8 Protesters Arrested, Pilsen Coal Plant Smokestack Climbers Come Down, in Custody

 by Sun-Times Media Wire

May 25, 2011

Chicago - A Greenpeace protest against two city coal plants came to an end Wednesday morning when a group of eight protestors -- who had been perched high above the city on a smokestack since Tuesday morning -- came down and were taken into police custody.

Eight other activists who rappelled under a Southwest Side bridge to prevent a coal barge from passing were arrested and charged late Tuesday.

The first group of anti-coal activists began climbing a smokestack at the Fisk power plant at 1111 W. Cermak Rd. about dawn Tuesday, spokeswoman Molly Dorozenski said.

“It is a little bit windy. It is dirty and dusty -- not the most comfortable place I’ve hung out,” protester Kelly Mitchell said via cell phone Tuesday evening.

“Our top priority has been safety and being protected from the elements.”

Mitchell said the protesters brought warm weather gear, snack bars and water with them, and vow to stay atop the smokestack “until Edison International and the city understand we can't continue to have old, dirty coal plants in the city of Chicago.”

They also had prepared a system for using the washroom, but Mitchell wouldn’t give specifics. “It’s a little different than what it might be in your day to day life,” she said.

About 3 p.m., Dorozenski said the activists left a perch on a catwalk about 450 feet above the ground and were rappelling down to paint “quit coal” in bright yellow paint on the smokestack.

While the protesters were painting, eight others -- later identified by police as the six women and two men arrested -- rappelled from the Pulaski Street Bridge and dangled above the Chicago River to prevent a coal barge from passing, Dorozenski said.

Those who attempted to stop the barge -- six women and two men -- were arrested at the bridge at 3900 S. Pulaski Rd. and charged with reckless conduct, according to police News Affairs Officer Ronald Gaines.

All eight were charged with reckless conduct and performing an aerial exhibition without a net, according to police. The charges are misdemeanors.

Charged are: Jeanne Kirshon, 23, of Rockville, Md.; Kaitlin Finneran, 24, of Norwalk, Conn.; Daniel Strandquist, 28, of New York City; Shea Schachameyer, 27, of Milwaukee; Harmony Lambert, 22, of Shasta, Calif.; Carolyn Auwaerter, 25, of Melbourn, Pa.; Laila Williams, 24, of Rockville, Mass.; and Michael Alilionis, 21, of Floral Park, New York, police said.

These suspects had been wearing harnesses and helmets during their demonstration, the lieutenant said.

They were released early Wednesday. They are scheduled to appear in Misdemeanor Court, (Br. 43) on July 1, police said.

As the rains came down Wednesday morning, so did the group of protestors who had been on the smokestack since Tuesday morning, police said. As of about 9:45 a.m. police did not have details on the charges they would face.

Both protests were set to coincide with a U.S. EPA public hearing on increased pollution controls from coal-burning plants.

The protesters were taking action to draw attention to the health issues created by the Fisk and Crawford coal plants in the Pilsen and Little Village areas, respectively.

Protester who heckled Netanyahu in Congress beaten, arrested at hospital

Photo courtesy of CODEPINK
Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

CODEPINK activist Rae Abileah was arrested at the George Washington University Hospital in Washington D.C. after heckling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to the anti-war group.

The 28-year-old Jewish American woman was allegedly tackled by members of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) during Netanyahu's speech to Congress after she yelled, "stop Israeli war crimes."

Abileah was taken to the George Washington University Hospital, where she was being treating for neck and shoulder injuries.

"You know I take it as a badge of honor, and so should you, that in our free societies that you can have protest," Netanyahu said after being interrupted by Abileah. "You can't have these protest in the farcical parliaments in Tehran or in Tripoli. This is real democracy."

Speaking from her hospital bed, Abileah said she was in "great pain" but that it was nothing "compared to the pain and suffering that Palestinians go through on a regular basis."

“I have been to Gaza and the West Bank, I have seen Palestinians homes bombed and bulldozed, I have talked to mothers whose children have been killed during the invasion of Gaza, I have seen the Jewish-only roads leading to ever-expanding settlements in the West Bank."

