Philadelphia’s ‘1% mayor’ shouted down during budget speech

Philadelphia’s ‘1% mayor’ shouted down during budget speech

first_imgWW photo: Joseph PiettePhiladelphia — Hundreds of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 33 and District Council 47 workers, electricians, school crossing guards, firefighters, hospital workers, postal workers and community activists overflowed Philadelphia City Council chambers March 14 to protest Mayor Michael Nutter’s union-busting tactics.As Nutter, the mayor for the 1%, stepped to the podium to deliver his concession-laden budget address, workers rose to their feet en masse and drowned Nutter out using whistles, chanting “Contract Now” and stomping their feet until he was forced to flee the room.Nutter finally sought the security of his private conference room to deliver his address to Council members, out of earshot of both the public and the workers who stand to be hit hardest. The workers took their protest outside, marching around City Hall, blocking midday traffic and chanting “No contract, no peace!”AFSCME DC 33 President Pete Matthews addresses crowd outside City Hall after preventing Mayor Nutter from presenting his proposed budget for 2013-14.Nutter has refused to negotiate in good faith with the major city unions for more than four years, forcing the workers to work without raises. His four-year stall effectively meant pay cuts for 12,500 city workers, who were forced to cover increased out-of-pocket annual health care premiums. City workers haven’t had a general pay increase since mid-2007.Now, as he enters his last years in office, Nutter is attempting to force his version of “contract agreements” down the workers’ throats and setting a dangerous national precedent. Part of the “contract” Nutter wants to impose would drastically reduce guaranteed pension benefits for new workers, limiting them to one-quarter of final salary with additional city contributions paid to risky 401(k) accounts.Nutter is trying to overturn a 1993 Commonwealth Supreme Court opinion that a public agency cannot declare an impasse and impose contract terms on public employees unless union members are on strike.In the past few months, Nutter has refused to honor three separate arbitration agreements that would have given firefighters overdue pay raises, instead asking the courts to overrule them. In January, he went to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, asking them to allow him to impose a contract on DC 33.The administration’s anti-union drive has relied heavily on a corporate media campaign pointing to higher-than-average pension costs in 2012 to push the lie that workers’ pensions are the cause of the budget deficit. They neglect to mention that the higher payments were a one-time deal allowing the city to make up for reduced 2009 and 2010 pension contributions, which were approved by the state to get the city through the recession.The mayor is also pushing new property tax increases for 343,191 poor and working-class residents while giving Center City corporations a 20 percent tax cut, saving them millions of dollars in property taxes.Anti-union campaign under way in PennsylvaniaNutter’s anti-union campaign may well be the opening barrage for one of the largest “test case” attacks on public employees in a major U.S. city to date, and in a state with the fourth-highest percentage of unionized workers after California, New York and Illinois. More than 35 percent of Pennsylvania’s union members are in the public sector.Philadelphia has long been considered a “union town.”  Some of the first unions in the U.S. were started here, as well as some of the first public services. Today, a majority of the city’s public employees, including city, transit and postal workers, are African American.Nutter, who is African American and a Democrat, is also the president of the National Conference of Mayors. Now, in his final term, he is no doubt positioning himself for a higher national post.  Nutter was also one of the first U.S. mayors to introduce stop-and-frisk policing policies. His programs have all favored corporations at the communities’ expense.These attacks against city workers coincide with the Philadelphia school district leaking terms of a draconian contract “offer” that would reduce teachers’ pay and benefits to 1965 levels and eliminate seniority. In 2012, public school janitors, bus drivers, and maintenance and cafeteria workers represented by Service Employees Local 1201 were forced to take $100 million in concessions when the school district threatened to outsource their jobs.In addition to these local attacks, Pennsylvania state Rep. Darryl Metcalfe (R) is set to introduce so-called “right-to-work” legislation in Harrisburg. His bill, like the recently passed right-to-work law in Michigan, is based on an American Legislative Exchange Council model.Metcalfe, an ALEC member, was also the chief sponsor of Pennsylvania’s racist Voter ID legislation in 2011, anti-immigrant legislation in 2009 and a key supporter of the state’s “stand your ground” Castle Law.Meanwhile, the conservative Pennsylvania governor, Tom Corbett, spent the first half of his term gutting or outright eliminating social programs.  He has yet to directly take on the unions, but that seems to be about to change.Echoes of Madison Prior to the March 14 City Hall protest, DC 33 called for labor and community groups to sign on to an open letter that was published in 17 city papers. The letter called on Nutter and the City Council to fully fund vital services and respect the city’s working-class families. The day before the Council meeting, more than 200 representatives from several unions in the city held a press conference outside City Hall.Standing in Council chambers, surrounded by hundreds of city workers as we shouted down the mayor, the March 14 rally brought to mind images of the courageous workers, community activists and students who occupied the Capitol building in Madison, Wis., in the spring of 2011 to take a stand against union busting.  While Pennsylvania politicians may feel they have the upper hand, these actions by determined, angry and militant city workers and their supporters were a clear demonstration that the workers have not been defeated. Nutter may have fired the first round, but it looks like the workers are ready to fire back.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

