TACOMA, Wash.: 31 antiwar protesters arrested at port

Eight antiwar demonstrators were arrested earlier this month when they crossed a white police line separating them from the Port of Tacoma. The shipping port is a loading area for war materiel headed for Iraq.

On March 11 police arrested 23 more people as they crossed the line. This time the antiwar activists carried copies of the U.S. Constitution with them.

“We’re standing on principle,” said Wes Hamilton, a Marine Vietnam veteran who was among those arrested.

T.J. Johnson, a city councilman from nearby Olympia, negotiated with police on the behalf of the peaceful assembly, which totaled about 60. Johnson sought to prevent the police from using mace or otherwise injuring the protesters, as they have done at similar actions since the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.

AUSTIN, Texas: Students take on death penalty

While thousands of college students are packing for beach trips and others plan to spend spring break earning some money or catching up on their class work, a group of students from around Texas and neighboring states are spending their break working to end the state’s death penalty.

“I’ve seen some horrible things happen and seen people hurt and I’ve been very angry,” said University of Texas student Josh Tucker. “You see these things happen, and I sort of had a moment of pause and said, ‘Well, I can either act from this anger or I can stop and think about what solves the problem.’ I want to be part of the solution, not the problem.

“I think because the death penalty is racist and because it unequally targets poor people, you’re looking at something that doesn’t solve the problem,” he said. “You’re killing people to tell people we don’t kill people.”

During the five-day event sponsored by Texas Students Against the Death Penalty, students, including some from high schools, attended seminars on the issue, did grassroots organizing, lobbied the state Legislature and held a demonstration.

Texas executed 24 people in 2006, 45 percent of all executions in the country. Since the 1977 Supreme Court ruling legalizing capital punishment, 1,058 people nationwide have been put to death, 380 of them, or 35 percent, in Texas.

MIAMI: Corruption leaves homeless on street

In 2001, Caprice Brown, her three children and 850 other families were evicted from the crumbling Scott Carver public housing complex. The families were promised an affordable new apartment on a 42-acre site in Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood.

Some $35 million and six years later, the 42 acres remain vacant. For most of those years, the Brown family lived in one room in a tiny house owned by her aunt. Brown slept on the floor and her three children shared the only bed.

An audit just this year of the Miami-Dade Housing Agency revealed an agency riddled with corruption. According to the audit, the agency has about 690 workers, yet 1,811 names are on the payroll.

At least $12 million was paid to developers, funneled through a nonprofit corporation, for housing that doesn’t exist. Oscar Rivero, one of the developers, has been indicted for stealing $740,000 that could have provided housing for 54 low-income families to buy himself a luxury mansion in south Miami.

Meanwhile the 850 families from Scott Carver, including Brown’s, have doubled up, struggled with homelessness or gotten lost in the system.

Miami’s housing market is among the costliest in the country. Currently 41,000 people are on a waiting list for affordable housing in Miami-Dade County.

RALEIGH, N.C.: Thai immigrants snared by labor contractors

Muangmol Asanok was a farmer in Thailand making about $500 a year. In the spring of 2005, a representative of Million Express Manpower showed up at his farm promising three years of work in the United States at $8 an hour.

Asanok decided to accept the offer. He mortgaged his farm for the $11,000 recruiter’s fee and left his wife and infant son to earn a better life in North Carolina.

Asanok is one of 22 Thai farm workers who are now suing Million Express Manpower, charging the company stole their money, refused to pay them for their work and held them captive in a storage building in the isolated countryside.

“These companies promise the moon to farmers [who hire contract workers], saying, ‘Sign here and we’ll bring you all the workers you need. Don’t worry, we’ll charge them [the workers],’” said Libby Whitley, owner of the Virginia-based masLabor, a farm labor contracting business. “They’re proliferating.”

Immigrant workers endure abuse because of language, distance from home and the overwhelming drive to work for their families, according to legal advocates. “There is a ‘desire to work’ force that’s not going to speak up,” said Kate Woomer-Deters, a lawyer with Legal Aid. “Any time you can get people who are more vulnerable than Hispanic workers, that’s an attractive work force.”

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