Archive for the 'immigrants rights' Category

Hip hop activists attacked and arrested for daring to hold the NYPD accountable

Members of Rebel Diaz being arrested

Sometimes there’s too much to blog and far too little time. I’ve been wanting to blog about this since I heard about it last week, but Vivir Latino and illvox and Racewire and a bunch of other folks have gotten to it already so I’ll refer to them. From VivirLatino:

Last Thursday, independent, radical, revolutionary, activist Hip Hoppers Rodstarz and G1, two brothers known musically and in the movement as Rebel Diaz [along with MC/vocalist La Tere], were walking in the Bronx, NYC when they witnessed an all too common occurrence. Police officers from the 41st Precinct were in the middle of a sting against street vendors, aggressively confiscating the fruit and vegetables of a street vendor. What happened next was a mix of the sadly uncommon and the everyday threat that is faced in many of our communities. Rodstarz and G1 didn’t walk by quickly or quietly, watching their extended community being attacked. They approached the officers to ask why the vendor was being treated in that manner and asked for their badge numbers. The police, who aren’t exactly keen on the idea of being monitored by the very same community they allegedly serve, turned their aggressions on the duo. After beating them and arresting them in front of over a dozen witnesses, they were taken to the 41st Precinct.

Within hours, over 75 friends, community members and activists gathered outside the precinct (1035 Longwood Avenue at Southern Blvd.) to sing, chant, drum and march for over 4 hours, demanding that all charges be dropped and that Rodstarz and G1 be immediately released.

The following morning more than 25 people gathered at the Bronx County Criminal Court for their arraignment. The men are charged with two misdemeanors: obstruction of justice and resisting arrest, and are scheduled for court on September 3rd, 2008.

Check out video of the arrests and the subsequent protests.

Obstruction of justice and resisting arrest should really be renamed the Activist Charges, since they seem to be what all of us are threatened with whenever we’re arrested for either protesting or observing the cops and holding them accountable for their actions. The latter seems to particularly piss the cops off. I know this from personal experience, having been pepper sprayed along with other community members and seeing two friends being violently arrested for doing just that – questioning police actions, asking for badge numbers, taking pictures of their activity. All the charges against the two people arrested were dropped. Three members of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement’s Cop Watch were arrested while videotaping an arrest in Brooklyn in 2005. All charges against them were later dropped. When the cops went on a bike-confiscating frenzy in the East Village last summer, two people who dared to observe and question them were arrested. It happens over and over again.

Why? Because, as they’ve demonstrated on countless occasions, the NYPD has zero interest in being held accountable by the communities that they purportedly serve. In fact, even the threat of accountability seems to make them angry. So in response to peaceful observation and requests for badge numbers, they respond with rage, with violence, with threats, and ultimately with arrests on trumped up charges that are almost always dropped. It’s not about arresting people who are actually doing anything wrong – after all, observing the police is not officially a crime, though I’m sure they wish it were. No, they do it to scare us, make us too scared of arrest or other retaliation to hold them accountable.

And you know what? Sometimes their fear tactics work. Getting arrested is fucking scary, and even just getting messed with or threatened by the cops is daunting. Especially when I’m alone, I get nervous to stop and watch the cops. Not even question them, not even take pictures, and certainly not even anything close to intervening – I get scared of standing nearby and looking at them. And that fear pisses me off. When I’m with someone else, it’s easier; with a group, even easier. The fear makes sense – cops and the power they wield are scary – but we can’t let it stop us from practicing our civil rights and our civic duties in holding them accountable.

Another important issue raised by this incident: illvox posted a press release from VAMOS Unidos (Vendedoras Ambulantes Movilizando y Organizando en Solidaridad — Street Vendors Mobilizing and Organizing in Solidarity) expressing solidarity and thanks to Rodstarz and G1. The release gives some background on the NYPD’s frequently awful treatment of street vendors, often low-income folks, people of color, and immigrants – all vulnerable populations:

Street vendors experience state repression day to day as they deal with arrests, crippling fines, confiscations, beatings, and abusive treatment by the NYPD. Members of VAMOS Unidos are often incarcerated for 1-3 days, severely beaten, victims of theft by the NYPD, and endure humiliating treatment. Marcela, a flower vendor in the Bronx for seven years, was violently forced to the ground as the police yelled xenophobic comments. She was handcuffed and placed against her cart as police gave her merchandise away. She was then taken to jail where she was kept all day.