Sundiata Sadiq, gentle warrior

Sundiata Sadiq, gentle warrior

first_imgHis name was Sundiata, and for over 40 years, he fought for the freedom of his people.Headquartered in Ossining, N.Y., Sundiata worked in, or led, a number of groups working for Black Liberation and Social Justice.To list them all would exhaust our time, but just to mention a few: He chaired CORE [Congress of Racial Equality] in Rockland County [N.Y.] back in 1968 and 1969; in the 1970s, he chaired the Ossining Black Liberation Front; and later he led the NAACP’s Ossining chapter in suits against police brutality and helped spark the nation’s first environmental racism suit against a notorious Ossining waste transfer station.He shined not just as a leader, but as an organizer, working for freedom for political prisoners.His quiet, reassuring manner attracted younger activists, who came to admire and respect Sadiq, for how he invited them into the Movement — and taught them about struggles before their time(s).Sundiata Sadiq was, despite being a warrior for freedom, a truly gentle man. He talked to people with respect and dignity; he welcomed them; he cared about them — and they could feel it.MOVE’s Pam Africa always spoke highly of him, and when she said, “That’s a good brotha,” you could feel it, for he was.When I met him a few years ago, it seemed like we’d known each other for years. He was kind, gentle, determined — and he loved his people.He was a Freedom Fighter, who will be sorely missed by his partner, Debra James; by his family; by his comrades; and by his people.Sundiata Sadiq — born July 1, 1955 — returned to his ancestors, the 29th of January, 2016.Peace, good brother.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

After top cop cancels forum, #CharlotteUprising marches on rich, white mall

After top cop cancels forum, #CharlotteUprising marches on rich, white mall

first_imgCharlotte, N.C.Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney had been set to hold a community forum on Sept. 29. Over a hundred community members who have been part of the ongoing Charlotte Uprising came to speak out, continue to raise the call for justice for Keith Lamont Scott and Justin Carr, and call for Putney’s resignation. But at the last minute, the CMPD called off the forum.In response, activists left the church, where the forum was to be held, in their cars in a “funeral-like” caravan. A rally was held at a shuttered library before a march that went to high-traffic shopping areas in South Charlotte – a predominantly rich, white part of town.The march passed restaurants and other shops with chants of “Black Lives Matter!” “Justice for Keith Scott! Justice for Justin Carr!” and “No justice, no peace! No racist police!”South Park Mall was just ahead as the march made its way forward. South Park is the largest mall in North Carolina — and one of the most profitable in the country — and includes many high-end retail stores. After marching down into the parking lot and circling the outside of the mall, the demonstration headed inside.The energy was electric as chants from megaphones bounced off the high ceilings. Workers from nearby stores, many of whom were Black and Brown, came out and joined the chants, cheered on the demonstration, and raised their fists in the air. Some even joined the demonstration, as many of the stores closed early and locked their doors. It was another economic blow the Charlotte Uprising has dealt to business since the rebellion broke out, causing upwards of tens of millions of dollars to the economy.After winding through the mall and holding down chants in the central rotunda, the march pressed forwarded and continued on to other nearby shopping areas. More actions and demonstrations are planned for the days ahead as the Charlotte Uprising continues to build.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

