August 30, 2007

3 Out of 18

That's how many of the "benchmarks" set by Bush & Co. for the Iraqi government to meet by now have actually been met, according to a leaked report from the Government Accounting Office.

That's a batting average of .167.

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August 28, 2007

Black-Led March In NJ: We Need More Like This

This belated post is a brief report on Saturday’s demonstration in Newark, NJ. Despite the genuinely unpleasant hot and humid weather and the timing (the next to last weekend of the summer), about 1500 people turned for the rally and 1200 took part in a march down Broad Street past the Federal Building and City Hall through a major shopping area in downtown Newark.

Along with the successful demonstration at the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, ME on the same day, it marked the unofficial start of the fall Iraq War protest season. And it was a very good start, with lessons I can only hope are taken up by the broader anti-war movement.

The most important thing about the People's March for Peace, Equality, Jobs & Justice, as Fire on the Mountain has emphasized repeatedly, is the fact that was called by a coalition initiated and led by forces in the Black community in New Jersey.

This had profound effects on the March, both on how it was built and on who took part. The slogans and call to the March drew clear connections between the occupation of Iraq and issues confronting the community. These were presented in an organic way, rather than, as too often happens, tacked on by organizers hoping that’ll substitute for the difficult work of building ties in oppressed nationality communities.

Two examples from among many should suffice. Both speakers and community groups at the rally pointed out that opposing the violence in Iraq should be matched by fighting against police violence right here, and especially against violence within the community. One rally participant had lost his son in the nationally covered shooting of three college students in a Newark playground earlier this month:

It's what brought out James Harvey, whose 20-year-old son, Dashon, was one of the three killed. Harvey stood off to the side in Lincoln Park as watched the speakers take turns at the podium. He wore a tired expression on his face, but said he wanted to show up.

"Anything to stop the war," Harvey said, "to stop the guns and the violence."
And the last speech before the marchers set out was delivered by Maretta Sharp, president of NOW New Jersey, who used the war and the need for unity in opposing it to talk about scapegoating and warn that African Americans must not fall into the trap of being pitted against immigrants.

As for participation, one way to look at it is to check out the coverage, overall pretty favorable, in the Newark Star-Ledger on Sunday. The article starts by talking about four year old twins brought by their father from suburban Howell Township, and repeatedly describes and quotes folks who traveled to Newark from other—and paler-- parts of the state.

But no mention is made of the largest contingent at the March, the 100+ members of the People’s Organization for Progress, hard to miss in their bright yellow t-shirts. POP has been the group which has been the driving force of the New Jersey Peace and Justice Coalition. (And they didn’t put away their “Impeach Bush” signs just because Representative John Conyers was a featured speaker.)

In fact, the March, while nowhere near as pale as these events usually are, was largely white, but the Star Ledger piece misses something very important. The white folk who came were largely experienced anti-war protesters who came by themselves or in small groups. A majority of the African Americans present were part of larger organized contingents. In addition to POP, for instance, there were good-sized crews from the Irvington NAACP branch (whose president Kathleen Witcher issued a powerful statement hailing the March the next day), from RWDSU Local 108 with their union banner, and from the Nation of Islam who turned out about 60 members (and impressed all present by appearing not to be affected in the slightest by the brutal heat despite the men’s suits and the women’s Islamic dress).

This is one key answer to the oft-raised question: How can the anti-war movement get folks who are against the war to act against the war? By working with and mobilizing groups to which people already have meaningful ties, especially groups whose members are affected by the war. We should hope that, in their summation of the March, the organizers discuss why some of groups which signed on to build the March had such strong organized turnouts and others were pretty much invisible.

One person I spoke with after Saturday asked, “How old were the marchers?” Well, I gotta say that’s something else to be worked on, but there was a world of promise in those who did come. including several members of Iraq Veterans Against the War. IVAW’s newly elected National Treasurer, Margaret Stevens, gave a speech which electrified the crowd . And I spotted a posse from Bloomfield HS, college students from the new SDS and members of the Almighty Latin Kings and Queens Nation.

Photo credit: Jon Levine

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August 25, 2007

Rough Days And Palestine

Maybe it's the dog days of August, but these are rough days. Several friends have died just in the last month. Hell, it's hard even reading the news lately.

Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn't take one more step
In this frame of mind, I am not surprised to find my thoughts turning to Palestine, perhaps the most painful of all the "world news" stories because it feels like there's so little hope of turning the situation around.

I'm sure you know what I'm talking about, but I'd like to quietly request that you watch the following video clip from a few short months ago, mounted here from YouTube. Because there may also be times when your mind, like mine, shies away from thoughts about the plight of the Palestinian people, exactly because it it so painful to contemplate.

We owe them our attention. We owe them more, and I'll comment on that in a forthcoming post, but for now, please watch. And feel free to comment.

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August 24, 2007

80 Years Since the Execution of Sacco & Vanzetti

[80 years ago today, angry, grief-filled demonstrations rocked cities around the world as the ruling class of the United States executed two of its sworn enemies, the Italian-born anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, on trumped up charges. To observe this anniversary, Fire on the Mountain presents below a powerful speech given five years ago, on the 75th anniversary by Juliet Ucelli of Italian Americans for a Multi-cultural United States.