It’s important to remember that even while it might be scary for some of us to observe the police and hold them accountable, there are often people who are even more vulnerable than us; even if it’s scary, we have to do what we can to stand in solidarity with them. Big ups to Rodstarz and G1 for doing that.

A distracted, incomplete, and biased response to the Democratic Debate

I’ll admit it: I’m not much for watching televised debates. Even though there’s an exciting race going on and the debate included a candidate who I’m kinda jazzed about, I just don’t have the attention span for it. I often have the same problem with sports. Some games will get my undivided attention, especially championships and others with high stakes (the recent Super Bowl and Australian Open come to mind.) But with most games, as with the debate that occurred a few hours ago, I start out well, paying full attention, but soon my mind begins to wander. Then I pick up my laptop and it’s all over; despite occasional efforts to keep up, by the end I’m completely distracted and only looking up at the screen with a “Huh?” or a “Wha?” when my girlfriend exclaims or declaims or laughs at something that just happened.

That’s pretty much what happened tonight. It didn’t help that it’s a Thursday night; usually by this point in the week, during the evenings I can pretty much muster up only the focus needed to watch American Idol (quote of the week: “You are a blend… of every favorite color… that I know”) or The Office (which I really hope is returning soon, because I like it a whole lot better than American Idol.)

HOWEVER – I did take some notes on particularly amusing/disturbing/annoying/upsetting parts of the debate, and will share those thoughts with you here. I do this with a big huge disclaimer: this is by no means a play by play, nor a thorough account, nor a particularly fair account as I started drifting fairly early on and found myself paying attention more when Obama was talking than when Clinton was. I’m sure someone will tell me that’s because I’m sexist, but hey, at least I’m not racist! Hah.

Continue reading ‘A distracted, incomplete, and biased response to the Democratic Debate’

ACTION ALERT: Support the Khalil Gibran International Academy

Monday, August 20, 6pm
NYC Department of Education
Tweed Courthouse, 52 Chambers Street
Between Broadway & Centre St. in Manhattan
Subways: 4, 5, 6, N, R, W, M, J, 2, 3, A, C

This is fairly short notice for this alert, but I want to really encourage folks to show up Monday afternoon for a gathering in support of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, a soon-to-be-opened NYC public school that will focus on Arabic language and culture (for folks unfamiliar, many NYC public schools have foci like this, cultural or otherwise.) The school has been the subject of racist and anti-Islamic attacks from many conservative pundits and media sources, as in this NY Sun article and an edition of Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes that was written up over at Media Matters. However, the school has been under especially harsh attack since Debbie Almontaser, now ex-principal of the school, came under fire from such sources for not condemning a t-shirt created by an organization that is unrelated to the school. Since then, Almontaser has resigned from her position, stating that she “became convinced yesterday that this week’s headlines were endangering the viability of Khalil Gibran International Academy, even though [she] apologized.”

The t-shirt, which reads “Intifada NYC,” was created by a NYC community organization, AWAAM: Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media. The group’s mission states that it “provides comprehensive leadership opportunities in community organizing, art and media skills to young women and girls … to empower a generation of young women with the community organizing and media skills necessary to act as leaders within their communities, which have endured increasing hardship in recent years.” On Democracy Now! last Monday, Mona Eldahry, founding director of AWAAM, said this about the t-shirt’s origin and meaning:

Now, “Intifada NYC” is not a call for terrorism, as they say. It’s not a call for violence or, if I could quote one of the publications, “Gaza Strip uprising in the Big Apple.” “Intifada NYC” is a term that, you know, we developed maybe two, three years ago in the years since September 11th. Basically, for myself — everybody interprets it differently — but for myself, I feel, as an Arab woman, as a Muslim woman and as a woman of color, pressure from two sides … on one hand, from the community discrimination — from the outside, I mean, you know, discrimination on the streets — and then from our own communities, you know, we’re told, you know, “Be careful. You know, don’t — you know, don’t go to demonstrations. Don’t be too outspoken, you know,” you know, especially when we were young …

“Intifada” means “shaking off,” you know, so shake off these pressures that we’re feeling, both from the other side and from our side. You know, we have to speak out. And if we don’t speak up for ourselves, who will?