Freedom fighters converge in Mississippi

Freedom fighters converge in Mississippi

first_img‘In 2016, SHROC continues to be uncompromising in its values and its commitment in uplifting a radical, multi-generational human rights agenda that is rooted in anti-capitalism, anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism and anti-white supremacy.’ – Yolande TomlinsonJackson, Miss. – The Southern Human Rights Organizing Conference celebrated 20 years of convergences Dec. 9-11 in Jackson, Miss. Organized by Jaribu Hill from the Mississippi Workers Center for Human Rights, and held at Tougaloo College, a historically Black college rooted in the Civil Rights Movement, this SHROC was dedicated to “Local Human Rights and Social Justice Activists and Martyrs” such as Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, Fannie Lou Hamer, Medgar Evers, Annie Devine, Nubia Lumumba, Victoria Gray Adams, Dr. L.C. Dorsey and other freedom fighters from the South, and those from beyond such as Fidel Castro.The conference theme, “Forward Ever, Backward Never: 20 Years of Advancing a Global South Agenda for Human Rights,” focused on many struggles across the Southern region including panels on “Smashing Patriarchy: From Black Power to Black Lives Matter and Beyond” and “Strike Back Against Empire: Building International Solidarity.”“In 2016, SHROC continues to be uncompromising in its values and its commitment in uplifting a radical, multi-generational human rights agenda that is rooted in anti-capitalism, anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism and anti-white supremacy,” stated Atlanta-based conference organizing committee member, Yolande Tomlinson.She continued, “The need is not just to lift up needs of women, but to explicitly name patriarchy, the system of the male supremacy and domination that sits at the root of gender domination.”Over the last 20 years, SHROC has helped Southern organizers to understand their work within an international human rights framework. Participants were reminded of the role that the Black freedom struggle has played to elevate all struggles for social and economic justice within the United States.The conference has always been a place where Southern labor organizers come together to share their strategies and support each other’s campaigns. The Southern Workers Assembly hosted a meeting to continue to build a Southernwide social movement to organize labor in the South, along with supporting a proposal to build a National Assembly for Black Liberation.The conference raised the issues of supporting the freedom of political prisoners and going to the United Nations to demand reparations for descendants of slaves. Standing Rock and other important struggles were given attention.A main feature of the conference was support for 5,200 autoworkers at Nisson in Canton, Miss.Solidarity with Nissan workersOne of the main features of the conference was support for 5,200 autoworkers at a plant in Canton, Miss., who manufacture Nissan cars. A large majority of the workers are Black. There has been a 13-year effort to organize a union at this plant. Over 40 percent of the workers there are part-time workers, making it very difficult to organize. The workers have reported two deaths in recent years. They are still fighting for justice.The campaign is picking up steam after support from 35 French and European policymakers, who signed a letter asking Nissan to adopt a position of neutrality toward union organizing efforts in Canton.The French government owns 20 percent of shares of Renault-Nissan, which in turn is the largest shareholder of Nissan. In June, Christian Hutin, a member of the French National Assembly, visited Mississippi on a fact-finding mission, but Renault-Nissan declined to meet with him.‘This is not just a Nissan problem. These problems are happening all over the state of Mississippi.’ – Ernest WhitfieldThe conference held a solidarity rally Dec. 10 in front of the plant where Nissan workers Morris Mock and Ernest Whitfield reported that Nissan has received $1.3 billion in tax incentives to operate the plant in Mississippi — money that could have gone to schools, hospitals, levees, roads and other needs, not corporate profits.Whitfield stated earlier in the day: “We need auction block redemption. This is not just a Nissan problem. These problems are happening all over the state of Mississippi with employers.”Monica Moorehead spoke on behalf of Workers World Party at the rally, stating: “ Nissan made over $4 billion in profits last year off of the low wages of workers in Mississippi. Workers’ struggles should have no borders because the exploitation by capital knows no borders. Wouldn’t it be great if the French workers in Nissan could hold a solidarity picket for Nissan workers in Mississippi fighting for a union? That is concrete solidarity that would scare the bosses.”Members of Cooperation Jackson and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement shared throughout the conference the lessons they are learning in building self-determined cooperative economic systems, such as the recently established Freedom Farms.Sunday panels focused on “Building a Safe Black Society for a Black Future” and “Pathways to Liberation: Revolution, Reform and Movement Building.” Featured on the latter panel were U.S. vice presidential candidates Lamont Lilly from Workers World Party and Ajamu Baraka from the Green Party.The conference also hosted many international guests such as Ambassador Jesús “Chucho” García of Venezuela (U.S. Consulate) who spoke on the historical links between Black Liberation, South America and the Caribbean, especially Haiti.Also present was “Maria,” from the Donbass region in Ukraine, who talked about the U.S. role in violating human rights there, contrary to media lies. Charo Mina-Rojas, from the Black Communities’ Process in Colombia, was also present via Skype, speaking about the struggles in her country.Free the land! Organize the South!FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

Black woman freedom fighter, Ramona Africa, discusses MOVE and surviving the 1985 bombing

Black woman freedom fighter, Ramona Africa, discusses MOVE and surviving the 1985 bombing

