vow to fight on
By Susan Soltero
Vieques, Puerto Rico, May 5 (ENS) As the Vieques
anti-bombing protesters arrested on US Navy lands Thursday arrived
today by ferry to the arms of their anxious families, many promised
they would be entering restricted lands again no matter
the consequences. They vowed to stop the bombings at all cost.
In fact, they insist bombings will not be possible in the short
term since seven of their own members are still hidden in two
secret camps on the target range. Among them are the two sons
of fisherman and community leader Carlos Zenon.
Two hundred protesters were removed from US Navy lands Thursday
and taken to the main island of Puerto Rico. There they were
warned that they face arrest if they re-enter the target range.
The US Navy owns two-thirds of the island of Vieques, seven
miles off the east coast of Puerto Rico. Since 1941 the Navy
has used the area off the eastern tip of Vieques for target
bombing and amphibious landing practice often with live
bombs. Unexploded ordnance lies strewn across the land and on
the ocean bottom, and barrels of toxic substances in two sunken
ships are leaking out into the sea.
For anyone who has been to the area where they camped out for
387 days, the protesters attitude is not surprising.
Protests in support of the Vieques effort to get the US Navy
to stop bombing the island have been taking place across the
country. The fact that the Navy had the area off limits for
60 years has guaranteed that the beaches are beautiful. And
for a year, plants and animals have reclaimed the area. But
the beauty is only on the surface.
The water is littered with unexploded bombs that pose a threat
to any recreational boater. And tests on sand at the site have
shown that a total of five heavy metals and cyanide are present
at levels that pose a threat to all life forms.
The tests were conducted in July of 1999 by the Pace Analytical
Services Inc. of New Orleans which is part of the Contract
Laboratory Program of the Envirnomental Protection Agency
Of the 11 heavy metals and cyanide found in three areas within
the bombing range, arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, and nickel
are at levels that require immediate remedial action by the
Subsequent tests performed by the University of Puerto Rico
show heavy metals present in plants taken from the area. Sixty
years of bombing have taken a heavy toll.
And yet, these protesters are determined to risk arrest and
risk short term exposure to these toxins to make sure the bombings
do not start again.
The Navy says as far as its concerned, the area is clear
of protesters. And they hope they can begin exercises as soon
as possible, although they would not say when they would actually
begin nor why they have not yet started.
Under the agreement reached between Governor Pedro Rossello
and President Bill Clinton, exercises will be held for only
90 days in a year, and they will now be held with inert bombs.
Inert bombs are also called dummy bombs or practice bombs.
Practice bombs are used to simulate the same ballistic properties
of service type bombs. They are manufactured as either solid
cast-metal bodies or thin sheet metal containers that can be
filled with wet sand or cement to obtain the necessary weight.
Full-scale practice bombs have the same dimensions, weight factor,
and configuration abilities as the service bombs they simulate.
The full-scale practice bombs currently in use are in the Mk80
series. The bottom line: inert bombs have no explosives, no
chemical agents, no big bang.
The noise level will certainly diminish if training begins
again. But opponents of any continuation of military activity
on Vieques say the bombs will still cause extensive damage.
The coral reefs will continue to be destroyed, critics say,
not just when bombs fall, but also as a result of friction created
by wave action when bombs are left in the water over a period
The bombs are made of metal, and metal is subject to rapid
corrosion in the salty soil.
While some bombs will be dropped, others will have to be shot
Everyone knows propellants are highly toxic, not only
to residents in Vieques, but also to those exposed on ships,
said Jorge Fernandez Porto, environmental consultant for the
Comité Pro-Rescate y Desarrollo de Vieques.
Besides, adds Fernandez, the Navy has said
that they will not use live ordinance. That is not the same
as saying they will be using inert bombs. The language is not
specific and they can still use substances such as depleted
uranium, napalm and other agents that are non-explosive.
Finally, but perhaps most important, heavy bombs that drop
like dead weight from planes or that are shot from ships will
still raise a cloud of dust.
A study performed in 1978 by the Navy and subsequently
confirmed by engineer Rafael Cruz Perez on wells that were to
be used for drinking water showed the wells were contaminated
through the air ducts that feed into the well and could not
be used, says Carlos Rodriguez, a marine biology professor
at the University of Puerto Rico.
Since the dust is highly contaminated and prevailing
winds take it directly into the town, fugitive dust is a major
problem, Rodriguez concludes.
The Navy is now in the process of organizing the first groups
who will train on the island. They have promised to notify the
Puerto Rican government before they actually begin bombing,
even though they have made that promise in the past and not
They will also be making security runs to be absolutely sure
there are no protesters in the area.
In the meantime, protesters have not lost hope that public
pressure and rumors of hidden camps will be enough to keep them
at bay for now.
rally for Mumia Abu-Jamal
New York, May
7— The Theater at Madison Square Garden was sold out three
days in advance of a 3-hour rally here today to demand a new
trial for African American journalist and radio commentator
Mumia Abu-Jamal. The multinational, mostly youthful crowd was
brought to its feet as speaker after speaker denounced the railroading
of Abu-Jamal to death row in Pennsylvania. “Mumia is all of
us,” said Monica Moorehead, a co-chair and organizer of today’s
event. “(He) is the defining figure in the racist, criminal
justice system today.”
