Category Archives: Human Rights

Tell President Obama to take action to save the life of Troy Davis

Taken from the ANSWER Coalition’s website

The Obama/Holder Justice Department should launch a federal civil rights investigation right now into the case of Troy Davis and seek a stay of his execution that is scheduled for tonight at 7pm.

President Obama, who routinely lectures sovereign governments abroad about civil rights and human rights issues within their countries, has until now said nothing to the state government of Georgia that allowed racist police forces to intimidate and coerce witnesses in the effort to execute an innocent Black man.

It’s not too late to act. The clock is ticking before an innocent man is put to death.

Send a letter right this second to President Obama and Attorney General Holder insisting that he speak up and use the authority of the Presidency to prevent this outrage. Tell President Obama to order a Federal Civil Rights investigation into the case of Troy Davis.

You can also call the White House switchboard and tell them that you want President Obama to initiate a federal civil rights investigation and seek a stay of execution. Call the White House at 202-456-1414.

Background to the case of Troy Davis

More than 1 million people have signed a petition in support of Troy Davis. Demonstrations have taken place around the country and the world. Even the former director of the FBI has said that this execution is an injustice and should not go forward.

Of the nine witnesses, seven have recanted or altered their version of events. Five have signed statements saying they were coerced by police to testify against Davis, a common element of many racist “legal lynchings” targeting Black people. Three witnesses said that another man confessed to them that he killed the police officer.

The execution of Troy Davis shows with full clarity the true character of the racist legal system in the United States—its complete failing as any arbiter of justice.  Davis has accessed all allowed avenues of appeal in the U.S. justice system in his quest not be put to death, an innocent man.

The members of the politically appointed Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, impervious to any accountability to the people, have decided that they wish for Troy Davis to die. With their announcement today that they have denied clemency to Troy Davis, he is on course to be executed this Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 7pm Eastern, in the state of Georgia.

Absolutely no physical evidence has been found that implicates Davis in the killing. No murder weapon has ever been found, exposing yet another major gap in the prosecution’s case. This is the fourth time the state of Georgia has set an execution date for Davis, who was wrongly convicted of killing a police officer in 1989.

The ANSWER Coalition has been joining with hundreds of other organizations in demonstrations throughout the country in recent days and weeks.

There is worldwide opposition to Troy Davis’s execution. On Sept. 16, coordinated protests took place in cities all over the United States and the world.

Over 650,000 signatures in support of Troy Davis were delivered to the parole board. Now, over 1 million people have signed petitions in his support. Prominent signers include South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former President Jimmy Carter, more than four dozen members of Congress, and many celebrities.

The decision to deny clemency to Davis reaffirms the unabashed racism and bankruptcy of the justice system. We are staying in the streets to demand justice! Stop the execution of Troy Davis! End the racist death penalty!

Send a letter to President Obama and Attorney General Holder right now demanding that the Justice department order a Federal Civil Rights investigation into the case of Troy Davis. Prevent the the state sponsored murder of an innocent man.

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Filed under African Americans, ANSWER Coalition, Georgia, Human Rights, Race, racism

Resistance to hate bill heats up

[This article originally appears on workers.org]

Tens of thousands of immigrants and their supporters filled blocks of Atlanta’s downtown streets on July 2 wearing white, carrying beautiful banners and hand-printed signs, and chanting nonstop in English and Spanish.

Many of the slogans referenced HB 87, Georgia’s “show me your papers” legislation, which authorizes local police to act as immigration agents and is designed to intimidate undocumented workers into leaving the state.

The march was led by members of the Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance (GUYA), who are challenging the restrictions on their future and calling for passage of the DREAM Act. Banners called for an end to the raids and deportations.

Many children carried signs pleading not to deport their parents. Challenging the racist aspects of the law, a huge banner depicting a strong Latina declared: “Brown Is Beautiful.” Numerous signs referenced the millions of dollars already lost to the state’s agricultural economy as crops rotted in the fields for lack of skilled farmworkers.

Four counties in Georgia operate under 287(g) agreements that have resulted in the detention and deportation of thousands of immigrants, most of whom were arrested for traffic infractions. The largest, privately operated detention center is in the town of Lumpkin and holds some 1,900 men.

Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the Stewart Detention Center there, has been denounced for its profiteering off the separation of immigrant families.

The failure of the Obama administration and Congress to address legalization and a just immigration policy was addressed in chants and on placards.