first_imgFormer U.S. political prisoner Ramona Africa is the Minister of Communication for the MOVE Organization and a Philadelphia-based organizer with the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal. She is also the only living survivor of the1985 MOVE bombing, when the FBI and Philadelphia police dropped two C-4 bombs on her organization’s home, killing 11 people. Read along as we discuss the history of MOVE and what it means to be a freedom fighter.Part 1: Former U.S. political prisoner, Ramona Africa, discusses Mumia Abu-Jamal’s incarceration, U.S. prisons and Donald TrumpLamont Lilly:  Ramona, thank you for sitting down and sharing your time with me. For those who may be unfamiliar, what is the MOVE Organization? Who founded MOVE, and what is the organization about?Ramona Africa: The MOVE Organization is a revolutionary organization founded by a Black man named John Africa. John Africa brought people together from all different backgrounds, nationalities, religions, etc., and gave us one common revolutionary belief. (tinyurl.com/mslchoj)  That belief is in the sanctity and importance of all life, on all levels — without exception.  And it is that uncompromising belief and uncompromising commitment to life that has put us in direct conflict with the system that we’re living under, a system that doesn’t care anything about life — whether it’s the air, the water, the soil that feeds us. They don’t care.  But as members of MOVE, we are committed to life.We were animal rights activists long before that term was ever invented.  We were environmentalists before that term was ever invented. Everything that John Africa taught us has come full circle.John Africa had even coordinated a raw food diet for us. He put us in touch with what our natural diet is. People said we were crazy, that we were going to get sick and make our children sick. “You can’t eat raw food like that.  You have to cook it,” they would say. Now, what do we see some 45 years later? You see raw food restaurants, from the West Coast to the East Coast. You see nutritionists now teaching the benefits of raw food.  (tinyurl.com/maun9pn)John Africa even encouraged MOVE women to have babies naturally, at home. He would tell us: “When you’re pregnant, you’re not sick. You don’t need a hospital to do something as natural as giving birth.”  No other species of life goes to a hospital to have a baby.LL:  You’re so right, Ramona. I’ve never thought about it like that.RA:  Another thing, in terms of composting, there’s a new movement going on around this now. Well, MOVE was composting 45 years ago. But when we composted, people went crazy. But today, they put a cute little word on it called “composting,” and all of a sudden, it’s the “green” thing to do. We were also homeschooling 45 years ago. (tinyurl.com/lxph8gu)LL:  When did you become a member of MOVE? What period of life was this for you? How did joining MOVE change your life?RA:  [Laughing] Oh wow, Lamont! That’s a story within itself. I went to Catholic school during my high school years. I had begged my mother to transfer me to a public school, but she wouldn’t do it because she wanted me to have what she perceived as a “good education.” She was also telling me to be a doctor, be a lawyer, be anything you want to be. So I went with that and decided to focus on the legal system. When I graduated from West Catholic High, I ended up going to Temple University and took up a pre-law curriculum. (tinyurl.com/jakg7bg)It was in my last semester at Temple that I started a work-study program because I needed the money to pay for school. I got hired at Community Legal Services, a free legal aid agency. They assigned me to the housing unit. You can’t work in the Philadelphia housing unit without being an advocate for the poor. That’s when I first started getting active in the community. That period marked my first arrest at the Philadelphia City Council. I eventually had to go to court for that arrest and met a brother named Mel there. We exchanged numbers, and he would call me and tell me things that were going on. He called me one day and asked if I wanted to go to a meeting to plan a MOVE demonstration.I lived in West Philadelphia all my life. I had heard about MOVE, but I didn’t really know about MOVE. So I went to the meeting with him. We were supposed to go out that night after the meeting, but I got so wrapped up in the meeting, I wouldn’t go anywhere [laughing]. I was really impressed.The second time I was arrested, the sentencing judge gave me 60 days in the county jail, the “house of corrections.” But you know what? I tell everybody I owe that judge a nod of thanks — a million thank yous because she sent me to the county jail for two months — up close and personal with MOVE women. That was the best thing she could have ever done for me.  When I walked out, there was no turning back. I wanted to be like MOVE women and became a member.LL:  Do you remember the exact year you joined?RA:  Yes. It was 1979.LL:  It sounds like you found a higher level of thinking and self-fulfillment. It sounds like MOVE really provided a new sense of wholeness and purpose for you.RA: Yes, for me, but my mother had some issues. She was a beautician by trade, and obviously the first thing that struck her was my hair. She had a problem with my hair because from the time I was knee-high, she would quote “do my hair” by washing it, pressing it, straightening it and curling it.  So, when I let my hair grow and lock on its own, oh my goodness.  [laughing] She wasn’t too happy about that.This was after the Black Power Movement and long before the current period of being Black and unapologetic. (tinyurl.com/l3nuqbt)  A lot of sisters are rocking “naturals” now, but that wasn’t the case in 1979 and 1980. She also took issue with me not going to law school. I didn’t even go to my graduation at Temple University when I finished undergrad.LL: You mentioned “the system” earlier and what it had done. Can you take us back to May 13, 1985?  What happened that day?RA: The first thing that people should be aware of is that the bombing took place on Monday, May 13, but the cops came out en masse, surrounding our home, on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 12. They laid siege on our home, supposedly because neighbors were complaining about us. What MOVE was saying was that we weren’t denying that some neighbors had complaints about us, but name one community in this entire country where some neighbor doesn’t complain about the other.Not only that. When has this government ever cared about Black folks complaining about their neighbors? When did that start? Anyone who believes that is foolish. All you have to do is talk to the Osage residents who still remain there on Osage Avenue. Ask them who they’re complaining about now. They’ve been complaining about the government for the last 31 years because the U.S. government did them wrong. And they’re still pissed about it. Obviously, the U.S. government does not care about Black folks complaining about their neighbors or anything else for that matter. So that “complaining” excuse was just a lie.They came out there in May of 1985 to kill us, to kill MOVE — to silence our righteous protests, our unrelenting fight concerning the unjust imprisonment of our family members, the MOVE 9. [They were arrested under the false charge of killing a cop on Aug. 8, 1978.] That’s why the cops came out. (tinyurl.com/lotfuf9)They started just like they did in August of 1978, with the fire department [who take an oath to run into burning buildings and save lives]. But in May of 1985, they worked with the cops to kill off life, to kill off the MOVE organization. Firefighters turned on water hoses against us, with each hose pumping out 10,000 pounds of water pressure per minute. They had four of those hoses; that’s 40,000 pounds of water pressure per minute. This water was being pumped out for hours, but there was no fire.When that didn’t drive us out, they breached 3-inch holes in the connecting walls of our house. They wanted to blow holes into the walls to insert tear gas. At least that’s what they said. When they finished exploding what they claimed were 3-inch holes in the wall — the whole front of our house was blown away. So, when they started inserting tear gas, a lot of it was just coming right back out. That’s when they opened fire on us, and according to them, shot 10,000 rounds of bullets in on us in the first 90 minutes. They had to send to their arsenal for more ammunition.We were all in the basement. We heard this loud noise that shook the whole house. There was still a lot of tear gas in the house that had not found its way out yet, and it started getting a little warmer in there.As the smoke and gas got thicker, we were like, “Wait a minute, this is something else.” We were listening and could hear the tree in the back of our house crackling as if it were on fire. That’s when we realized that our house was actually on fire. We immediately tried to get our children, our animals and ourselves out of that blazing inferno. But at the point that we were trying to come out and could be seen trying to come out, the cops opened fire on us, forcing us back in.We tried several times to get out, but each time we were shot back into the house. This was a clear indication that they didn’t intend for any of us to survive that attack. But finally, like the third time, we knew that we would either choke to death and be burned alive, or we were going to be shot to death. So, we made one more attempt at it, to get out. I was closest and got outside the door. I got Birdie out.  Everybody was lined up to come out after us.It was not until they took me into custody and to the local hospital that I was looking for the rest of my family, but nobody came in. I’m in the hospital and wondering what was going on. I didn’t find out until I left the hospital and was taken to the police administration building [to the homicide unit]. Only then did I find out that there were no other survivors other than me and my young brother, Birdie Africa. (tinyurl.com/kfypm5n) The police were contemplating charging me with the murder of my family.LL: Are you serious?  That’s ridiculous!RA: Absolutely ridiculous! They charged me with everything they did: possession of explosives, arson, causing a catastrophe, attempted murder, simple and aggravated assault. But the charges and warrant they came at me with were all dismissed when I was able to challenge them in the pretrial. They eventually dropped those charges. Oh, and I forgot. They also threw in “terroristic threats,” which was ridiculous.LL:  So let me get this clear, Ramona. You survived two bombings, the bullets, the fire hoses, the tear gas. You’re out of the hospital, and the next thing you know you’re in the police department being charged with attempted murder and arson?RA: Yep. Yes, I was. And that was another eye-opener for me because when all the charges and the warrants that they came at me with were dismissed, it seems like anything that came from these bogus warrants would have to be dropped as well. If their reasons for being out there were invalid, then how could anything that was a result of their presence be valid? But they were never going to drop all the charges on me.LL: Did you serve time for any of those charges?RA: Yes. I did. First of all, I had a $4.5 million bail. $4.5 million! I was in jail from May 13 of 1985 until May 13 of 1992 because I was convicted of “rioting,” if you can believe that. I was sentenced to 16 months and seven years. When my 16-month minimum was up, I was told by the parole board that they would parole me, but only if I agreed to sever all ties with MOVE.  Sever all ties! And I wasn’t about to do that. Instead of being released at 16 months, I did the whole seven years.  (tinyurl.com/kty4waf)   .LL: Eleven people died May 13, 1985.  Excuse me — were murdered! You mentioned children earlier. How many children died in that bombing?RA:  Five children and six adults! And not one single official on any level was ever held accountable, ever charged with a single crime against MOVE. But yet, you have the MOVE 9 being called murderers and being imprisoned for 38 years, working on 39 now. Meanwhile, the people that murdered 11 of my family members — publicly on May 13 of 1985 — not one of them was ever held accountable.LL: The last question, Ramona, is in reference to the current movement that we’re actually living with right now — the Movement for Black Lives.  (tinyurl.com/lrb9p5d) As a new generation accepts the baton of mass resistance, freedom fighting and Black struggle, what words of advice would you share?RA: The first and most important thing is to never stop. Don’t ever stop pushing and fighting. Don’t ever give in! Be consistent. Don’t allow yourselves to be disillusioned. Don’t allow anyone or anything to buy you off. Don’t allow yourselves to be compromised or co-opted — because trust me — they will try.  ou can definitely believe that!This system will come at you with all kinds of things. All kinds!  But if you fall for it, you’re done. You’re done, and that’s what they bank on. They bank on people flaring up for an instant and then fizzling out.One last thing I really want the young people to remember. We do this work out of love, not hate. Love for life and the people. Long live John Africa!  Long live the revolution!  Ona move!Lamont Lilly was the 2016 Workers World Party, U.S. vice presidential candidate. In 2015, he was a U.S. delegate at the International Forum for Justice in Palestine in Beirut, Lebanon. He is also an activist and organizer in the Black Lives Matter movement.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