Well known figures
like actors Ossie Davis and Ed Asner, attorneys Leonard Weinglass,
Dan Williams, Johnnie Cochran, and Ron Kuby, as well as former
New York City Mayor David Dinkins and comedians Dick Gregory
and Marga Gomez, all appeared. The event was a major step in
the struggle to break through the campaign of silence, vilification
and lies against Mumia in the mass media, where if his case
is mentioned at all, he is usually referred to as a “convicted
Larry Holmes, speaking
for the Millions for Mumia/International Action Center campaign
which organized the event, roused the crowd with an appeal to
turn this coming summer into a “freedom summer campaign, like
the freedom summer when youth traveled to the South to break
the back of racist segregation in the 1960s.” Holmes said, “Our
first task is to pack the courtroom in Philadelphia when Mumia
comes for a hearing in federal court. Then we have to organize
to be at both the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia,
July 29-30, and in Los Angeles at the Democratic National Convention
Among the many other
speakers at the event were: Kathleen Cleaver, attorney and former
leader of the Black Panther Party; Sonia Sanchez, a nationally
acclaimed poet and professor at Temple University; Leslie Feinberg,
a transgender author and co-founder of Rainbow Flags for Mumia;
as well as popular hip hop artists Will Villainova and Mos Def.
A number of the speakers at the rally reviewed the growing evidence
that suggests that Mumia was denied even the most basic constitutional
rights to legal representation and a fair trial.
Also appearing were
the family of Patrick Dorismond, the Haitian man recently killed
by New York City police, and other families of victims of police
brutality. A youth contingent also took the stage, with speakers
from Evergreen College and Antioch College, where Mumia was
invited to be the commencement speaker in 1999 and 2000, respectively.
Sarah Sloan, a youth
organizer for the International Action Center, spoke of the
need for militant action to challenge the power of the Prison
Industrial Complex, racism and police brutality, just as those
who challenged institutions like the World Trade Organization
and the International Monetary Fund, both in Seattle last year
and in Washington, DC this April. Speakers also addressed the
demand to get the US Navy out of Vieques, Puerto Rico, as well
as the struggle to send Elian Gonzalez and his family home to
Outside the Garden,
a group of about 50 police from the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association
and the Fraternal Order of Police picketed the rally, calling
for Mumia’s execution. While some of the media in New York City
focused more on the police picket line outside than on the inside
rally of thousands, organizers of today’s event characterized
it as a tremendous victory and a major step forward in bringing
the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal to the broader public.
meet with WNC legislators
By Robert Brown
Asheville, May 4-- Large delegations of unionists from
Western Carolina University (WCU) and the University of North
Carolina-Asheville (UNCA) met with North Carolina legislative
delegates Martin Nesbitt and Wilma Sherrill on the UNCA campus
on Thursday, May 4. They were joined by an organizer for UE
150, the NC Public Service Workers Union.
The union is organizing similar meeting across the state to
emphasize in this election year the broad-based
problems state workers are encountering which can be addressed
at the state level. These include:
1) The need for a living wage. A single mother of three
spoke clearly of the difficulties of raising such a family with
a take-home pay of $987 a month, and the difficulties of dealing
with red tape surrounding assistance programs.
2) The threat of privatization. Workers in situations
threatened by privatization were joined by other staff in pointing
out a number of drawbacks in addition to the loss of
jobs to this atomization of a work force: the lack of
access to off-campus resources, the limitations of a contract
mentality when an extra effort is required, and the hard-to
define losses of replacing friends and coworkers with outsiders.
3) Discrimination. Discrimination for any reason
race, age, sex, disabilities, or any other of a long list
is opposed by the NC Public Service Workers Union.
4) Collective Bargaining. UE 150 calls for a law guaranteeing
public employees the right to negotiate a contract with their
5) Ensure Compliance with the Family Medical Leave Act.
Years after Clintons Family Leave deal, there remains
a lack of clarity about its status in North Carolina, and workers
rights if it is denied. UE 150 calls on the NC General Assembly
to pass state legislation that guarantees workers family leave
and other protections.
The meeting was friendly and informative. Nesbit and Sherrill
repeatedly referred to the state employees as the front
line of state government, and showed a broad and deep
knowledge of most issues and problems on the table, offering
solutions for some problems, and where to look for a solution
for others. On one issue, however, the legislators offered no
hope whatever: collective bargaining.
According to Union officials, North Carolina ranks a lowly
30th nationally in what it pays its state employees. In fact,
both legislators at the meeting expressed concern that so many
state employees qualify for food stamps. At $17,000 a year,
some state employees earn barely half the $31,000 needed for
a living wage.
A union organizer says that the UE 150 / NC Public Workers Union
is doing very well in their efforts to organize
state employees. Thirteen of the states university system
campuses have active chapters of the Union; 40% of the state
representatives districts have union members, and 30%
of the senatorial districts have union members. The union is
growing rapidly, especially in situations where downsizing and
layoffs appear imminent, such as Dorthea Dix Hospital in Raleigh.
The group meeting in Asheville had these specific proposals
for the legislators: a) maintain ongoing contact with UE 150;
b) participate in a panel of sympathetic legislators in a statewide
lobby day for workers in June; c) introduce all or part of the
UE 150 legislative agenda in the upcoming or future sessions
of the General Assembly; and, d) send UE 150 a letter addressing
the legislative issues and affirming willingness to maintain
contact with the union. With a few reservations, the legislators
agreed to these requests.
The union stresses that the current legislative effort is prompted
by the electoral cycle, the rapid state-wide growth of the union,
and governmental fiscal and management policies which can be
addressed at the legislative level. The day-to-day work of the
union dealing with abusive management, the struggle for
decent wages, safe working conditions, job security, and respect
in the workplace continues twenty-four hours a day, seven
days a week, wherever there is a worker who will fight.