“This kind of colonial occupation cannot continue,” she added.  “As a Jew and a U.S. citizen, I feel obligated to rise up and speak out against these crimes being committed in my name and with my tax dollars.”

During his speech, Netanyahu said Israel was willing to make “painful” land concessions for peace.

OSU Police arrest 9 protesters outside Gee's office

Mitch Andrews / Lantern photographer
May 23, 2011

Nine protesters were arrested and charged with criminal trespassing Monday afternoon outside Bricker Hall, where Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee's office is located.

Seven of the nine people arrested are OSU students, said Deputy Chief Richard Morman of OSU Police Department.

The OSU chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops organized the protest. About 100 people gathered between Sullivant Hall and the Wexner Center at about 2 p.m. to protest an OSU contract with Sodexo Inc., an international food and facilities management company.
The protest then went mobile shortly after 2:30 p.m. as the crowd marched south on High Street before cutting back through campus toward Gee's office. Several drummers and protesters with megaphones led chants of "Hey hey, ho ho, Sodexo has got to go."
About 40 protesters, including drummers and those with megaphones, entered Bricker and continued to chant.

The group chanted in the building for about a half-hour before OSU police informed them they were committing criminal trespass and would be arrested if they did not leave. Many students then left the building and continued to chant outside. At about 3:30 p.m. police handcuffed and led away nine protesters, who were still chanting.

The group was cooperative "other than being arrested," said Captain Eric Whiteside of OSU police.
"Ohio State values diversity of thought and opinion and is a place where students can express their views," said OSU spokesman Jim Lynch in an email. "Unfortunately, today's protesters created a situation where OSU police needed to make arrests to ensure safety."

A spokeswoman for Sodexo did not immediately return calls Monday afternoon.

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Massive Wall Street Protest Draws More Than 20,000

May 12, 2011

More than 20,000 protesters descended upon Wall Street Thursday to demand an end to Mayor Bloomberg’s draconian education cuts and his soft touch approach to billion-dollar companies.

The May 12 event began as a series of splinter cell protests in the radius surrounding Wall Street that ultimately converged on the financial district.

Those in attendance included Reverend Al Sharpton, the United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, and various members of the City Council. 

At the education protest, teachers came out in droves to protest Bloomberg’s recent decision to lay off thousands of teachers. Additionally, educators were demanding Bloomberg ask his rich friends on Wall Street to sacrifice along with everyone else.

David Pecoraro, a math teacher at Beach Channel High School and a parent to a high school freshman, attended the protest to represent the interests of his students and his son.

“All are going to be denied the right to a quality education because of these politically motivated, unnecessary cuts,” said Pecoraro, adding that it’s not just a matter of denying educations to youth, but the education cuts are dangerous in some cases, too. Some of his son’s classes use heavy machinery, and the cuts mean there’s less faculty to supervise the students. “[Bloomberg] is playing with the kids’ lives,” he said.

On top of the thousands of teachers Bloomberg plans to lay off, the mayor hasn’t replaced the 5,000 educators who were also fired in the last five years.

Pecoraro doesn’t see the layoffs as part of a fair compromise plan in which all citizens are asked to share sacrifice. “I haven’t seen any of [Bloomberg’s] billionaire friends lose anything,” he said. “There’s no millionaire’s tax on the city level. The Bush tax cuts got extended, so these guys are still partying hardy. The party’s got to end. I’m tired of people trying to take my kid’s education away.”

Protesters consistently referred to the city’s $3.2 billion budget surplus (pdf) as proof that the mayor hasn’t run out of money, but rather he’s simply making bad decisions by catering to the interests of the wealthy elites.

Michelle Hamilton, a teacher at The Albert Einstein School, said that Bloomberg isn’t asking the people responsible for tanking the economy to forfeit anything. “The sacrifices are being asked for from everyday people,” said Hamilton.

Meanwhile, teachers are desperately treading water in their overcrowded, underfunded schools. Hamilton puts her own money into buying books for her students, and in order to pay for trips and basic supplies.

The situation makes for a bleak future. “It’s not fair, but it’s also not wise. You can’t build a country when you’re not educating children properly."