The text here was taken from the Italian American Writers website. It is also available as the concluding essay in the Sacco & Vanzetti volume in Ocean Press's very useful Rebel Lives book series.]

Commemorating the 75 Anniversary of the Execution of Sacco & Vanzetti

I would like to briefly address the lessons of Sacco’s and Vanzetti’s lives and deaths for Italian Americans. Today, Italian Americans are integrated into U.S. society as white Americans. But that wasn’t so in the early years of this century. People of Southern Italian background were considered non-white well into the 1920s. We were called aliens, wops--meaning "without papers," just like today’s undocumented immigrants are called aliens. Nicola Sacco and Bartomoleo Vanzetti were derided as "dirty dagoes, reds" and "anarchistic bastards" (by their trial judge, Webster Thayer of Massachusetts). Anarchists were considered terrorists. Sound familiar?

When they were arrested and put on trial for murder, Sacco and Vanzetti got support from radical and genuinely democratic people of all nationalities and walks of life. Italian Americans who were poor, working class, new immigrants, much of the lower middle class, particularly identified with their suffering and stigmatization. My mother remembers her uncle saying, "Those men were murdered because they were Italian." [The well known poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay, wrote her famous poem "Justice Denied in Massachusetts" to commemorate the deaths of the labor organizers. She had marched with Edmund Wilson, Mary McCarthy and other progressive and well informed intellectuals in defense of the two men, but many turned a deaf ear on their plight.]

Sacco and Vanzetti themselves knew why they were being targeted. In Bartolomeo Vanzetti’s immigrant dialect he said these words:

"I would not wish to a dog or to a snake what I have had to suffer for things that I am not guilty of. But my conviction is that I have suffered for things that I am guilty of. I am suffering because I am a radical and indeed I am a radical; I have suffered because I was an Italian, and indeed I am an Italian; I have suffered more for my family and my beloved than for myself; but I am so convinced to be right that if you could execute me two times, and if I could be reborn two other times, I would live again to do what I have done already."

Today, Sacco and Vanzetti are long-dead and it's safe to feel sympathy for them. And, many Italian Americans look back with nostalgia, from a comfortable position of white privilege, at this era when we actually were an oppressed national minority subject to persecution. But when Sacco and Vanzetti were facing execution and needing support, lots of Italian Americans--the establishment, some professionals, the wealthy--would have nothing to do with them. They didn't want to be associated with those radicals and 'terrorists'.

So I pose this challenge: If you won’t stand up now for the Arabs, Muslims and South Asians who are being held without any Constitutional rights for supposed association with terrorists, you wouldn't have stood up for Sacco and Vanzetti either. If you won’t stand up for Mumia Abu Jamal, the former Black Panther, journalist and exposer of the crimes of the Philadelphia Police Department who was railroaded and faces the death penalty for supposedly killing a Philadelphia police officer, you wouldn’t have stood up for Sacco and Vanzetti either.

And if you won’t stand up against Bush’s endless war on whatever country is not bowing down to the dictates of the U.S. elite, you wouldn’t have stood up for Sacco and Vanzetti either.

Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti understood well that most wars are called for by the rich to protect their wealth, their oil wells, their sources of profit. We shouldn’t forget what they knew.

Long live the memory of Sacco and Vanzetti!
Free the detainees!
Free Mumia Abu Jamal!
Abolish the death penalty!
No to Bush’s war!


Speech by Juliet Ucelli, of Italian Americans for a Multicultural Society,
delivered in Union Square Park, New York City, August 23, 2002, 75th anniversary.

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August 21, 2007

Black NJ Organizes Against the War (Part 6)

[Fire on the Mountain has been covering the development of the Peace and Justice Coalition in New Jersey since the initial call to the January founding meeting came out. The press of other work, especially building the Iraq Moratorium, has led to some stagnation on this site, where updates on this action should have been a recent regular feature. Fortunately, the Coalition has its own website now.

One further note: the title of this post emphasizes the extremely important fact that the Coalition and the March have been initiated by forces in the Black community in Northern Jersey, folks who somehow always seem to wind up somewhere in the middle of the "To Do" list of the mainstream (and mainly white) anti-war movement. Everyone is welcome to the March, more than welcome. Broken rib notwithstanding, I will drag my pale behind there on Saturday and, if you live anywhere in the vicinity, I certainly hope that you will, too.]

The People's March for Peace, Equality, Jobs & Justice

The People's March commemorates the 44th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the 40th Anniversary of the 1967 New Ark Rebellion, and the 2nd Anniversary of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina.

Sponsored by the Peace and Justice Coalition "The Grassroots Speak" A grassroots coalition of more than 150 organizations "Resisting the war on Iraq and the war on our communities."

March for:

Peace at Home and Abroad!

Troops Home Now!

Respect Civil, Human & Workers' Rights!

Fund Human Needs!

Health Care for All (H.R. 676)!

Money for Living Wage Jobs!

Justice for Hurricane Katrina Survivors!

Environmental Justice!


Undocumented Immigrants!

When: Saturday, August 25, 2007

Where: Beginning at Lincoln Park, Broad Street & Lincoln Park,
Newark, New Jersey

Time: 12:00 noon

Info/Volunteer: 801 457-9447, 848 248-2282, 973 801-0001,

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