Thursday, April 26, 2007

Speaking truth to power today in the Senate

Vets, military families protest against
war funding, 14 arrested


For Comment:
Tina Richards, 573-247-8059
Pete Perry, 571-271-1313

WASHINGTON – Today the US Senate voted to approve its revised form of the military supplemental, and within the same hour 14 peace activists were arrested inside a Senate office building.

The Senate voted 51-46 to pass the $124.2 billion spending bill at around 1 p.m. At the same time a coalition of military families, veterans and anti-war groups held a dramatic protest inside the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building. The protest featured the reading of letters from military families calling for a swift end to the occupation of Iraq, two 600 square foot banners and a funeral honoring the next fallen soldier.

The arrests began to occur during the funeral portion of the protest alongside the giant Alexander Calder statue in the center of the atrium. Among those arrested were, Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip-Hop Caucus and Adam Kokesh with Iraq Veterans Against the War who served two tours in Iraq with the U.S. Marines.

“These are letters from Families who don’t want their sons and daughters to be sent off to Iraq for a third, sometimes even fourth tour of duty,” said Tina Richards, mother of Cloy Richards, a Marine who served two tours of duties in Iraq. Others joined Richards in reading several poignant letters.

Kevin Zeese, director of Democracy Rising was also arrested. Zeese is a former independent candidate for the U.S. Senate from Maryland.

“We know that Bush may veto this bill, but we don’t think it goes far enough in bringing our troops home,” said Pete Perry of the Washington Peace Center. “Funding this quagmire for another year is not bringing them home.”

The citizen activist groups involved in organizing and participating in today’s dramatic protest included United for Peace and Justice, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, GrassrootsAmerica4Us.org, Washington Peace Center, Voters for Peace, Democracy Rising, Artists Against the War and Code Pink.

Footage of the protest can be found on YouTube and Google Video.
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Monday, April 23, 2007

Witness Torture - The Action at The White House April 19,2007

March through Washington to the White House
chained to the the fence.

I was very proud to be in this procession.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Agustin Aguayo out of brig, coming home soon

"My experiences in Iraq made my convictions stronger... In the end I felt that I had to listen to my conscience."
— Agustin Aguayo

Agustín Aguayo, a 35-year-old Army medic and conscientious objector, was convicted of desertion and missing movement on March 6 in a U.S. military court in Germany. Although he faced a maximum of seven years, Agustín was sentenced to eight months in the brig for resisting redeployment to Iraq (see Courage to Resist's report from Germany). Since he had been imprisoned pending trial since September, he was released from the brig on April 18.

Agustín is still in the Army for the time being, and he is still in Germany. We are expecting his unit give him leave during his transition out of the Army so that he can come home, hopefully within a couple of weeks. However, Agustin's wife Helga notes, "For now the sad truth is it seems that the unit's inefficiency will keep him in Germany a while longer—an undetermined amount of time."

In a statement Helga wrote Wednesday, she added, "I am saddened that to date my husband has not been recognized as a conscientious objector (CO). I do not think the system has been fair to my husband, a man who served in Iraq and came back a decorated veteran. It saddens me that our daughters continue to live without their daddy and question why he is not back if he is supposedly, "free."

"We are preparing for a "welcome back" for him as well as a "victory tour" [details coming soon]. Much work is still needed! We need to bring awareness to his case and advocate for any future COs. As a consequence we intend on fighting this to the end."

Related video: http://www.couragetoresist.org/x/content/view/260/36/

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Bringing Guantanamo to the White House


CHARGES DISMISSED FOR ANTI-TORTURE ACTIVISTS, BUT FOURTEEN OF THEM ARE
LATER ARRESTED AT THE WHITE HOUSE

On April 18, 2007 at 9:30 AM, around fifty anti-torture activists, including Baltimore's Max Obuszewski and Joy First from Madison, Wisconsin, went to U.S. District Court, 333 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. for trial to face a charge of disorderly conduct as a result of a January 11 arrest in the atrium of the same courthouse. Courthouse officials, though,
seemed surprised that the defendants appeared in Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson's courtroom.