U.S. detains, tortures Philippine activist

U.S. detains, tortures Philippine activist

first_imgProtesters picketed the Portland, Ore., ICE office on April 20. Passing traffic supported them with honks, thumps up and raised fists. The demonstration was called by ICHIRP, Gabriela and Anakbayan and supported by Workers World Party.Jerome Aba, a 25-year-old peace activist from Mindanao, the Philippines, was detained Apriil 17 for 28 hours in isolation at the San Francisco International Airport by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Despite showing a valid visa, Aba suffered physical and psychological torture and was denied the right to a lawyer before being sent back to the Philippines.“The whole time we were outside the CBP office, the CBP implemented torture tactics used by the CIA in places like Guantánamo Bay, not something we expect to happen at an airport on U.S. soil, right here in the SF Bay Area,” said Terry Valen, president of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns. (facebook.com/ichrp.pnw)Aba came to the U.S. to participate in the “Stop the Killings Speaking Tour: The People’s Caravan for Peace and Justice in the Philippines.” He is the national chairperson of Suara Bangsamoro and co-chair of Sandugo Movement for Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self Determination.The caravan will travel to six major cities from April 20 through May 11. It will expose the human rights violations in the Philippines through testimonies from Filipino people who have witnessed grave abuses by the U.S.-backed Rodrigo Duterte regime.According to Valen, “The CBP lied in an apparent cover-up of their torture of Jerome. The reason for his detainment was very political, not an ‘unspecified problem’ or ‘very common glitch’ with his visa. They knew about his advocacy for Indigenous and Moro people and accused him of being a terrorist.“The only food they gave him had pork, in blatant disrespect to his Muslim religion, and they restricted water for him to drink. We are outraged and will continue to stage protests calling for Justice for Jerome!”Demonstrations to protest Aba’s treatment and demand his return took place in Washington, D.C.; New York City; Portland, Ore.; and Chicago, and will continue in a number of cities.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

Make the corporations, banks and Pentagon pay climate reparations!