In response to a call by the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR), protesters came from across the state, from as far as Valdosta, Dalton, Columbus and Rome. Supporters from North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and as far away as Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arizona, California and New York joined the protest.

Week of intense struggle

The march and rally at the Georgia State Capitol capped off a week of intense struggle by immigrant communities and human rights advocates.

On June 27 a federal district judge agreed to grant a temporary injunction suspending two sections of HB 87, scheduled to be enacted on July 1. Judge Thomas Thrash stopped Georgia from giving law enforcement agencies throughout the state the power to detain and arrest anyone who could not show sufficient identification following any violation, no matter how minor, including traffic stops or jaywalking. He also prevented the implementation of a provision that would make it illegal to knowingly transport or harbor an undocumented person.

This is the fourth federal court that has barred states from assuming responsibility for enforcing immigration policies.

While immigrant and civil rights activists hailed this victory in stopping two of the most egregious sections of HB 87, Georgia law now makes it a crime to use false documents to secure a job, punishable by 15 years in prison. Starting in January, most private employers will be required to use the federal E-Verify system, known to be flawed, to ascertain the legality of new hires. Citizens will be able to sue elected officials for failing to uphold HB 87.

The day after the federal ruling, GUYA held a “Coming Out of the Shadows” rally inside the state Capitol building where five young people from Georgia and one from New York told their stories. Each concluded by saying their name and that they were “undocumented and unafraid.”

At an outside rally, longtime civil rights leaders and members of the African-American religious community proclaimed their support for the immigrants’ rights movement. They applauded the role of young people in confronting injustice, risking their lives and safety to bring about needed change.

Dressed in caps and gowns, the students led a crowd of hundreds in a march around Georgia State University, one of the state’s five institutions of higher education which the Georgia legislature has banned undocumented youth from attending.

Their lead banner read “Undocumented, Unafraid, Unashamed, Unapologetic!”

Returning to the Capitol, the students spread a large canvas with the words “We Will No Longer Remain in the Shadows” in the intersection and sat down surrounded by supporters. Traffic was brought to a standstill. Eventually, many police arrived and arrested the six. As each heroic youth was taken to a police car, dozens of chanting young people surrounded them and the vehicle.

All six were charged with multiple state offenses. Three were released to their parents’ custody because they were under 17. The other three spent the night in the Fulton County Jail and were then released on their own recognizance with an August court date.

This was the second such civil disobedience action in Atlanta with undocumented youth risking deportation to press the issue of the status of children who have spent most of their lives in the United States and have no path to legalization. Without papers, they cannot get a driver’s license, find employment, receive public benefits or attend Georgia’s top five universities, regardless of their grades.

July 1 strike spurs resistance

During the week, a number of community meetings were held in metro Atlanta to provide information in multiple languages — from Korean and Chinese to Portuguese and Spanish — about the impact of HB 87 and the injunction. Similar events were organized around the state, including one in Dalton where people were particularly concerned about police roadblocks in immigrant neighborhoods. Students and community members held a rally in Athens on June 30 at the gates to the University of Georgia, one of the universities barred to undocumented students.

On July 1, the day HB 87 went into effect, GLAHR called for a “Day without Immigrants,” a stay-at-home strike where people would not work, shop or go about their usual business. More than 125 businesses owned by immigrants, from beauty shops to food markets, closed that day in solidarity. Restaurant, construction, landscaping, hotel and other workers took the day off. Shopping mall parking lots in immigrant communities were empty.

People outside Georgia are encouraged to cancel any conventions, reunions, meetings or vacations as part of the “Boycott of a State of Hate.”

Volunteers are coming from throughout the country this summer to help build local resistance to HB 87 and other anti-immigrant legislation. A campaign to identify “BuySpots” and “Sanctuary Zones” will identify businesses that agree to publicly oppose HB 87 by refusing to allow police into their establishments to check people’s identification without a warrant and by pledging not to financially support elected officials who promote anti-immigrant legislation.

Already many bookstores, restaurants, clothing and record stores, markets, beauty and barber shops display the BuySpot sign. Churches and other religious institutions, community centers, homeless shelters and other public gathering sites that make a similar pledge will be identified as Sanctuary Zones. For more information, visit WeAreGeorgia.org.

It is hot in Georgia during any summer, but this summer the heat will be on right-wing politicians, spotlighted by a rising people’s movement engaging thousands of workers, youth and women. They are stepping out of the shadows, undocumented and unafraid.