After the Jan. 11 arrest, most of those in custody refused to provide any identification and simply gave the name of a Guantanamo Bay detainee. Presumably, the government did not expect any of the eighty-nine individuals
arrested to appear for trial as they were released with John and Jane Doe citations. While the prosecutors, Judge Robinson and the marshals deliberated behind closed doors, the defendants began reading names and stories of the men being illegally detained at the Guantanamo gulag.

Since the government was unprepared for a trial, a large majority of the defendants decided to leave the courthouse at 10:15 AM in order to march through the city and call for the closure of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. Once outside, they donned the infamous orange jump suits and black hoods which are worn by those illegally interned in Cuba. At 11 AM, those defendants who remained in court were informed that the government would dismiss all eighty-nine cases.

The orange-clad anti-torture advocates marched to the Rayburn House Office Building, the Supreme Court, the Department of Justice and finally the White House. At each site, the advocates demanded justice and due process for the detainees. At the White House, to emphasize the dire conditions faced by the detainees, fourteen of the demonstrators locked themselves to the White House fence on Pennsylvania Ave. After about an hour, the U.S. Park Police brought out bolt cutters to sever the locks and took the resisters into custody.

During the White House demonstration, there were large numbers of tourists and students on spring break who witnessed the action. Coincidentally, representatives of Code Pink came to the White House to chant antiwar slogans as George W. Bush was to meet with Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Harry Reid to discuss supplemental funding of the war in Iraq. Cindy Sheehan and her sister Dede Miller joined with Code Pink to enthusiastically support the demonstration demanding the closure of Guantanamo Bay.

After the prisoners were taken to the Park Police jail in Anacostia, those not arrested renewed their commitment to condemn the government's use of torture and its denial of due process rights to "enemy combatants." Nonviolent civil resistance will continue as a number of anti-torture events are being planned and organized.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

One account of today at the White House

Bush, Lawmakers Meet on Iraq War Funding on the Deadliest Day in Baghdad Since the “Surge” Began Protesters Outside White House Urge End to War as Meeting Goes on Inside
By Kevin Zeese

The stalemate between Congress and the President continued as they met in the White House on Wednesday, April 18, 2007. In Baghdad a reported 178 people died and many more were wounded on the deadliest day since the Bush “security plan” began. Outside the White House, scores of protesters called for an end to the war and the closure of Guantanamo Bay with more than a dozen arrested chaining themselves to the White House fence.

Several groups of protesters and peace movement leaders were outside. Cindy Sheehan noted the flag at half mast for the killings at Virginia Tech should be at half mast every day for the deaths in Iraq. Marine Mom Tina Richards hoped to get a chance to ask Nancy Pelosi whether she would meet with military families and others affected by the war or continue to arrest them. A protest organized by the Catholic Workers included two dozen people in orange jump suits wearing black hoods who chained themselves to the White House fence. Outside the cordoned off area of the Guantanamo Bay protesters were CODE PINK “police” blowing whistles and shouting in bull horns that the Democrats should not buy Bush’s war.

Inside the Associated Press reports President Bush sat between Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid but neither side was ready to compromise. Bush seemed to hope that the House and Senate would compromise with each other and weaken their resolve. But, the Democratic leadership, for now, seems to be holding firm.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Military mom Tina Richards arrested at Pelosi's office while exercising her First Amendment Rights

Marine Mom Arrested at Speaker Pelosi's Washington, DC Office

By Kevin Zeese


Today, Monday, April 16, 2007, Marine Mom Tina Richards was arrested at Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. She was seeking to deliver a letter on behalf of a “Women’s Delegation for Peace” (see letter below with bios of the delegation members).
VIDEO OF THE ARREST AVAILABLE FROM WHYNOTNews.org. The video is on YouTube search “Tina Richards Arrested” or visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9XTl1Nou8g

The event was organized by Code Pink to welcome Congress back and urge an end to the war. Also participating were members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, Vets for Peace, Voters For Peace, Iraqi Voices for Peace, Democracy Rising, Washington Peace Center, Grassroots America (Tina Richard’s educational organization) and other organizations and individuals.