This clarification of the literal Arabic meaning of intifada is what got Debbie Almontaser into so much trouble. Essentially, both she and AWAAM are coming under fire for owning their own language and for refusing to allow it to be constrained to which others wish to limit it. A recent editorial in the New York Post gives this definition of the word: “terroristic assault and murder, undertaken by Palestinians against Jews in the Middle East.” (No mention, of course, of the terroristic assault, murder, and oppression of Palestinians by Israel.) The editorial then calls Almontaser’s explanation of the Arabic definition of intifada “malarkey.” Because apparently, the editorial staff of the New York Post deems itself more qualified to give the definition of an Arabic word than an Arab-American speaker of Arabic. And although it may be true that the word is most often associated with Palestinian uprisings against Israeli occupation, such a definition even leaves out the many non-violent elements of those struggles, including “civil disobedience, general strikes, boycotts on Israeli products, graffiti, and barricades.”

The repression, stamping out, robbing and perversion of language and cultural identity have long been important tools of colonialism, imperialism, and racism. Right now, it is in the interest of conservatives, racists, warmongers, and anti-Islamic people to promote only those perceptions of Islam and Arabic culture that support american wars and policies of aggression and imperialism in the Arabic world, as well as the oppression of Arabic people in this country. The Khalil Gibran International School is coming under attack because it will not promote the prescribed view of Arabic history, culture, peoples and languages; it’ll actually strive for a fair and complete perspective, one which will go counter to one that props up war and oppression. The attacks themselves – calling the school a “madrassa” (another Arabic word twisted by the media and conservatives) that will serve to “groom future radicals” – continue to promote the twisted view of Arab people, assigning sinister, violent, and anti-american motives to the mere study of Arabic language and culture.

The preservation of language and culture is threatening to american hegemony, to american imperialism, and to american racism. African languages were quite literally beaten out of Africans in slavery; Native languages and culture were wiped out with their people. Today, “Welcome to America, now SPEAK ENGLISH” is a popular t-shirt slogan, Latino kids are suspended from school for speaking Spanish in the halls, and travelers are stopped from boarding planes because they’re wearing t-shirts written in Arabic:

So the security officers and the JetBlue officers at that time told me that wearing an Arabic T-shirt and coming to an airport in the US is like going to a bank while wearing a T-shirt that reads, “I am a robber.”

And a principal can be forced to resign because she makes the mistake of defining a word in her own language, instead of allowing her language to be defined for her by those who do nothing but malign her culture.

Intifada NYC, indeed – for there’s a whole lot of bullshit to be shaken off.

ACTION ALERT: Tues. 5/22 NYC Emergency Press Conference and Rally on Immigrant Justice

I won’t get a chance to write about the b.s. immigration legislation that’s being pushed through Congress right now, so instead I suggest you attend the press conference and rally in NYC tomorrow, if you’re local, and read the press release below.

Immigration “Grand Bargain” = Grand Sellout

With this weeks upcoming vote on the Senates Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2007 (resulting from the bipartisan “Grand Bargain” between Senators and the White House), immigrant communities face one of the most repressive immigration plans in decades: an enormous report-to-deport program, a punitive pseudo-legalization plan, expanded enforcement at the border and interior, a guestworker program with tougher worksite enforcement and minimal worker protections, as well as devastating cutbacks in family immigration to be replaced with merit-based requirements. Community groups in the New York metro area are coming together to challenge the Senate “Grand Bargain” on Tuesday May 22nd as part of a national coordination of press conferences (officially on Wednesday May 23rd throughout the country) with the National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights.

JOIN US in front of Senator Clintons office to URGENTLY condemn this “bargain” which compromises away our lives.

What: Emergency Press Conference and rally for immigrant communities to speak out against the Senate-White House Immigration Deal and demand that our Senators not compromise immigrant lives.

When: 11am on Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Where: Outside Senator Clinton’s office (780 Third Ave, between 48th and 49th Streets)

Who: Organized by Immigrant Communities in Action and the American Friends Service Committee

To endorse, please contact

************

PRESS RELEASE

American Friends Service Committee
Immigrant Communities in Action

PRESS RELEASE, May 21, 2007

Contact:
Trishala Deb, Audre Lorde Project: 917.488.6701 (English)
Chia Chia Wang, American Friends Service Committee: 646-509-3860 (English)
Jennifer Arieta, Centro Hispano “Cuzcatlan”: 631-332-7887 (Spanish)

NYC Immigrants Tell Clinton and Schumer: The Grand Bargain Equals a Grand Sellout

Queens, NY – Immigrant Communities in Action (ICA) – a multi-ethnic coalition of grassroots immigrant rights groups in New York – is joining other national, regional, and local groups around the country to say NO to the “Grand Bargain”. With this week’s upcoming vote on the Senate’s Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2007 (referring to the bipartisan “Grand Bargain” between Senators and the White House), immigrant communities face one of the most repressive immigration plans in decades: minimal opportunities for immigrants to legalize our status, expanded enforcement at the border and interior, a guestworker program with tougher worksite enforcement and minimal worker protections, as well as devastating cutbacks in family immigration to be replaced with merit-based requirements.