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Filed under Georgia, Human Rights, immigration, labor movement, Leftists in the U.S. South, Race, racism, Workers World Party

Alabama surpasses Arizona with racist anti-immigrant law

by KurtFF8

Alabama recently passed a new anti-immigrant law that many have described as “more harsh” than the controversial anti-immigrant law in Arizona that essentially promotes racial profiling (this argument is focused on the fact that folks can be questioned for being “suspected of” being an undocumented worker).  Georgia recently passed a similar law, making the South the center of the immigration debate.

As usual, both sides of the “mainstream” debate fall short of getting to the real issues at heart: the real manifestations of racism, and international labor relations (see NAFTA as an important variable to immigration itself).  Even the “liberal” arguments against these laws are full of sentiments like “well immigrants do the jobs no one else wants to do for that price.”  This line of logic is just as problematic as the more “overtly racist” arguments by the far-Right, in that the “servant class” role for undocumented workers is seen as justified or not problematic itself.

Florida also recently attempted to pass a similar law, but the state legislature as not unified and faced a strong activist response (with the Florida Capitol looking a lot like the halls of the Wisconsin Capitol for a few days).

These laws need to be fought with a mass movement based on solidarity and workers power.

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Filed under Alabama, class struggle, Florida, Georgia, Human Rights, immigration, Leftists in the U.S. South, racism, Southern United States, Tallahassee, workers

The Martin Luther King You Don’t See on TV

[This originally appeared on Common Dreams]

It’s become a TV ritual: Every year on April 4, as Americans commemorate Martin Luther King’s death, we get perfunctory network news reports about “the slain civil rights leader.”

The remarkable thing about these reviews of King’s life is that several years — his last years — are totally missing, as if flushed down a memory hole.

What TV viewers see is a closed loop of familiar file footage: King battling desegregation in Birmingham (1963); reciting his dream of racial harmony at the rally in Washington (1963); marching for voting rights in Selma, Alabama (1965); and finally, lying dead on the motel balcony in Memphis (1968).

An alert viewer might notice that the chronology jumps from 1965 to 1968. Yet King didn’t take a sabbatical near the end of his life. In fact, he was speaking and organizing as diligently as ever.

Almost all of those speeches were filmed or taped. But they’re not shown today on TV.

Why?

It’s because national news media have never come to terms with what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for during his final years.

In the early 1960s, when King focused his challenge on legalized racial discrimination in the South, most major media were his allies. Network TV and national publications graphically showed the police dogs and bullwhips and cattle prods used against Southern blacks who sought the right to vote or to eat at a public lunch counter.

But after passage of civil rights acts in 1964 and 1965, King began challenging the nation’s fundamental priorities. He maintained that civil rights laws were empty without “human rights” — including economic rights. For people too poor to eat at a restaurant or afford a decent home, King said, anti-discrimination laws were hollow.

Noting that a majority of Americans below the poverty line were white, King developed a class perspective. He decried the huge income gaps between rich and poor, and called for “radical changes in the structure of our society” to redistribute wealth and power.

“True compassion,” King declared, “is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

By 1967, King had also become the country’s most prominent opponent of the Vietnam War, and a staunch critic of overall U.S. foreign policy, which he deemed militaristic. In his “Beyond Vietnam” speech delivered at New York’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 — a year to the day before he was murdered — King called the United States “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” (Full text/audio here. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article2564.htm)

From Vietnam to South Africa to Latin America, King said, the U.S. was “on the wrong side of a world revolution.” King questioned “our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America,” and asked why the U.S. was suppressing revolutions “of the shirtless and barefoot people” in the Third World, instead of supporting them.

In foreign policy, King also offered an economic critique, complaining about “capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries.”

You haven’t heard the “Beyond Vietnam” speech on network news retrospectives, but national media heard it loud and clear back in 1967 — and loudly denounced it. Time magazine called it “demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi.” The Washington Post patronized that “King has diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people.”

In his last months, King was organizing the most militant project of his life: the Poor People’s Campaign. He crisscrossed the country to assemble “a multiracial army of the poor” that would descend on Washington — engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience at the Capitol, if need be — until Congress enacted a poor people’s bill of rights. Reader’s Digest warned of an “insurrection.”