The arrest occurred in the hallway outside of the Speaker’s office as the delegation was protesting the media being forced to leave the Speaker’s office. Advocates reacted by reading the First Amendment of the Constitution, “Congress shall make no law abridging the Freedom of the Press,” and were shouting that phrase as well as urging an end to the war.

As she was being arrested Tina Richards said: “The Democrats should not buy Bush’s war. They should fulfill the mandate the voters gave them in November 2006 to end the war and not extend it. Bring our troops home now.”

Her fellow anti-war advocates urged the police not to arrest the Marine mom, whose son, Cloy has served two tours of duty in Iraq and has been found by the VA to be 80% disabled. They described the arrest as “un-American” and urged the police to not arrest someone who was merely speaking out against the war within her rights under the Constitution.

# # #

Sunday, April 15, 2007

We should be outraged at torture and 'black sites'


TORTURE AND SELECTIVE OUTRAGE
By David Lindorff

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The alleged torture of British Navy personnel by Iraqi Revolutionary Guards was page one news in the New York Times and other US publications on Saturday, and the outrage in America and Britain was almost universal.

According to the just released 15 captives, they were blindfolded, then forced to listen to guns being cocked, which led them to believe they might be executed. They were placed in isolation from one another, yelled at, and forced to confess to having trespassed in Iranian territorial waters.

These abusive treatments are all awful, and no one would want to have to endure them, but let's be honest here: they pale in comparison to what American captives have been put through in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Guantanamo, and at various secret "black sites" around the world from Poland to Ethiopia.

People held in captivity by American forces--military and CIA--are known to have faced mock executions, to have been beaten to the point of death, and to have endured repeated water-boarding sessions. They have been forced to stay in stress positions for so long that they have suffered permanent muscular and neurological damage. They have been subjected to total sensory deprivation, such as we saw was applied to American captive Jose Padilla, to the point that they went insane. They've suffered extended sleep deprivation, have been left staked to the ground in desert sun, or left wet and naked for days in front of blasting air-conditioners. They've been attacked by dogs, sexually humiliated, raped, and forced to watch the desecration of their Korans.

There are also forms of torture applied which we don't even know about--the reason provided by federal authorities for blacking out the testimony of captives at military tribunals in Guantanamo, and the reason two convicted "terrorists," David Hicks and John Walker Lindh, had to sign gag agreements barring them from talking about the conditions of their captivity in public in return for reduced sentences.

If anyone wanted to know why President Bush's authorization of torture by American forces was a criminal act, they should go talk to the freed British detainees. So far, no one has asked them what they think about countries that torture captives.

My guess is that they'll say it's a horrible idea, whoever does it.

So far, from what I've seen, none of the reports on the abusive treatment of British captives has made the connection to how American forces are torturing captives in their custody.

This is shoddy journalism at its worst.

So far, nobody in Congress, including Sen. John McCain, who once tried to pass a torture ban only to have it gutted by presidential signing statement, has said anything about this case-book example of blow-back of America's use of officially sanctioned torture of captives.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Putin's government cracks down on dissent, chess champ seized

Police Grab Ex-Chess Champ Who Opposes Putin
Garry Kasparov Now Prominent in Russia's Anti-Putin Opposition

By AMMU KANNAMPILLY
April 14, 2007 — - Over a thousand people gathered in central Moscow today to protest against the Russian government's growing crackdown on political dissent and its increasing tendency to curb the country's newfound democracy.

The march -- banned by the Kremlin -- saw the presence of several prominent figures from the pro-democratic movement in Russia, including former world chess champion, Garry Kasparov and ex-Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov.

Kasparov was detained by police almost as soon as the demonstration began. According to an eyewitness account published on the Russian news Website, www.gazeta.ru, Kasparov was among 20 or so activists held by police as the march began to gather pace.