Coalition members will hold a press conference and rally at Senator Clinton’s office this week, in conjunction with a national media week coordinated by the National Network of Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

Date: May 22, 2007
Time: 11 am
Location: Outside Sen. Clinton’s Office, 780 3rd Ave., between 48th and 49th St.

We do not see the so-called “Grand Bargain” as a legalization bill, but rather a “report to deport” system for millions of immigrants that cannot jump over the extremely high hurdles—including a restrictive point system which most community members will not qualify for and which penalizes working class immigrants. The misleading proposal also requires immigrants leaving the US to “touch-back” with no guaranteed right to return as well as having to prove continuous work history. Many of our community members will not qualify due to work and education histories, old age, medical issues including HIV status, and a scarcity of jobs with employer sponsorship, or an inability to fit legal definitions of “family” because of their gender identity or sexuality. “The impacts of this proposal would be devastating on the immigrant communities in New York, with thousands expecting to have the opportunity for permanent status only to enlist in a program resulting in their own deportation,” Namita Chad, a member of the Audre Lorde Project stated.

Possibly the most contentious part of the plan is the rollback on historic family reunification options for millions of families in the United States. The Grand Compromise eliminates most options for family sponsorships and replaces them with a feeble visitor visa program. Residents will lose the ability to sponsor parents and children who are 18 years or older. “How can other American families stand by while children lose their grandparents and parents are cut off from their own children? While we build the economy for families in this country, we could be completely cut off from our own,” states Jennifer Arieta from Centro Hispano “Cuzcatlan”.

Any of the feeble “paths” to citizenship will not be available until “interior enforcement,” “employer verification,” and “border security” milestones are in place, which could take years. Additionally, these “security” measures will encourage local and state police to act as federal immigration agents and place thousands of border patrol ICE agents in communities and worksites, which would make our communities more vulnerable to abuse, racial profiling and harassment and lead to widespread detention and deportation. “Why does this proposal stipulate a capacity to incarcerate 27,000 immigrants a day?” Carolyn H. de Leon-Hermogenes, a member of Domestic Workers United, asked. “It is clear this proposal has nothing to do with communities and everything to do with expanding enforcement and corporate profits for the same companies that are making money from the war in Iraq.” Similar to last year’s plans, the Grand Compromise also focuses heavily on enforcement, including doubling the number of Border Patrol agents; adding Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to investigate “immigration crimes;” and providing more equipment to militarize the border.

***

Through an extensive community consultation process, Immigrant Communities in Action documented the voices of immigrant communities and created the “People’s Platform for Immigration Reform.” Community members want to reunite with their families within a reasonable period; we do not want to wait decades to apply for their “green card” and then more years to become a citizen before we can file a petition for their relatives. We want to protect the rights of all workers – immigrants and native-born. We want a fair path to legalization available to all temporary workers. We want our homes, our workplaces, our cities, and our borders to be safe; we want an end to the human and civil rights crisis and disappearing legal processes. We say no to increasing raids, detention and deportation that tear our families apart, and are paid for with taxpayers’ money. Immigrant communities are in crisis as our families are being torn apart—we desperately need a fair and humane immigration reform that includes a clear and realistic path to legalization and an end to raids, deportations, detentions & excessive policing.

celebrating May Day, LAPD style

I’d heard about the police brutality at the immigration protests in LA, but I didn’t see this footage until today. It looks like a warzone. It is a warzone – the police vs the people. It’s horrifying.

Something striking about this particular footage – even Fox News (albeit a local affiliate) showed the truth in a “fair and balanced” way. The LAPD really fucked up this time, it seems, by not only attacking the protesters, but also brutalizing members of the media, who have the ability to put the story out there and who can’t be so easily written off as unruly protesters or “anarchists.” Who knows, maybe some change will come after this. Not holding my breath, though.

