ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.: 1,500 march for immigrant rights

With over 500 Latino high school students in the lead, about 1,500 united Albuquerquians marched into Civic Plaza April 1 to celebrate the city’s first official observance of Cesar Chavez’s birthday and to protest reactionary immigration reform bills in Congress.

Leading the procession was a local high school mariachi band and members of an Aztec dance troupe. Under a brilliant sky, waving both Mexican and U.S. flags, marchers displayed unity against the Republican threat to their existence in this country with signs like, “Today we march, tomorrow we vote!”

Responding to the grassroots pressure, Gov. Bill Richardson sent greetings and pledges of support, and Mayor Martin Chavez pledged to fight for a citywide minimum wage bill.

Sponsors of the event included the New Mexico Central Labor Council and Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, along with the National Hispanic Cultural Center, the Center for Economic Justice, Local 1199 hospital workers, Local 794 of the Machinists, the Southwest Organizing Project and MECHA groups.

BILLINGS, Mont.: Provide birth control, says state official

While South Dakota acted to destroy reproductive rights, the Big Sky state took a step in the opposite direction with Attorney General Mike McGrath ruling that health insurance companies must provide coverage for birth control and other contraceptives.

McGrath acted at the request of state Senate President Jon Tester, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate.

Although insurance companies were expected to appeal the ruling, Tanya Ask, director of governmental affairs for Blue Cross, said the company does not plan to fight it.

DURHAM, N.C.: Rally against sexual violence

Hundreds of community residents banged pots and pans and demanded justice March 26 outside a Duke University-owned house rented to members of the school’s lacrosse team. Team members are under investigation for a racist, brutal rape.

Of the 47 members of the team, 46 are white. The rape victim is an African American college student, 27, at North Carolina Central University (NCCU), mother of two. She said she was beaten, choked and raped by three team members who also called her racist epithets.

The woman had taken a job with an escort service to make ends meet, and she and another woman were hired to dance at a March 13 party at the team’s house. The dance job was a first for both women, and they were told they would dance for five men. Over 40 were present.

DNA tests are being performed on the entire team to help identify those responsible for the crime.

NCCU students have rallied to support the victim, setting up a fund to support her and her family. Duke students and faculty have held vigils and demonstrations demanding that the university address the crime and the bigger issues it raises.

TUCSON, Ariz.: FBI spying sparks protest, satire

Armed with lentils, Keith McHenry, founder of the growing Food Not Bombs peace and justice organization, joined hundreds of activists from Long Island to California and turned himself into the FBI. Food Not Bombs is on the Bush administration’s “terrorist watch list,” and McHenry is on the most “dangerous 100 person list.” The FBI did not take McHenry into custody.

“It is so creepy. They think we’re terrorists,” McHenry told the World in a phone interview. The group’s activists have been arrested in California, New York, Arizona, Colorado and North Carolina.

Food Not Bombs is known for providing food at demonstrations and arriving in New Orleans two days after Katrina, before FEMA, to feed people. “They [the government] feel threatened,” McHenry said. People “might start demanding national health care or feeding the homeless instead of war. That is threatening.”

WASHINGTON: EPA relaxes air standards

As is their habit, says Clean Air Watch President Frank O’Donnell, the Bush administration’s Environmental Protection Agency hands out goodies to polluters late on Friday afternoon, when the media is least likely to pick up the story.

True to form, on March 31 the EPA announced that no further air pollution controls were needed on corporations that produce cancer-causing chemicals.

The agency also said corporations can limit public access, particularly for the press, to information about instances where toxic chemicals are pumped into the atmosphere during “malfunctions” or “incidents” or when something goes wrong in production. Exxon Mobil sought the rule change.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards ( Emil Shaw contributed.