Some attendees view the budget cuts as a first shot in a much larger cultural conflict between the wealthy ruling elites and working class people. Mike Fox, a teacher at a Brooklyn charter school, believes the cuts and layoffs are the start of a class war. “It’s anti-city worker, so I’m here not just as a teacher, but for sanitation workers, policemen, firemen, all of the people who make the city work,” he said.

As for sharing the burden, Fox said he doesn’t see people other than the poor sacrificing, and Bloomberg is playing too nice with the corporations on Wall Street when he should be demanding they contribute fairly to society.

“Corporate sacrifice is an oxymoron,” he said. “I don’t think that’s in their vocabulary. I don’t think that’s in their nature. You know that expression don’t ask the question if you don’t want to hear the answer? Don’t ask them to sacrifice. You tell them what they have to do. We have legislatures. We have political leaders. Lead. Don’t ask. Tell.”

Educator Gloria George called Bloomberg’s decision to lay off thousands of teachers “disgusting,” adding, “I think the mayor should come into our classrooms and see the wonderful jobs our teachers do every single day. The cutbacks mean we’ll have overcrowded classrooms, no more libraries, no more art, no more gym. Where are all of those children going to go?”

When it comes to comparing the sacrifice on Wall Street with the sacrifice paid by schools, George said it’s not even a worthy comparison. “[Wall Street] is talking about their jobs. We’re talking about saving the lives of children.”

Eileen Feliciano Quinn, a schoolteacher, silently struggles for a few moments to think of a response to Bloomberg’s cuts that doesn’t include profanity. “It’s B.S.” she finally remarks. “He has enough money to keep teachers in the schools, and he’s protecting Wall Streeters. Why are they not sacrificing? We saved them, didn’t we? It’s their turn to save us.”

“We can’t get smart boards in our classrooms for the kids because the principal doesn’t have any money,” she added. Smart boards are interactive, computer-driven whiteboards that are used as cutting edge technology in many schools. Many educators view the boards as a good way to keep American students up to pace with other countries that also employ the high-tech tools.

“We don’t have an art teacher because we don’t have the money,” Quinn said, “We don’t have a science teacher because we don’t have the money. The only reason we have a music teacher is because it’s through a grant.”

Arthur Goldstein, the UFT chapter leader at Francis Lewis High School described the overcrowding that already plagues NYC schools and how the cuts will make things exponentially worse. “We have a building designed for 2,100 kids. We have 4,200 kids in it. If Mayor Bloomberg cuts 8 percent of working teachers, we’re going to be even more overcrowded,” he said.

Goldstein teaches in a trailer. In fact, the trailer has been his teaching home for eight years. His school halved every classroom with a divider, so instead of holding 34 students, each room now holds 68 pupils. “The rooms have paper-thin walls. You can hear every sound...It’s unconscionable that Mayor Bloomberg treats any school like this,” said Goldstein.

Bloomberg’s decision to grant $60 million to Geoffrey Canada to build a charter school raises Goldstein’s ire (other donors included Goldman Sachs and Google). Goldstein sees this as wealthy elites and corporations funding charter school ventures while public schools go to waste. “[Bloomberg] treats us like something he wiped off the bottom of his shoe. I don’t know how this man sleeps at night,” he said.

The May 12 protest was overwhelmingly peaceful, with tens of thousands of activists moving throughout the city streets in an orderly fashion. However, a small group of anarchists did cause a ruckus at one point, and the NYPD swiftly put up a pliable fence to contain the cell, though many people who were not part of the bloc, including myself, also got swept up. It was then that a shoving match began between police and protesters. The NYPD used crushing force against the activists, at one point physically shoving protesters backwards by their faces. Ultimately, the police arrested several people.

When my cameraman and I managed to escape the half-hearted kettle, we joined up with the protest again and spoke with UAW member, Gibb Surette, who said the country’s resources are being wasted on military spending and tax giveaways for the rich. “Then we’re being told there’s nothing left in the cupboard for children, poor people, sick people, job development, or just about anything else we need,” he said.

Powerful interests are siphoning the wealth for themselves during a time of financial crisis, he added. “It reminds you of hyenas. When hyenas go out and look for resources, they prey on the very young, they prey on the very old, they prey on the sick and those who can’t defend themselves.”

Larry Goldbetter, another UAW worker, explained why the union joined the march on Wall Street. “This is where the money is. This is where the thieves who stole it are. We’ve come for what’s ours,” he said.