"This regime is criminal; it is a police state," Kasparov shouted as police hauled him away in a van.

He was released 10 hours later by a Moscow court, which levied a $38 fine on him for "public order offences."

In all, Moscow police admitted to having arrested 170 people, though activists claimed the actual figure was in the region of several hundred.

Eyewitnesses reported seeing multiple instances of unprovoked aggression towards demonstrators, with police using batons to push people back, and dragging them into police vans when met with resistance.

Local residents pointed to the presence of several "tough-looking, plainclothed men" and "vehicles without license plates" in the side streets surrounding Turgenev Square and Pushkin Square, where the protestors had gathered.

Hundreds of people marched down the streets, chanting "Shame, disgrace" and holding up human rights pamphlets from non-governmental organisations.

The demonstration broke up an hour and a half later, when the riot police began to disperse people and push them into the Moscow subway system.

In an interview with the only remaining truly independent Russian radio station, Echo Moskvy (Echo of Moscow), former Prime Minister Kasyanov said that he "witnessed riot police openly beating people up, with no attempt to hide it."

He added that the protest was organized under the aegis of the "Other Russia" coalition, in order to "demand free and honest elections and the right to free speech."

Saturday's march came after three other demonstrations met with similar police resistance in the cities of Moscow, St. Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod. The "Other Russia" plan to hold another banned protest on Sunday in St Petersburg.

Although the official opposition party, the "Radical Nationalists" also led a 500-strong march today, their focus was largely nationalistic and pro-Kremlin. They were supported by the "Young Guard", a pro-government youth group: About 1,000 activists demonstrated in favor of Putin's regime near Moscow State University.

But the largest numbers belonged to the riot police, some 9,000 of whom were deployed across central Moscow in preparation for Saturday's marches.

Regulations passed recently by the Moscow city council require that all demonstrations must follow a strict rule limiting the density of protestors to one person per five square feet. According to the Russian news agency Interfax, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov denied any political reasoning behind the new ruling.

But the sheer number of police on the streets on Saturday underscored the high level of threat estimated by the Kremlin with regard to such "dissenters' marches."

This weekend's demonstrations are perceived as a key test of popular support for the Russian pro-democratic movement before next year's presidential elections. The relatively small numbers seen at the Moscow rally suggest that the opposition has yet to fuel public imagination and draw high levels of support.

That said, the police strength deployed across Pushkin Square and Turgenev Square may have revealed a surprising level of insecurity in the Kremlin.

President Putin enjoys the kind of approval ratings most world leaders would relish. According to a public survey conducted by the internationally respected Levada Center in February 2007, Putin's approval rating was 81 percent.

What makes the democratic opposition's task even harder is the lack of a sufficiently populist leader. Kasparov is well known in Russia and abroad for becoming the youngest-ever world chess champion in 1985. But his Jewish roots and Azeri background (he hails from Baku, Azerbaijan -- formerly a Soviet republic) make him unacceptable to the majority of Russian voters.

Other opposition figures, like Kasyanov and the exiled tycoon, Boris Berezovsky, don't have anything like the respect commanded by Putin.

Furthermore, the anti-Putin movement is racked by division. A review of the various groups operating under the "Other Russia" umbrella -- from the far-left Workers' Party to pro-western liberals like Kasparov -- suggests that the only thing uniting them is a shared opposition to Putin. And that may not be enough to make a dent in the Russian President's armour. Yet.

Putin has stated that he will not run for a third term as president in 2008. He is still to designate an official successor, but speculation favors two men -- Russian first deputy prime ministers Sergei Ivanov and Dmitry Medvedev. Both are known for their loyalty to Putin, and are unlikely to swerve from the established political course.

In the meantime, however, the presence of Kasparov, Kasyanov, and hundreds more at today's demonstration would appear to show that this fight is not over yet.

After nearly six hours of questioning, Kasparov left the courtroom, promising to appeal the guilty verdict.

