ATLANTA: Marchers say ‘Set Marcus free’

Busloads of students from Savannah, Augusta, Columbus and Valdosta joined marchers from Atlanta University and linked arms with 200 residents from Marcus Dixon’s hometown of Rome, Ga., to demand that the young African American man be set free. Over 1,000 people marched.

Dixon, now 19, is serving a 15-year prison sentence, 10 without possibility of parole, for having had consensual sex with a white girl just a few months shy of her 16th birthday. Although a jury cleared Dixon of rape last May, he was convicted of misdemeanor statutory rape and aggravated child molestation, the latter charge carrying a mandatory 10-year sentence in Georgia.

Kweisi Mfume, president of the national NAACP, and Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin addressed the March 1 rally. “We call out to the Supreme Court of Georgia: Do the right thing and set Marcus free,” Mfume thundered. “Mandatory minimums, they are wrong and they are evil.”

Dixon’s lawyers have appealed the sentence to the state Supreme Court, which is expected to rule soon.

For more information, visit www.act4justice.com. To write Marcus Dixon: Marcus Dixon, 1137365-525128, BCTC, PO Box 5849, Forsyth GA 31029.

PHILADELPHIA: Transit workers set to strike

Come March 15, 4,700 members of Transport Workers Union Local 234, who drive the buses and operate the trolleys and trains for the Southeast Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) could shut down Philadelphia.

Calling the contract offer from SEPTA the “worst in history,” union president Jean Alexander told workers, “The trend is that employees pay for health care. But Local 234 does not follow the trends. We set trends.” Workers voted to strike.

To plug a $70 million hole in its $875 million budget, SEPTA is demanding that workers take not only a wage freeze, but pay 20 percent of annual health care costs and 50 percent of any increase in those costs. Workers estimate that it would cost them $50 a week to meet SEPTA’s proposal. SEPTA also wants to cut back on retiree prescription drug benefits.

“Most of us are here for the benefits,” said Anita Booker, 36, a bus driver and mother of two sons. “In these jobs you work 12 or 15 hours a day. I stay in it for the health care for me and my children.”

LUBBOCK, Texas: Clergy protest mosque vandalism

For the 700 Muslims who worship at the Islamic Center of the South Plains, the attack on their mosque March 6 was a hate crime. A number of Lubbock clergy, Christian and Jewish, united to support the Muslims at a press conference, March 8.

Mohamed El-Moctar, the mosque’s prayer leader, discovered anti-Muslim slogans written on the walls and on his computer, with extensive damage to the building. “The material damage is not very serious or expensive,” said El-Moctar. “The problem is the action itself. This is the action of someone angry, very angry.” Pointing to a dangling ceiling fan, El-Moctar added that robbers would not have gone to all that trouble for money.

BOOK CLIFFS, Utah: Environmentalists, residents unite

In courtrooms and on the wilderness sites, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Wilderness Society, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club are battling the Bush administration to halt the giveaway of Utah and Colorado public lands to gas and oil corporations for exploitation.

“The federal data show that concerned Utahans are right to be outraged by what can only be described as a taxpayer funded land rush on the most sensitive land in the state,” said Environmental Working Group analyst Dusty Horwitt. “This giveaway overrides the judgement of experienced scientists who identified these lands as wilderness and the public is the loser in this process.”

There are 36,000 acres on the chopping block including public lands near Dinosaur National Monument and Desolation Canyon. For more information, visit www.ewg.org.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696@aol.com).

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