Tancredo’s platform: too many Mexicans, and Blacks who identify as Blacks

On Monday morning, I was listening to the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC while getting ready for work. Lehrer was interviewing Tom Tancredo, a Republican representative in the House from Colorado who is planning on running for the presidency. Now, this guy is a real gem; his recent antics include singing Dixie at a Confederate-flag-displaying barbecue organized by the South Carolina League of the South, which is classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. The barbecue was a fundraiser for Tancredo’s non-profit coalition, “Americans Have Had Enough!” (Enough immigrants, Mexicans, or brown people, I’m guessing.)

So, his newest crusade is unsurprising: he’s calling for the abolition of the congressional Black and Hispanic caucuses. From the interview (which you can listen to in its entirety :

TANCREDO: I do not believe that there should be a Black caucus, I do not believe that there should be a caucus based on race. The Black caucus, Hispanic caucus – these are not things that the Congress of the United States ought to provide finances for, ought to have as a formal part of the House of Representatives, which these are; and, which send a horrible message I think again about how we are split up on racial lines and that’s exactly where we should not be going. What would happen, I wonder, if anyone was to suggest the creation of a white caucus. I mean, certainly they would be roundly criticized and rightly so, for being racist.

LEHRER: Well, do you think that those are moral equivalents, a white caucus and a Black caucus, given American history?

TANCREDO: I absolutely believe they are, when you have, uh… The issue is surrounding the concept of a race-based, formally organized and formally approved part of the congress of the United States. That is, I think, sending a horrible message.

Right. Because Black folks and other people of color don’t need to gather and work together as a result of racism. It’s actually the other way around: things are all messed up because they’re sending the wrong message. If they’d just stop sending the wrong message, then poof, racism and racial divides in this country would disappear! White people, of course, have nothing to do with it. Didn’t you know?

The interview continues, and at some point Lehrer asks:

LEHRER: So the two issues you’ve picked your most public fights on as a presidential candidate so far are too many Mexicans, if we can call the immigration, the illegal immigration question that –

TANCREDO: You can’t.

LEHRER: – I’ll let you respond to that; and Blacks who identify as Blacks. So should I conclude that too much Black and Latino power at the expense of whites are your two major concerns?

Bullseye, Brian. Tancredo predictably chuckles this off and delivers some manure-laden line about how of course this is not the case. But Lehrer, about whom I generally have mixed feelings, had me saying, “You go, white boy!” with that zinger.

ACTION ALERT: Entire Queens Family Arrested as Intimidation

Note from Jack: I heard about this on NPR the other morning, but unsurprisingly didn’t get the whole story, not even from them. I’ve added emphasis on some parts of this press release from DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving), which is an important and kick-ass organization that everyone should know about.

Also, for more information on Shahawar Matin Siraj’s case, see Democracy Now! interview with his lawyer, Martin Stolar.

PRESS RELEASE
January 9, 2007

Entire Queens Family Arrested as Intimidation

For questions, contact:
Fahd Ahmed, DRUM (940) 391 -2660

At 5am on the morning of January 9th, 2007, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raided the Queens home of and arrested three members (father, mother, and daughter) of the Siraj family, a tight-knit Pakistani family that has been caught up in the U.S. “War on Terror’s” most recent act of racial and religious profiling. Tuesday’s deplorable raid on the home of an innocent family is amongst dozens of other targeted, prejudiced sweeps across the country that are tearing Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities apart. The arrests occurred less than 12 hours after their young son, Shahawar Matin Siraj, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for alleged terrorism-related charges emerging from a clandestine NYPD-paid informant’s entrapment.

ICE officials are currently falsely reporting that the family was arrested on immigration-related charges and that the father’s appeal for an asylum case was “denied.” The reality is that the father’s appeal is still pending in the Second Circuit Court and has not been decided, and that the mother and teenage daughter do not have any immigration cases or deportation orders pending against them. Given the high-profile media attention on their son’s case, in which there were many underhanded legal irregularities and rights violations, these arrests are being seen by the community as an attempt to silence and make an example of the family through harassment. The family maintains that their son was ensnared by an NYPD informant, evidence of which the court did not properly consider, resulting in an unfair trial and sentencing. The family has filed a notice of appeal for their son’s case.

Both the father and the mother have ongoing and severe medical conditions, and the mother was only allowed to take two days of medicine at the time of the arrests. All family members are currently being held at Elizabeth Detention Center in Elizabeth, NJ, but they may be moved or separated to different facilities.