Speaking to ABCNews.com, he said: "This court rejected the very presumption of my innocence. I was the one who had to prove that I was innocent, although there were no concrete allegations against me.

"Nevertheless," Kasparov said, "we consider today a victory. The outrageous behaviour of the authorities only demonstrates that we live in a police state. But we are not going to stop here. We will continue to struggle."

He added, "Although the Russian constitution clearly stipulates that every citizen has the right to speak freely, the current regime doesn't respect that right. The opinion of the average man simply doesn't count."

But for the time being, at least, the average man in Russia appears to prefer backing Putin to supporting the opposition.

Tomek Rolski contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2007 ABC News Internet Ventures

Monday, April 09, 2007

Thoughts on the movement, and a wake up call to anti-war Democrats



I guess many of us are anxiously awaiting to see the results of the Senate and the House's joint conference on the supplelemental bill for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Bush asked for approximately $99 billion, the Democrats newly installed in power, turned around and are willing to give him more than $120 billion. At this point approximately $500 billion has been spent on these disastrous and immoral invasions (November 2001 and March 2003 respectively). The Senate's version has a March 2008 timetable for withdrawal, while the House has an August 2008 date (two months before the Presidential election which the Dems are now expected to win).

Anything smell political here? Sure! Not only are these timetables for withdrawal timed to gain the Dems as much political power as possible, there's nothing about them that can be enforceable when dealing with a reckless and completely morally empty commander-in-chief. Then throw in this weekend's interview of Sen. Carl Levin by George Stephanopolous: Levin says there's no way the Dems will ever cut off funding. Remember the New York Times interview of Sen. Hillary Clinton about three weeks ago? She said when she's president in '09 she will definitely be keeping troops in Iraq. It's time for true progressive and anti-war Dems to begin to leave the party.

March was an extremely busy month, with the Occupation Project across the country and Code Pink doing daily actions on Capitol Hill. What's next? Well, now that we are in the 5th year of the Iraq quagmire I keep hoping more will contnue to visit their senators and representatives and say that the gig is up! My friend Tina Richards is calling for tens of thousands of citizen lobbyists to join her in the halls of Congress!

At the end of '04 I left the Dems, but it's now time for the rest of the good people at PDA to say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. The Dems have the majority on The Hill, and now with passing the supplemental, officially own the Iraq quagmire and the mess in Afghanistan (which has still not produced a stable society). Carl Levin and Hillary Clinton don't speak for my friends in PDA and other anti-war progressives -- and I think many of them will now vote with their feet!

Carl Levin's offices:
WASHINGTON
269 Russell Office Building
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510-2202
Phone (202) 224-6221
Fax (202) 224-1388
8:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

TRAVERSE CITY
107 Cass Street
Suite E
Traverse City, MI 49684-2602
Phone: (231) 947-9569
Fax: (231) 947-9518
9:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.

GRAND RAPIDS
110 Michigan Street, NW
Suite 720
Grand Rapids, MI 49503-2313
Phone: (616) 456-2531
Fax: (616) 456-5147
9:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.

SAGINAW
515 N. Washington
Suite 402
Saginaw, MI 48607-1370
Phone (989) 754-2494
Fax (989) 754-2920
9:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.

LANSING OFFICE
124 West Allegan
Suite 1810
Lansing, MI 48933-1716
Phone: (517) 377-1508
Fax: (517) 377-1506
9:00a.m. - 5:30 p.m.

WARREN
30500 Van Dyke Ave
Suite 206
Warren, MI 48093-2109
Phone: (586) 573-9145
Fax: (586) 573-8260
9:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.

DETROIT
Patrick V. McNamara Federal Building
477 Michigan Avenue
Room 1860
Detroit, MI 48226-2576
Phone: (313) 226-6020
Fax: (313) 226-6948
TTY: (800) 851-0030
9:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.

ESCANABA - UPPER PENINSULA
524 Ludington Street
Suite LL-103
Escanaba, MI 49829-3949
Phone (906) 789-0052
Fax (906) 789-0015
9:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.