Make the corporations, banks and Pentagon pay climate reparations!

first_imgThe Global Climate Strike of Sept. 20-27 calls for an unflinching examination of the roots of the climate crisis. Despite climate-denier claims, massive scientific evidence shows that the release of greenhouse gas emissions, mainly the burning of fossil fuels, has so destabilized the earth’s self-regulating system that humanity is now undergoing a cascade of unnatural catastrophes.In the past few years, we’ve seen historic levels of destruction and death in the Western Hemisphere — recently in the Bahamas, Puerto Rico and the eastern coast of the U.S. Every day we hear of some new climate tragedy elsewhere on the globe — from fires devouring the rainforests in the Amazon and Central Africa, to more intense storms and flooding, to glaciers rapidly melting, to 41 percent of global insect species declining over the past decade, which threatens “catastrophic consequences for both the planet’s ecosystems and for the survival of [humanity],” according to the journal Biological Conservation. (tinyurl.com/yxkhbbqc)But while this is a global crisis, it does not have to become an irreversible global catastrophe. There is evidence that headway can be made against this dire situation, which is caused not by “human beings” in general, but by an unsustainable global economic system: capitalism, the private ownership and production of anything that can be sold for private profit, where the bottom line beats out all other considerations.Cuba and China lead the way; capitalist U.S. holds back progressIn 2016, socialist Cuba, with its steadfast commitment to environmental health, including years of effort in reforesting, was recognized by the World Wildlife Federation as the only country in the world to achieve sustainable development. (tinyurl.com/yyh6nqxs)In addition, even Forbes business magazine this year had to admit: “China is set to become the world’s renewable energy superpower.” People’s China has demonstrated commitment, affirmed in 2014, to stopping the climate crisis. One example of many is that within four years it cut coal-plant air pollution on average by 32 percent in affected cities. (Workers World, April 23)Meanwhile, the U.S. has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Agreement, although this agreement is only a weak first step toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And the current administration, with its unchecked ownership by big business despite Trump’s “populist” veneer, is rapidly reversing regulations on pollution. From methane gas to chemical dumping to car emissions to the Pentagon’s toxic wastes, the U.S. is by far the world’s largest polluter.On the one hand, we have a U.S. government bought by and bound to capitalist profit – to hell with humanity and all life species. On the other hand, there are these two workers’ states, Cuba and China, that are proving that planned socialist economies are able to put people ahead of profits – and that must include the health of the planet.The engine that drives climate crisis is capitalism – a system incapable of planning for anything that could diminish the profits of the class that owns the means of production. The markets for stocks and bonds move up and down according to profit projections. Profits for the 1% take precedence over everything else, even if that means killing the earth and its peoples. The solution to this crisis is socialism, in which public ownership of the means of production enables society to carry out long-term planning for the good of the 99% of humanity and the survival of the planet. For youth especially, which system will control the future is a pressing question.An immediate demand: climate reparationsClearly, overturning capitalism is necessary to end the climate crisis. But what action is possible now, here inside the belly of the beast, while we pursue the road to socialism?We can demand and strike now for climate reparations. The climate criminals must immediately pay billions. These are Big Business – the polluting corporations and the banks that finance environmental destruction – and Big War – the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex that wage war for oil and profit. Fighting for reparations would be a significant pushback against capitalism while we struggle for system change.Reparations must go to Indigenous peoples globally, who have been in the lead to protect the planet while facing centuries of depredations on their lands and lives. Indigenous women and Two-Spirit people especially should be recognized for their leadership in organizing for the life of the globe – from Standing Rock in the U.S. to Brazil, India and Honduras. Reparations must address environmental racism aimed at people of color in the Global South, as well as in the U.S. – from the Black and Brown people inundated by corporate hog farm waste during hurricanes in North Carolina, to African-American communities, like Uniontown, Ala., used as dumping grounds for the debris of coal-fired plants.Reparations must go to whole countries devastated by U.S. war and sanctions for oil and profit – against Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Venezuela – and to compensate for the economic sabotage and efforts at regime change waged by the U.S., including Cuba and Central America. The impact of many of these wars has produced refugees, including climate refugees who can no longer sustain life in their homelands.For years, Big Business and Big War have seen the climate crisis approaching and have been drawing up their own, private plans for how to stay in business.The Peoples’ Power of the Climate Strike has its own plans for the future and can demand billions in reparations owed to the planet by capitalism. Those billions can be put to good use by Indigenous leaders, by organizers in local Black and Brown communities, by workers who unite their struggle against the bosses with the struggle for the environment, by activists and scientists dedicated to learning from the triumphs of Cuba and China.We must demand climate reparations – to build a global future on the road to socialism!FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