DRUM, as a community based organization that works with Muslim and South Asian immigrants and has seen the targeting of this community before and especially after 9/11, is calling on all concerned individuals and organizations to contact the ICE Field Office Director, at 973-645-3666, and demand that (a) the Siraj family be immediately released on their own recognizance or a reasonable bond, and, (b) that ICE stop targeting immigrant communities, in particular Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians. DRUM is also calling on all people of conscience to call Warden Charlotte Collins at Elizabeth Detention Center, at 908-352-3776, to demand that (a) they provide urgent medical care and medication for the mother and father, and (b) that the Siraj family be kept together, particularly the mother and daughter not be separated, and, (c) to pro-actively facilitate direct communication and visitation between the family and their son, Matin, who is being held at Metropolitan Detention Center. DRUM, alongside countless civil and human-rights organizations and concerned citizens will continue to expose the ongoing injustices of the “War on Terror” against this family and all targeted communities.

From one war on people of color to another

From a CNN report: “An amendment cutting Bush’s Iraq request by $1.9 billion to pay for new aircraft, patrol boats and other vehicles, as well as border checkpoints and a fence along the Mexico border crossing near San Diego widely used by illegal immigrants was adopted on 59-39 vote.”

Really, when is the War on Illegal Immigration going to enter the official political lexicon alongside the War on Terrorism and the War on Drugs? Which are all essentially euphemistic pseudoynms for Excuses to Wage War on People of Color, when you get down to it.

Also: those politicians and other people who have hardline view on immigration should read this article about a Senegalese high schooler who has struggled for years to stay in america, stay alive, stay in school, only to face possible deportation now. As I’ve written before, I’m wary of the sort of appeals that pit “good immigrants” against “bad ones” – “Look at this brilliant, well-behaved high school student! Clearly, he deserves to stay in this country, unlike those other sorts of immigrants.” No, I don’t go for that sort of thing, and I hope that this article doesn’t encourage that kind of thinking. But you’d have to be a cold-hearted bastard to read something like this and yet still support legislation that would make this kid a felon and force him out of the country.

Remind me never to even glance at FOXNews.com

For some clearly ridiculous reason, I decided to follow a Google News link to an article on the Faux News website. On their sidebars, there’s a video section. Three videos in a row had to do with immigration. I didn’t bother too look at any of them – I’m not that stupid, nor am I masochistic (well, at least not for that kind of pain.) But the titles and captions say plenty:

  • Border Disorder: A look at issues that drive many Mexicans to enter the U.S. illegally (sounds good in theory, but somehow I think there’ll be a whole lot missing about america’s culpability in creating those issues that drive immigration)
  • Get in Line!: Millions wait for a chance to legally come to the U.S. to work (Boy, how I wish the Native Americans could have issued that command to the white bastards who stole their land. Get in line, and then we’ll turn you away anyhow! Yeah, that’s how it should’ve been.)
  • and, the best of all: Border Garbage: Illegal immigrants blamed for trashing the border (WTF? They’re really digging for even more bullshit that they can blame on undocumented immigrants, aren’t they? I can just see the orders issued in the Faux News Pressroom – “OK, now go out and find everything that an illegal immigrant ever did wrong, and let’s make a video about it!”)

migraphobia

Today’s post title comes to you from this funny and smart animation by Mark Fiore, which I discovered by reading a great post of the same name by Junichi over at Poplicks. Check that blog out for good reasons why we should be thankful that the immigration reform “compromise” bill wasn’t passed (and hopeful that something that actual resembles justice does get passed in the end.)

Yesterday’s rally was actually one of the best, most fun, and most inspiring I’ve ever been to. When my girlfriend and I arrived at Canal and Broadway, the end of the protest was right there on that block – very impressive, though possibly also a partial result of the weird spacing that the police caused with their stupid penning tactics, now familiar to any New Yorker who has seen or attended protests in recent years. The going was slow but eventually we made it down to City Hall, lots more people still flowing in behind us even though we’d gotten to the protest pretty late.

Part of the effectiveness of the protest was that it was felt very focused – it really did feel like we were all raising a unified cry for justice and immigrants rights. The mood was optimistic and almost festive – yes, there was the gravity of the matters at hand and the anger and frustration at how immigrants are abused in this country, but there was also the high energy and high spirits of many peoples gathering together to fight for something that they really think they might get – that hope is really important and I think is often less evident at many protests.

