CHARLESTON, W.Va.: Protest demands hate crime charge

Led by Megan Williams and her family, hundreds jammed downtown streets here, bringing “street heat” to Republican Mayor Danny Jones and prosecutors to demand they add a hate crime charge against six persons who allegedly kidnapped, raped and tortured Ms. Williams, 20, over a week in September.

Williams is African American; her alleged assailants are white. She told police that her torturers, both men and women, constantly used racial slurs.

“No female, regardless of race, creed or color should ever be subjected to … such barbaric acts,” said the Rev. Mary Kay Jacquet of the First Baptist Church of Charleston.

Malik Shabazz of Black Lawyers for Justice, one of the march organizers, told the crowd, “If this ain’t a hate crime, then there ain’t a hate crime on the books. We want the hate crime charges added and we want it now.”

Ray Whitten, a marcher, compared the protest to the Million Man March. “This feels just as peaceful,” he said. “Black people are standing up for their rights, and I think it’s long overdue.”

As of Nov. 6, U.S. Attorney Charles Miller and Logan County Prosecutor Brian Abraham had refused to add “hate crime” to the list of charges against the six.

HOUSTON: Commit a racist act, lose your job

In September, a worker at FMC Technologies told his boss that he spotted a noose hanging inside the oil equipment manufacturing plant. Following a monthlong investigation, three employees of an outside contractor were banned from the facility and fired by the contractor. Three weeks later, another noose was found, and another employee of an outside contractor was fired.

“It’s certainly sad,” said Yolanda Smith, executive director of the Houston branch of the NAACP. “It’s taken us back to the days of the 1950s and 1960s. We have to be cognizant of diversity. Education is key.”

James Ryan, a spokesman for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said the agency recently brokered three settlements related to the display of nooses at work. In May, Pemco Aeroplex of Birmingham, Ala., paid a group of Black workers in their plant $390,000 because the company tolerated racist graffiti, bosses used racial slurs and nooses were found.

EVANSVILLE, Ind.: Voters ‘step up’ to halt climate change

William Dunigan, 7, and his mother pulled on gas masks and joined their neighbors for a Nov. 3 rally here pressuring Congress to act to reverse global warming.

Carly Watson said many residents are disturbed to discover that there are 17 coal-fired power plants within a 62-mile radius. “Our longevity is shortened simply because we live here,” she said, citing the related air pollution.

Some rally participants carried signs calling on Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.) and Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels to support renewable energy programs and to heighten the regulation of utility companies.

The rally was part of a national day of action organized by ‘Step It Up,’ an environmental coalition focused on placing global warming on the agenda of the 2008 presidential campaign. The group coordinated events in all 50 states, drawing thousands, and featuring 71 members of Congress and seven of the Democratic presidential candidates. None of the invited Republican candidates attended any of the events.

ATLANTA: Majority of Southern students are poor

For the first time in more than 40 years, the majority of children attending public schools in the South are poor, according to a report by the Southern Education Foundation.

“The future of the South’s ability to have an educated population is going to depend on how we can improve these students’ education,” said Steve Suitts, a program coordinator with the foundation, noting how crucial the early years of schooling can be.

The report cited two factors for deepening poverty: plant closings and congressional cuts in anti-poverty programs.

Now a majority of public school students are classified as low-income in 14 states, including 11 in the South. In Louisiana, for example, 84 percent of public school children are poor. Tallied up, 54 percent of students in the South come from low-income families, a significant increase from 37 percent in the late 1980s.

Another report pointed to additional factors.

“The South, historically, was just a poorer part of the country and didn’t have the focus on education that other parts of the country had,” said Jeff Kuhner, a spokesman for the Fordham Foundation. “Part of its strategy for the past 25 to 30 years has been cheap, undereducated labor. They don’t have labor unions.”

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696


Denise Winebrenner Edwards
Denise Winebrenner Edwards

Denise Winebrenner Edwards is a long-time trade union and community activist. She lives in western Pennsylvania.