Youth, the workers and the struggle against war

Youth, the workers and the struggle against war

first_imgFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare this Excerpted from a talk given at the Jan. 9 Workers World Party forum in New York City,“The growing U.S. war threats against Iran and Iraq: Resistance and international protest plans.”As the U.S. continues its attacks on Iran, we must ask: How do today’s youth feel about the anti-war movement? The truth is that there is cause both for concern and for hope. Today’s youth witnessed the anti-war movement of 2003: the massive, beautiful outpouring of humanity, banded together in resistance to imperial war. And they also saw that war continue, unabated. They saw the unresponsiveness of the bourgeoisie. How does one react when they see millions making their voices heard, only to see those in power tune them out?And yet, today’s youth are moving further to the left every day. They are more critical of war. More critical of the lies of the imperialist state. Less willing to cheerlead the march to war.This is not a paradox. Nor have young people slid into the abyss of apathy, as many fear. The youth are critical of imperialism, and they are thinking critically about what it means to be anti-war. The youth are asking the question that needs to be asked: If holding a protest won’t stop the war, then what will? Young people today are not turning against anti-war protests, nor are they turning against anti-war protesters. Instead they are searching. They are searching for a long-term vision, for a path forward. With the audacity and arrogance of youth, young people are demanding not an opposition to war, but an end to war.Today’s youth believe that we stand now at an inflection point in history. That tomorrow will not be like yesterday. That the future and the past are in a fight to the death — and that the future will win. The youth do not want to march. The youth do not want to hold signs. The youth do not want to take a single step outside their homes unless that step is a first step on the road to revolution.But how? Do we abandon the methods of the past? No. Political agitation through protest is vital for raising consciousness. It also serves a second purpose — if we are willing to rise to the challenge. That challenge is to turn from a mere critique of state power and to embrace the power of the working class. The U.S. regime is the most powerful empire that has ever dominated the globe, and yet, its power is insignificant next to the strength of a united working class. A united working class — organized, educated and prepared for struggle. That must be our goal. Task of Marxist-Leninist partyIf we are willing to unite the working class, if we are willing to go among the members of our class — to organize them, to know them, to struggle with them — then our power will be limitless.This is the role of a Marxist-Leninist party: to engage relentlessly in deep organizing, training cadre organizers, going into unions, going into neighborhoods and forming the masses into political fighting units ready to wage revolutionary struggle. The path will be long and it will be hard.  At first the gains will be slow. The fear that energy is lost in vain will cast a dark shadow on the hope that we will succeed. But if we do this — if we have the courage to lead — then the youth will follow.Through organizing, we can do more than fight the U.S. war machine — we can break it. The second function of the protest action is the demonstration of peoples’ power. When the masses are organized with us, the protest action takes on a completely different political character. With the masses behind us, we can seize the vital points of capital. With the masses behind us, we can stop industry and halt commerce. With the masses behind us, we can shut down ports and block highways. With the masses behind us, we can finally run the fascist police out of our communities. With the masses behind us, we won’t have to ask for the wars to end, we will make them end, and we will bring the war machine tumbling to the ground.last_img read more

Step one, movement demands ‘DEFUND POLICE!’

Step one, movement demands ‘DEFUND POLICE!’

first_imgJune 8 — Today marks the two-week anniversary of the public legal lynching of George Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers.  Thousands have filed by his open casket to pay their respects. And on June 9, Floyd will be buried in his hometown of Houston. New York City protest.Within this two-week span, a rebellion has spread like wildfire, starting in Minneapolis, with the burning down of a police precinct, then throughout the U.S. in every state and then across the world in multiple cities on almost every continent.  Millions of people worldwide have been out in the streets in solidarity with the demand “Black Lives Matter,” now transformed into an international mass struggle.  This global rebellion has put the repressive police force on trial for all forms of brutality, especially murder, against Black and other people of color. But white supremacy has also been put on trial as the very foundation upon which police violence rests to safeguard profits for the rich.This rebellion has helped to generalize the issue of racist oppression by bringing international attention to others who have lost their lives besides Floyd — Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Manuel Ellis, Laquan McDonald, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Tony McDade, Sandra Bland and too many others. Within days, statues glorifying the Confederacy and other pro-slavery monuments have been physically removed or defaced by protesters. Officials, mainly in the U.S. South, were forced to bring them down by the rebellion.  The people of Philadelphia forced the city to once-and-for-all remove the repulsive statue and mural of fascistic former Mayor Rizzo.   In Bristol, England, a statue of a 17th century slave catcher was brought down, his neck stomped on and then thrown in the river.  Even the statue of the late British imperialist Prime Minister Winston Churchill was defaced with the word “racist.” The offensive statue honoring the colonial butcher of the Congolese people, King Leopold II of Belgium, was finally taken down in Antwerp, Belgium.  Along with resistance to police presence at protests has come an incredible amount of brutality and arrests in the thousands.  Protesters, young and old, Black, Latinx, white, Indigenous and Asian have been pepper sprayed and teargassed; injured by rubber bullets and swinging batons; and knocked to the ground.  These indiscriminate brutal attacks by the police have also happened to the media.This repression has not stopped the spontaneous mass outpouring of protests in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Philadelphia, Houston and elsewhere, despite curfews. The biggest protests so far took place last weekend in Washington, D.C., where “Black Lives Matter Plaza” was established by Black Mayor Muriel Bowser, along with humongous “Black Lives Matter” lettering painted on the National Mall in front of the White House. Next to it activists painted “Defund the Police.”Tens of thousands march in Philadelphia on June 6.Police budgets steal vital servicesWhile Congress is currently debating police “reforms,” legislation initially introduced by the Congressional Black Caucus, the Black Lives Matter movement has been demanding the defunding of police budgets for years.  Kailee Scales, managing director of Black Lives Matter Global Network, stated: “It is important to remember that modern-day policing has its roots in slave catching. These systems were created to hunt, maim, and kill Black people. “As we have seen in the example of George and many others in this month alone, the police are a force of violence that profiles, harasses, and inflicts harm on Black communities without accountability ― and with far too many resources.”  The police reportedly killed over 1,000 people in the U.S. in 2019, 25 percent of them Black.  (Huffpost.com, June 4)  The demand to “defund the police” has evolved into a major focus of this rebellion in light of all the budget cuts taking place for years in areas of social funding, especially health care, and in light of the COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate impact on communities of color.  The rebellion has helped to bring “defund the police” to the forefront and is heard the loudest from ground zero of the uprising — Minneapolis.    On June 7, at a rally in Minneapolis, the majority of that City Council — 9 of 12 members — jointly announced plans to defund and eventually disband the police department, receiving broad support.  This development will fuel the fires of national protests, which everyone will be gauging.In their joint statement, the council members commented, “Decades of police reform efforts have proved that the Minneapolis Police Department cannot be reformed and will never be accountable for its actions.  We are here today to begin the process of ending the Minneapolis Police Department and creating a new, transformative model for cultivating safety in Minneapolis.” (nymag.com, June 8)  The local group, Black Visions, first proposed the plan to the community and the City Council.   Minneapolis is one of the most segregated cities in the U.S.  This unprecedented rebellion has torn off the liberal facade this city has been hiding behind for years.  The city is 60 percent white, 20 percent African American and 10 percent Latinx.  The police department is 9 percent Black.  The overall percentage of arrests over the past 10 years has been 60 percent Black.  The overwhelmingly white police department has been an occupying force in the Black community, not to protect and serve.  Seventeen complaints, including murder, were made against Derek Chauvin, prior to him using his knee to murder Floyd.  Only one complaint was heard.   The City Council wants to use the police budget for other forms of public safety and social programs for the communities, especially mental health programs.  Whether this plan is actually implemented or not, especially with Mayor Jacob Frey expressing opposition, remains to be seen.  To bring it to fruition, it will take more sustained mass pressure to oppose any pushback. LA and NYC announce reductions in police fundingLos Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that $150 million of that city’s police budget will be used for social programs as part of its defunding process.  This is just a drop in the bucket, considering that the total annual police budget for LA in 2018 was over $1.5 billion, 25 percent of its total budget.  New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to reduce the gargantuan $6 billion 2019 police budget by $1 billion, which is around 8 percent of the total city budget.  New York City is the most populated U.S. city with 11 million people — the vast majority of them people of color.  It has the largest U.S. metropolitan police force, which has brutalized and detained thousands of protesters — some for days — over the past two weeks on behalf of Wall Street and big real estate interests.  Most of the protesters have finally been released, but repressive policy remains intact.Where the national debate goes, whether to defund, disband, dismantle or even to ultimately abolish the police, will depend a lot on the lasting power of the uprising and which organized voices have the most political influence.  That such a debate is happening now is an important, positive development.  It indicates that the angry and fed-up masses, led by the Black Lives Matter movement, not only want to be heard.  They understand that actions speak louder than words, and they want these actions, in the form of concessions, to take place sooner rather than later to help end racist violence and suffering.  FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