Also, Latinos know how to make just about everything more fun than anyone else (hehe, sorry other folks, gotta have the Latino pride here.) Other than the Still We Rise march back during the RNC (which probably ties this one for Jack’s Best Protest thusfar), this was probably the most people-of-color-dominated protests I’ve ever been to. Even though me and my girlfriend (who is white) were lost in a crowd of strangers for most of the protest, I felt really happy and all warm and fuzzy inside, surrounded by so many proud Latinos, yelling “¡Sí se puede!” and “El pubelo unido jamás será vencido!” at the top of our lungs.

Speaking of that, though, the overwhelming number of Latinos at the protest made me pissed off at NPR’s local NYC coverage this morning, in which three people with white-sounding last names and american accents were interviewed. Like, come on, they must have worked really hard to find those few white folks swimming in a veritable sea of brown. (Yes, I know, it might’ve been a fluke, and I can’t really say for sure that those people were white or non-Latino, but still.)

One thing that was weird for me was the amount of american flag-waving going on at the rally. Maybe it was in response to the kind of bullshit criticism of the presence of other countries’ flags that I wrote about yesterday, or maybe it was all really genuine sentiment, but either way, there were tons of ‘em, everywhere. I’m not much of a fan of the american flag, since to me it can’t be anything but a symbol of the centuries of genocide, land theft, slavery, imperialism, and other assorted oppression that has been wreaked in the name of the good ol’ u.s. of a. And most of the protests that I attend are critical of the u.s. in ways that don’t seem to prompt a lot of flag flying. I know that immigration protests are a different story – the whole point is about people wanting and deserving to live in this country, so it makes sense that they should carry the flag as a symbol that they, too, are americans. But american patriotism, in any form and for any reason, still kind of icks me out.

On that topic, here’s a good look from the folks at Media Matters at the inanity, the bigotry, and the hypocricy being spewed by some conservatives over protestors carrying the flags of Mexico and other countries. One particularly obnoxious comment from Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review:

Well, aren’t there plenty of Irish flags at St. Patrick’s Day parades, and Italian flags at Columbus Day celebrations? What makes the Mexican displays more ominous is their hint of a large, unassimilated population existing outside America’s laws and exhibiting absolutely no sheepishness about it.

Hmm… now, come on, Richie, is that what really scares you about those Mexican flags? Let’s see… Irish and Italians… ethnic groups who used to be persecuted in this country but have now been well assimilated into the white ruling class. Mexicans… SCARY BROWN PEOPLE AUUUUUUGH! And look – they’re not just serving your food or cleaning your house – they’re all together! And proud! Empowered, even! Yes, for much of white america, I bet that’s a very frightening spectacle, indeed.

All right, back to the protest. About an hour or so of slow as molasses marching (thanks, NYPD!) we reached the point where speakers and screens were set up so that we could take in the speeches going on down by City Hall. We’d missed many of the speakers by that point, but two of the ones I heard – Roger Toussaint of the Transit Worker’s Union (who, in yet another travesty of “justice,” was sentenced to ten days in prison and $1000 for defending his workers’ rights) and a Filipina woman whose name I didn’t catch but who spoke before him (if someone knows who she was, please tell me!) – reminded us of something that I think many americans, especially those who are anti-immigration, tend to forget: america’s role in creating the conditions that force people to leave their home countries in search of a better life in this one. Democracy Now! provides this quote from Toussaint:

Everyone here should think long and hard about what is happening in America today. We have a government that creates immigrants by the millions and then mistreats them. I say the U.S. creates immigrants the old-fashioned way. If you have tyranny and oppression and famine and poverty around the world, you are going to have immigrants coming to the U.S. No wall is going to stop them. No fence with barbed wire on the Mexican border or no frozen moat on the Canadian border is going to stop them. It will just make it easier to arrest and brutalize them. We don’t need a wall. We need a new foreign policy, so people can make a decent living and live in peace in their home countries.

That’s crucial to remember: the u.s., along with other western powers (though I think that no one does it quite like the u.s. does), is directly culpable for the decimation of Third World economies and social structures. In turn, the u.s. is directly responsible for the tide of immigration, legal or not, to this country. Should we, as a nation, wring these countries dry for the profit of u.s. interests, then give a big ol’ fuck you to their people when, out of sheer desperation, they come to the u.s. for the only shot they think they’ve got? Apparently, there are lots of people out there who think that’s precisely what we should do. But anyone with a whit of decency and sense should, when presented with the facts, realize that such actions are irresponsible and morally inexcusable.