King’s economic bill of rights called for massive government jobs programs to rebuild America’s cities. He saw a crying need to confront a Congress that had demonstrated its “hostility to the poor” — appropriating “military funds with alacrity and generosity,” but providing “poverty funds with miserliness.”

How familiar that sounds today, nearly 40 years after King’s efforts on behalf of the poor people’s mobilization were cut short by an assassin’s bullet.

In 2007, in this nation of immense wealth, the White House and most in Congress continue to accept the perpetuation of poverty. They fund foreign wars with “alacrity and generosity,” while being miserly in dispensing funds for education and healthcare and environmental cleanup.

And those priorities are largely unquestioned by mainstream media. No surprise that they tell us so little about the last years of Martin Luther King’s life.

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Filed under African Americans, class struggle, Human Rights, Imperialism, labor movement, Leftists in the U.S. South, Race, Southern Identity, Southern Strategy, United States

Workers and Students in North Carolina, Virginia and Throughout the South: Follow the Lead of Wisconsin Workers and Students!

Posted by hastenawait, taken from Fight Back! News

Analysis by Saladin Muhammad |
February 17, 2011
Read more articles in

Resistance in the U.S. to attacks on the public sector is growing.  Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin is unleashing a major assault, seeking to take away collective bargaining rights from state and possibly all public sector workers, including threatening to call out the National Guard against worker resistance.

The labor movement and the students are fighting back.  Labor, including public and private sector unions held a rally in Madison at the State Capital, turning out 30,000 people, demanding that the Governor’s bill be defeated.

High school students throughout Wisconsin walked out of their schools to protest against this attack, which also affects their teachers and education. The Madison School Superintendent was forced to close the schools on Tuesday after 40 percent out of 2,600 members of the teachers union called in sick. The students see their actions as part of the growing struggles for people’s democracy that took center stage by the mass actions of the youth and workers in Tunisia and Egypt.  

The U.S. South is been a bastion of right-to-work laws, denying public sector workers the right to collective bargaining.  Dr. Martin L. Kings lost his life supporting the struggle of the Memphis, Tennessee sanitation workers who were fighting for this right, which he saw as a next phase of the Civil Rights struggle.

North Carolina and Virginia have specific laws making it illegal for workers and state and local governments to bargain for union contracts. Most of these laws were enacted during the period of Jim Crow, when Blacks were denied the right to vote and had no representatives in Southern state legislatures. When the state and local governments deny their own workers this basic right, it sends a message to all workers in the region, that the governments are hostile to unions.  

The lack of a concerted movement to organize public sector workers throughout the South based on a program that includes winning collective bargaining rights, has been a major factor weakening the few efforts to organize unions in the South.  

The major restructuring of the core industries of the U.S. economy over the past 30 years, resulted in shifting more than 1/3 of the auto industry and other formerly unionized manufacturing to the South. There are more union members in the state of New York, than in all of the 11 Southern states combined.

The largely un-unionized South has undermined labor’s strength as a national movement.  Organizing labor in the South must be addressed, if the U.S. labor movement is to survive and be a powerful force for workers in the U.S. and global economy.  

The economic crisis is increasing the competition between the states for industries and investments, in their efforts at economic recovery.  The unionized states outside of the South, in their efforts to shift more public resources to private corporations through privatizations, tax breaks and major incentives, are sharpening their attacks on public sector unions to compete with the Southern states and low wage labor internationally. Attempts to roll back collective bargaining are now occurring in Ohio, Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota, as well as Wisconsin. Right to work bills are pending in about a dozen Northern states. Public service jobs, wages and benefits are under attack just about everywhere.

National resistance to the attacks on public sector, must therefore link the struggles against attacks to eliminate existing public sector rights to collective bargaining, with the struggles of public sector workers concentrated in the South, who are denied this right.

The NC Public Service Workers Union UE-Local 150 has been in the forefront of the movement to repeal the ban on collective bargaining rights for public sector workers in North Carolina. Through its International Worker Justice Campaign, it has won a ruling from the International Labor Organization finding the U.S. and North Carolina out of compliance with international laws.

In addition to fighting for collective bargaining rights, UE150 is initiating campaigns for legislative and local government workers bill of rights, pressing to make the terms and conditions of public sector workers a part of the political agendas.

Public sector workers and unions throughout the South must form a Southern Alliance for Collective Bargaining Rights, to launch a region-wide movement.  The South must become a strategic battleground for the U.S. and international labor movement, demanding that the U.S. and the South comply with international human rights standards.

