Alternative News for February


March for Imprisoned Native American Leonard Peltier
This month, protesters will rally and march in support of imprisoned Native American activist Leonard Peltier, whom Amnesty International has declared a political prisoner. Supporters say falsified testimony and suppressed evidence led to his 1977 conviction for the murder of two FBI agents. A "March for Justice" is scheduled to begin at noon on Feb. 8 at Portland Avenue Park, located at Portland Avenue and East Fairbanks Avenue in Tacoma. Protesters will converge for a rally at 1:00 pm in front of the U.S. Federal Court House at 1717 Pacific Avenue.

For more information about Peltier's case and the Feb. 8 march, see freepeltier.org.

INS Required Electronic Tracking of International Students
What comes to mind when you think of college? Kegs? Bad dorm food? Last-minute term papers? How about surveillance? Beginning Jan. 30, all federally funded institutions of higher learning must participate in a new Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) program requiring the electronic tracking of international students. The program, called the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) mandates that colleges, universities and graduate programs transmit students' grades, the number of hours they are enrolled, their majors, where they live, and any changes to this information. Schools that don't abide by the new requirements will lose federal funding.

In December, the INS jailed six Colorado international students who it deemed were enrolled in too few classes.
Visit democracynow.org for the complete story and interviews.

INS Registration and Mistreatment of Foreign Nationals
In recent months, the INS has initiated numerous questionable arrests. It's responsible for enforcing the Department of Justice's new special registration program for Arab, Middle Eastern and North Korean male internationals residing in the United States. Hundreds were arrested and jailed in California after they attempted to register (a process which requires fingerprinting, photographing and interrogation). Many had expired visas, yet had pending applications-at least some of which were likely delayed by the bureaucratic bloat of the INS. INS officials weakly defended the arrests as necessary when so many men showed up on the last day of the first registration period. Different registration deadlines were scheduled for the 18 nationalities targeted-deadlines that critics say are inadequately publicized. Many arrestees have alleged improper treatment, including crowded jail cells and strip searches.

Unsurprisingly, the special registration, known as the National Security Entry Exit Registration System, has drawn numerous critics who say that the policy is tantamount to racial profiling and is ineffective.

"Call-in registration offers us little protection because it targets people based on national origin, race and religion, rather than on intelligence information, and alienates the very communities whose cooperation we need," said Gregg Rodgers, a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association who spoke at a January press conference co-sponsored by The Hate Free Zone Campaign of Washington and Not in Our Name.

The Hate Free Zone's web site (hatefreezone.org) offers more information on the special registration program and other news pertaining to the state of civil liberties after 9/11.

WTO Protest Lawsuit because of Police Violence
A lawsuit stemming from alleged acts of police violence during the 1999 World Trade Organization protests is slated to be heard in the Federal District Court of Washington in Seattle on Feb. 10. The 12 claimants suing the City of Seattle contend that they were attacked with pepper spray or otherwise assaulted by police without just provocation.

The lawsuit was filed on the grounds that the claimants' constitutional rights, including the right of free speech, had been egregiously violated.

Seattle has been faced with a slew of lawsuits as a result of its WTO debacle, and the city's police force has drawn criticism for its conduct during the protest, including officers' infamous tear-gassing of non-protesters in a Capitol Hill neighborhood.
Claimant Jeanette Wallis, who was present during the Capitol Hill tear-gassing and later arrested, was transformed from bystander to activist as a result of her experience during the WTO protests. She has since attracted some attention for her self-described "Walk for Democracy"-Wallis' trek from Seattle to Washington DC, during which she collects written "grievances" from the public in anticipation of delivering them to President Bush. The walk, which began in the spring of 2001, will be briefly put on hold when Wallis flies from Illinois to Seattle to attend the initial stages of the trial.

In January, claimants rejected the city's attempt to settle the lawsuit after being offered $100­$250 apiece.

For more information about Wallis's cross-country trek, see thewalkfordemocracy.org.

Enviro Groups Sue and Win over Chemical Group Appointee
Seventeen advisory committees to the U.S. government, powerfully impact our trade policy-with a fair amount of anonymity. They have access to confidential trade-related texts and documents that you will never see. It's important work that affects public health and the environment, so the panels are supposed to be "fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented on them," according to the Federal Advisory Committee Act. That means a committee can't be dominated by industry insiders. There has to be, say, the occasional environmental advocate on board to at least create an appearance of balance.

In late January, the U.S. District Court in Seattle ordered the Bush administration to comply with an earlier court order mandating that it heed the FACA mandate. The U.S. District Court effectively told the government to bite its lip, go against all its instincts and put one measly environmentalist on a federal committee that advises the government on international trade in chemicals.

The chemical panel in question is the almost Orwellian-sounding "Industry Sector Advisory Committee for Chemical and Allied Products 3" (ISAC-3). Most of its 23 members are chemical industry executives. In December 2002, the Bush administration appointed to the committee a onetime research director for the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity, Brian Mannix. Mannix, who has a history of opposing regulation to address environmental concerns, is a fellow at George Mason University's conservative research Mercatus Center. Why the administration thought Mannix's appointment would bring balance to ISAC-3 is as opaque as the panel's name. After all, one can only assume that the Bush administration would be deeply concerned about any lack of balance on a trade advisory committee that so profoundly impacts big business.

Regardless, Mannix's appointment was thwarted when three groups sued in protest: the Seattle-based Washington Toxics Coalition and the Asia Pacific Environmental Exchange, both based in Seattle, and Public Citizen, a national organization created 30 years ago to improve public health, the environment and the government. All three groups were represented by Earthjustice, a nonprofit public-interest law firm.

For more information, see www.earthjustice.org.

The Real King
Martin Luther King Jr.'s complete legacy gets lost in the American mythology. He is best known for his work on ending segregation in the U.S. South and advancing racial equality-but King was also an advocate for economic equality and, during the Vietnam War, denounced violence and militarism in U.S. foreign policy. Jan. 20's march honoring the life and work of King emphasized those themes and showed that they carried new urgency. As many as 15,000 protesters walked from Garfield High School to downtown, often calling out in unison, "Support the poor! No war!"

The sometimes neglected facets of King's work may continue to come to the fore this month for two reasons: first, February is Black History Month. In 1926, scholar and writer Carter G. Woodson established Negro History Week, timed to coincide with the February birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Fifty years later, the commemoration had expanded to become Black History Month, a period when topics such as the state of racial equality in the United States, African-American history and King's work as a civil rights leader enter the public dialogue with more prominence than usual. February will also likely mark heightened tensions with Iraq and increased anti-war efforts-making it all the more important to remember the complete King.

See scn.org/calendars for information about relevant events in February.