Fight for civil liberties

As of November 1, over 1,100 people have been detained by the U.S. Justice Department without due process. Why they are being held? Where they are being held? Who they are? Only three of the over one thousand people detained have been linked to the Sept. 11 attacks or other terrorists organizations. Attorney General Ashcroft has justified these actions by saying, “If suspects are found to not have links to terrorism or not to have violated the law, they’ll be released.”

Has it become a standard practice of the U.S. Government to assume one is guilty until proven innocent? The USA Patriot Act signed into law by President Bush Oct. 26 will further encroach upon civil liberties. The USA Act will effectively remove from American political life voices of dissent – especially from our multi-cultured, Black, Brown and white working class. Voices that otherwise would be more likely to protest the bombing of Afghanistan, the IMF, World Bank and FTAA.

Many people are very concerned that this is a new attack upon the right to organize in the community and the workplace. Some fear that this legislation, like the sedition laws of 1889, the McCarran and Smith Acts, will be used to imprison labor and peace activists. Those Acts, like the current legislation were directed towards “terrorists” and “immigrants,” infringing upon their civil liberties.

Monique Paulsonorganizer CWA Local 6355
St. Louis MO

Civilian review a necessity

Every year on Oct. 22 people from across the country speak out against police brutality. In St. Louis, the Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression organized a caravan tour of four locations to honor the lives of Julius Thurman, Jerome Ruffin, Torrence Mull and the only surviving honoree, Jerome Johnson. Lori Reed, in Take-Five, October 2001, said, “There could have been more stops on the tour,” and that “over thirty” people have been killed in the past ten years in “questionable police shootings,” in St. Louis. Most of the victims are African-American.

On April 3, 16-year old Jerome Johnson was shot nine times by members of St. Louis’ City SCAT (Street Corner Apprehension Team). Witnesses say Jerome was unarmed and had little or no indication that the armed individuals in black shirts, jeans and ski masks chasing him were police officers. Jerome says he was walking home when a car stopped in front of him, a man jumped out covered with a ski mask and yelled for him to stop. “All I saw was the gun and ski mask,” he told his mother. “I ran.” Witnesses also say that officers continued to fire shots into his body after he had fallen, pistol-whipped and beat him. They even banged his head into the cement, witnesses say.

After the shooting Rena Johnson, Jerome’s mother, had to protest in front of Barnes Jewish Hospital before police would allow her to see her son. One hundred people came to show support, including Jerome’s teachers. The Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression, encompassing many community, religious, labor, and student leaders, believes there is a lack of accountability in the St. Louis City Police Department. They are calling for a civilian oversight board to independently investigate police misconduct and to enhance the credibility of the police department through civilian review.

The Coalition Against Police Crime and Oppression collaborated with Democractic Alderman Terry Kennedy on legislation that would establish a civilian oversight board. “If there is a propensity toward violence in the police culture, civilian review will tend to weed out that attitude. If it does not exist, then civilian review will affirm that it does not exist,” Alderman Kennedy said.

Tony Pecinovsky
St. Louis MO

Calls for peace in Australia

Another peace rally was held in Sydney, Australia, on Nov. 4, and rallies were also held in Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane. In Sydney, we had over 6,000 people, twice as many as came at the last rally three weeks ago.

A group of provocateurs came to cause trouble, chanting U.S.-jingoist slogans, and some of the ultra-Left groups responded, creating a squabble that the media rushed to film. In the news, it was reported that those who had come to the rally talked of peace but engaged in violent confrontation.

Every speaker strongly condemned the Sept. 11 acts of terrorism and paid their respects to the victims, and the rally observed a minute of silence (for all victims of terrorism and wars). Yet, the media reports lied, saying the people at the rally had shown little sympathy for the Sept. 11 victims.

Our Government has set up an Office of Homeland Security, and fast tracked legislation to give this Authority extensive powers that will infringe on our civil rights. Our next rally is on Dec. 9, to coincide with Human Rights Day.

Gisele Mesnage
via e-mail