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Filed under class struggle, Human Rights, labor movement, labor unions, Middle East, North Carolina, Southern Strategy, Southern United States, United States, Virginia, workers

Recent events in Florida’s Capital

[This was originally posted on the Tallahassee Socialist Organization’s blog]

By Mike C

There were a few events of interest in Tallahassee in the past week or so that should be noted:

Egypt Solidarity Demonstration 2/5/11

About a week an a half ago, a small crowed comprised of many TSO members stood at the Capitol to show their support for the Egyptian revolution.  The demonstration was a last minute call for a rainy day and was well received by those driving by on the crowded intersection of Apalachee Parkway and Monroe St.

The demonstration was covered by the newspaper of the Florida A&M University, the FAMUAN:

It was a cold and rainy Saturday afternoon as protesters assembled on the Capital Lawn carrying handwritten signs reading, “Freedom in Egypt” and “We Support Egypt.”

Local residents and organizations held a solidarity rally to express their support for freedom in Cairo.

Anti-government protests, demanding economic and political changes, began in Egypt on Jan. 25.

Since then, tens of thousands of people are filling the streets of Cairo and other cities and have called for President Hosni Mubarak to resign after 30 years in power.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” a famous quote by Martin Luther King, Jr., helps to define one of the many reasons why American protesters are voicing their opinions.

“It should affect us all as Americans because it is what a truly American concept is about putting in a democracy,” said Alla Hadi, an Egyptian-American attending Florida State, whose family, and friends that are worried about what is going on in Egypt.

“We have to voice our support.”

This demonstration was held the same weekend as demonstrations across the country, from California, to New York City, Washington, DC. and South Florida all held similar events, as well as other Southern cities like New Orleans. (For more information on other demonstrations, check out the ANSWER Coalition’s article)

Public Hearing on Racist Immigration Bill 2/7/11

On February 7th, a public hearing was held to discuss the possibility of the introduction of a bill similar to the now infamous  racist “SB1070” Arizona law that promotes racial profiling.  As the Florida Progressive Coalition Blog reports, 90 percent of the speakers at the hearing were opposed to the prospect of such a bill with only 2 people speaking in favor of it during the entire event.  Folks came from all over the state to voice their opposition to the bill as well as people from Tallahassee.

Here’s one example of the opposition voiced during the hearing:

Pro-Choice Action 2/17/11

Last but certainly not least was the recent visit to the Florida State campus by a group that attempts to equate abortion to genocide.  Florida State students organized a counter demonstration to show that groups that go around attacking womens’ rights are not welcome on their campus and that opposition will be loud and heard.  Chants like “When choice is under attack, What do we do? Stand Up, Fight Back!” were heard in a busy section of the FSU campus while those promoting their anti-choice message were attempting to spread their message of hate.

While the group that was traveling by may seem like a fringe group in its message, their visit to Tallahassee comes at a time when abortion rights are under attack by the Right-wing in America (including attempts to limit access, attacking Planned Parenthood).

The pro-choice counter-demonstrators outnumbered those anti-choice by dozens, and stayed until the anti-choice folks packed up for the day, opposition to their second day is expect as well.  The student newspaper is also expected to run a story on the event.

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Filed under ANSWER Coalition, Florida, Gender, Human Rights, immigration, Imperialism, Leftists in the U.S. South, LGBT, Southern Identity, Southern Strategy, Students, Women

Rally for the Brave People of Egypt, New Orleans, Louisiana

By hastenawait

Signs from yesterday's rally

Hundreds took to the streets of New Orleans yesterday to march in solidarity with the revolutionary peoples of the Middle East and North Africa. A rally was held in front of the steps of the federal building before protesters began winding down the streets of downtown New Orleans.

 Protesters not only challenged dictatorships in other parts of the world and U.S. imperialism – many made the connection between the inspiring struggles going on elswhere and what is happening here in Louisiana, the South and the United States. The signs which read, “New Orleans, walk like an Egyptian,” and “Egypt -1; Tunisia – 1; New Orleans, ?” distilled this popular sentiment. Among others, chants of, “One solution: Revolution!” could be heard echoing through the streets of of the Crescent City.

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Filed under Anti-Imperialism, class struggle, Gulf States, Human Rights, Imperialism, Louisiana, Solidarity, Southern United States, Uncategorized, United States