. So did Bishop GrahmannIt, Texas senator Royce West and the young man they had on Democracy Now! today. It seemed hotter during the speeches but that probably had a great deal to do with the packed in factor. And with the way the weather's been, we had heavy rains and flooding two Sundays before, everyone was probably just glad it was dry. As the speeches ended and people began dispersing, my husband suggested we go into the Convention Center and relax there for a bit to avoid the huge traffic jam. This sounded like a nice and thoughtful idea until we approach and he pulls out tickets. The Convention Center was having a car show. We looked around for about thirty minutes and then headed back towards the parking lot. There were crowds of people still.
As we passed the McDonalds, we saw the staff out in the parking lot with trays of hamburges piled on. Demonstrators had gathered and the staff was selling the burgers for an even dollar. I'm guessing that making change with so large a crowd would have been a nightmare. My oldest, who said he didn't have any money when we were parking, suddenly was waving three one dollar bills. Which was fine with us but not with him when he found out he would be sharing the burgers with his brother and sister.
This was a nice chance to talk and find out why others decided to demonstrate. A young woman who was a college student, there with her boyfriend and two children, said she was there for her father who had come here for Mexico but she had just marched and not chanted because she'd never learned Spanish. Most of the people in the McDonalds parking lot were college students or families or both. I checked with others to see if they'd noticed many counter-demonstrators. There were four that I had seen. A small number had stopped one group of students after the march and shook their hands. The students said they were surprised when they had been called over by the men but everything was "cool." Pizza Patron and ice cream sellers had been at the rally and one young man said that what they needed at the rally was a water vendor. At the rally, a young woman had been lifted up from the crowd because she had passed out. But most people just mentioned their throats being dry from the chanting. I had noticed quite a few children in the march but it really registered at the parking lot since so many families had gathered there.
We then walked a block over and a block up to get to our car. The West End Transfer Station is both a train stop and a bus depot. A huge amount of people were waiting. Our car was near the train stop and I felt very sorry for the people in the train that was departing because they were really packed in tight. Police officers had announced when the train facing us was full and prevented anyone else from boaring that train. My oldest son saw a young woman from his school and her sister so we invited them to ride with us. While he tried to play it casual in the car, my two other children couldn't stop talking about all the people. My husband wondered if it would make any difference and the rest of us all agreed that it would. It wasn't just Latinos. We showed up in large numbers but there were others too. African-Americans came out to show their support as did Anglos. I even saw a group that had signs that said they had immigrated from Iran. So keep your fingers crossed and maybe they are hearing all of us in Washington.

Again, thank you to Diana. In the earlier part of her e-mail (not posted at her request) she was especially vocal in her disappointment with Bailon. Due to the number of e-mails from members in that area expressing their disappointment, I asked Diana if we could share her's here and she was kind enough to say yes. Gina and Krista are attempting to put together a round-table of members who participated in Dallas or Fort Worth so if you did and would like to be part of the roundtable, please e-mail them.

So we'll wrap this up with a highlight. Pru notes Kelly Hilditch's "Military families are set to lobby parliament" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

Three years into the war in Iraq, Tony Blair has yet to meet the families of the 103 British soldiers whose deaths he is responsible for.
On Wednesday 26 April Military Families Against the War are holding a lobby of parliament to demand that Blair meet with the families of those killed--and that British troops are withdrawn from Iraq.
Rose Gentle's son Gordon was killed in June 2004 while serving in Iraq. She told Socialist Worker, "We'll be lobbying MPs and laying a wreath at 10 Downing Street. It's disgusting that we have to fight to try and get Tony Blair to even meet with us.
"There are now 63 military families involved in the campaign. There's been a real surge in the number of people getting involved, including those who have family serving in Iraq.
"This is a significant shift. Of course people are concerned for the lives of their loved ones--but they also believe that this war is wrong and that our troops have no place in Iraq."
Dave Corrigan, a former member of the Territorial Army, was sent to Iraq in February 2003 as a paramedic. He says that even though he went there to save lives rather than take them, the things he saw in Iraq will stay with him forever.
"It's incredibly important that we get as many military families involved as we can," Dave told Socialist Worker. "This lobby is a chance for people who are directly affected by this illegal war to come face to face with those who sanctioned it.
"The anti-war movement has been absolutely brilliant. But there is a specific role for those of us who have served in the armed services, or whose sons, daughters, husbands or wives have done so.
"We need to let them know that we hold Bush and Blair responsible for the deaths of these soldiers and for the deaths of the Iraqi people."
One mother whose son recently returned from his first tour in Iraq said, "My son signed up when he was 16. I was there when he pledged allegiance to 'queen and country'--instead he was sent to Iraq to further Bush and Blair’s control of oil.
"I got involved with Military Families Against the War because I was trying to find out what was happening in Iraq. There was no point looking at what the BBC had to say--they don’t seem to bother with news any more.
"I will be at the lobby because this war is wrong. When we first invaded I believed Blair's lies about weapons of mass destruction, and I accepted that my son might have to fight. But since Saddam fell Iraq has gone from ridiculous to disastrous.
"Now they talk about regime change. That's not why they invaded. Democracy comes from the people taking power from their leaders, not because we decide to impose it on them.
"And the troops aren’t helping. From what my son has told me all the troops do is protect their bases and clear roads of bombs--bombs that have been put there to kill troops.
"We're the majority against the war, yet Blair refuses to represent our will. Perhaps we need regime change. If we're lucky we can topple Blair's statue."

Attacks on those unwilling to fight

The government has reacted to the embarrassment of people in the armed forces refusing to take part in the illegal war in Iraq by persecuting them.
Flight Lieutenant Malcolm Kendall-Smith, an RAF doctor, faces a court martial this week after refusing to return for a third tour in Iraq. He has doubly embarrassed the government by refusing to become a conscientious objector--arguing instead that the war in Iraq is illegal. His court martial was underway as Socialist Worker went to press.
Former SAS serviceman Ben Griffin is also facing legal action after describing the Iraq war as "illegal" in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.
The government’s solicitors say that Griffin has broken an agreement not to disclose any events from his time with special forces without the ministry of defence’s prior agreement.
He left the SAS in June of last year after three months in Baghdad, and is the first member of the SAS to refuse to fight alongside US troops because of his moral convictions.
His lawyer Simon McKay said, "The truth is that this is an attempt to gag Mr Griffin, not because he disclosed details about SAS operations but because he embarrassed the government."
New Labour now plans to crack down even on soldiers who speak out. Its latest Armed Forces Bill includes a clause threatening life imprisonment for those who refuse to serve in a "military occupation of a foreign country or territory".
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[Note: Post corrected for spelling of one word, at Diana's request, in her commentary. Diana caught it when it went up here.]