BIRMINGHAM, Ala.: Thousands celebrate at Juneteenth festival

Buses from New York, Georgia and Louisiana joined thousands of Alabamans of all races to celebrate freedom and emancipation at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute’s 12th Annual Juneteenth celebration, June 2. Ahmed Ward, the institute’s director of education, said that Juneteenth, customarily celebrated on June 19, is the oldest known commemoration of the ending of slavery.

On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers led by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger reached Galveston, Texas, and delivered the news that enslaved African Americans were free. Although President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, and although the Civil War ended with the Confederacy’s defeat in April 1865, it wasn’t until Granger’s arrival in Texas that slavery was abolished there.

SACRAMENTO, Calif.: Iraq war veteran walks for peace

Since Memorial Day, an Iraq war veteran, dressed in desert fatigues and carrying a yellow ribbon, has been marching around the State Capitol. Each lap has been dedicated to a particular U.S. soldier killed in Iraq. He reads the person’s name and gives a little bit about his or her background.

By June 1, the veteran, who has asked to remain anonymous, had made 362 laps, the number of Californians killed in Iraq. He is continuing his march and the reading of additional names, and he has been joined by hundreds of supporters. Some carry the names of the many thousands of Iraqis who have died in the war.

“I decided to do this march to mobilize the community to become more active against the war and to send a strong signal to the Bush administration that we won’t put up any longer with this war,” the veteran said. “The march as been great in the sense that we have received a lot of community involvement. I have spoken with strangers who haven’t been active in any other way, but decided to march with me.”

HAZELTON, Pa.: Anti-immigrant rally turns uglier

Carrying signs that included the slogan, “Diversity = Death,” nearly 700 people rallied June 3 in support of Mayor Lou Barletta’s drive to enact an ordinance in this city of 21,000 outlawing the hiring and renting of apartments to undocumented workers.

William Gheen of Americans for Legal Immigration and Joey Vento, owner of Gino’s Cheesesteaks of Philadelphia, joined Barletta on the platform for a two-hour rant of hate.

At one point, a group of women in the crowd spotted two Latino men and surrounded them, screaming, “Go home! We don’t want you here!” Police provided protection to the two men.

One of the men was Amilcar Arroyo, publisher of a Spanish-language newspaper that has been sharply critical of the mayor.

The American Civil Liberties Union has sued the city, declaring the ordinance unconstitutional. A federal judge in Scranton issued a restraining order last year, preventing the ordinance from taking effect.

Dr. Alan Frank opposes the ordinance. Referring to Barletta, he said, “He’s small town mayor who thinks he can build his political base by playing of people’s fears of immigrants. He’s going to lose the court case and use millions of dollars to fight it — money he could have used for the social services that he says these people are sucking up.

“Northeastern Pennsylvania is a great place to live,” Frank continued. “I don’t want it to be known as a place that puts up ordinances that make life difficult for people.”

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.: Right-wing groups have falling out

A coalition of five evangelical Protestant and Roman Catholic groups is attacking James Dobson, founder of the ultraconservative Focus on the Family (FoF), for his embrace of the Supreme Court decision outlawing a medical procedure known as dilation and extraction, or “partial-birth abortion,” the label coined by anti-reproductive-rights groups.

In full-page ads in the Washington Times and the Colorado Springs Gazette, where FoF is headquartered, the coalition called the Supreme Court decision “wicked” and charged Dobson with misleading Christians and exploiting the issue to enhance his group’s fund-raising appeals.

Others, like Brian Rohrbaugh, president of the Colorado Right to Life, are critical of Dobson because of FoF’s involvement in electoral politics. He said that groups like National Right to Life, despite their avowed purpose, are really “geared to getting Republicans elected.”

“So we’re seeing these ridiculous laws like the partial-birth abortion ban put forward, and then we’re deceived about what they really do,” he said.

Meanwhile, on another band of the right-wing spectrum, the Minutemen, a vigilante anti-immigrant group, has experienced a split in a dispute over money. Bob Wright, who claims 8,000 followers in the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, had sought a meeting with another Minuteman leader, Chris Simcox, to account for missing funds. Instead of meeting, Simcox purged Wright and several other top leaders from the group. Now hundreds are leaving the organization, Wright said.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696