A second chance for Kushal

A second chance for Kushal

first_imgFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare this By Kushal K. ShahAs a child, I was a loner. I was not popular with my peers and I was the black sheep of my family. I had a speech issue and because of that I was picked on and made fun of.When it came to family outings, I was not invited. My family felt like I would be an embarrassment to them, so my siblings were invited and I was not.In school I proved to be better than other students in sports but was not selected to play due to my speech issues, and the very fact that I was not a popular kid.As a result, my childhood was very lonely.Later on during my childhood, things got really rough in my home. I started to suffer abuse, and I put forth every effort to hide it from school officials so they would not report it. One day I showed up at school and my teacher noticed the bruises all over me, so the state police were called. I was removed from my home and placed in a group home.From that point on, my juvenile years would be plagued by juvenile detention and group homes. At the age of 18 years and 20 days old, I was with an individual whom I considered to be a friend. And things went far out of whack, a crime took place, and I was charged with a shooting. Throughout the court proceedings, I was represented by a public defender and court-appointed counsel who did next to nothing for me. I wrote to the court complaining about my so-called counsel; however, my cries fell on deaf ears.Powerless to resist, I would plead guilty in order to avoid the death sentence. Without the help of a competent counsel, I knew that I did not stand a chance against the state’s prosecutor.I was sentenced to life in prison, and was initially placed in the Maximum Security Housing Unit. This is basically an isolation unit where there is no human contact. I became very depressed, lacking support, and I began suicide attempts. I felt hopeless and drained.At this point I started to fight my case on my own. I would spend hours reading legal cases and legal books. I became knowledgeable of the law and I started to find hope. I would write to random attorneys and ask them for their old law books.I made praying my daily routine. I knew without divine intervention I would spend the rest of my life staring at brick walls. I have sought forgiveness from the Almighty and I continue to do so. I know and understand that my fellow man will always pass unfair judgement, which is why I constantly seek the assistance of God.At this time I am litigating cases for other prisoners. I am often called upon for legal advice and assistance. I am currently fighting against Gilead Sciences for another prisoner. This company is selling toxic medication. … I am single-handedly fighting this corporation from a prison cell.I have received praise from attorneys for my work. My goal is to obtain a resentencing hearing, get out of prison and become an attorney. When I get released I can help other individuals better their positions. I would take a special interest in juvenile cases, because being passed around in the system at that age is traumatizing for a child. I understand their pain because I have experienced it myself. I want to use my mistakes and misfortunes to better other people’s lives.There is currently a U.S. Supreme Court case which criticizes sentencing young people to life in prison. I fall into that category.You can write me at:Kushal K. ShahJames T. Vaughn Correctional Center1181 Paddock RoadSmyrna, DE 19977last_img read more