Goldbetter wasn’t impressed by Bloomberg’s call to share the burden. “We’ve sacrificed enough. [Wall Street] is handing out bonus checks. We’ve come for what’s ours. We created all of this wealth.”

Photo above from United Federation of Teachers website.

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Disarmament Activists Convicted in Knoxville Federal Court

Michael Walli, Steve Baggarly, Brad Lyttle, Mary Dennis Lentsch, Beth Rosdatter, Carol Gilbert, Jean Gump, Ardeth Platte, Jackie Hudson, Dennis Duvall, Bonnie Urfer, Bill Bichsel, David Corcoran (L to R, top to bottom)

by John LaForge, Nukewatch

May 11, 2011

Twelve disarmament activists were convicted of federal trespass following a three-day jury trial in U.S. District court here during which the activists — under an order issued earlier by the court which effectively stripped the defendants of any substantive affirmative defenses — were prevented from questioning or even mentioning the outlaw status of nuclear weapons. The twelve were charged after a demonstration July 5, 2010 at the Y-12 nuclear weapons complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn. They face up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. No sentencing date was set, but seven defendants were taken into federal custody after they refused to return to TN for sentencing.

The April 29 order by U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Guyton prohibited the defendants from relying on justification defenses, specifically declared “irrelevant” their moral, political or religious beliefs, and declared, “Whether the production of nuclear weapons at the Y-12 National Security Complex violates international law is irrelevant to the present case.”

The Y12 facility processes uranium for new hydrogen bombs being built to replace W76 warheads on Trident submarine ballistic missiles. While Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Theodore and his prosecution witnesses made repeated references to nuclear weapons production at Y-12 — the site fabricated the bomb used to incinerate 140,000 people at Hiroshima, Japan, August 6, 1945 — defendants Steve Baggarly, Bradford Lyttle, Sr. Mary Dennis Lentsch and Rev. Bill Bichsel were all interrupted by objections and prevented by the court from asking or testifying about whether the planning and preparation of massacres is legal.

Lyttle, who defended himself, said in opening remarks, “These arsenals are not safe. A mathematical probability analysis shows that they will be used, accidentally or intentionally. That use will mean the end of civilization. What we did was not something that should be condemned, does not deserve a finding of guilt, and does not deserve punishment.” Sr. Mary Dennis Lentsch, of the Catholic order of Sisters of the Presentation, was asked by Theodore in cross examination if she recalled testifying at a March 4 hearing that “nuclear weapons are evil?” “Yes,” Lentsch answered, “because they are instruments of mass destruction.”

Theodore presented two government witnesses, Ted Sherry, a Y12 security officer, and Chris Seals, a captain of the private security firm Wackenhut that patrols the complex. They both described the nonviolent action of the defendants. Theodore told the jury the case is “simple” and concerns only the uncontested fact that the activists walked onto Y12 property and refused to leave. The jury deliberated just over one hour before delivering its verdict.

Defendants taken into custody were: Sr. Jackie Hudson, 76, of Poulsbo, Washington; Sr. Carol Gilbert, 63, and Sr. Ardeth Platte, 75, both of Baltimore, Maryland; Jean Gump, 83, of Bloomingdale, Michigan; Steve Baggarly, 46, of Norfolk, Virginia; Bill Bichsel, 82, of Tacoma, Washington; Bonnie Urfer, 59, of Luck, Wisconsin; and Michael Walli, 62, of Duluth, Minnesota.

The other defendents are Beth Rosdatter, 50, of Lexington, Kentucky.; Sr. Mary Dennis Lentsch, 74, of Washburn, Tennessee; Bradford Lyttle, 83, of Chicago, Illinois; and Dennis DuVall, 69, of Prescott, Arizona. (Ill health prevented a 13th defendant, David Corcoran of Chicago, from participating and the court scheduled an August 22 trial.).

When available, jail addresses for the activists will be available at http://www.nukeresister.org/inside-out/

The Nuclear Resister
P.O. Box 43383
Tucson, AZ  85733

California Highway Patrol Arrests Protesters at State Capitol

by David Siders
Bee Capitol Bureau 

May 9, 2011

About 65 teachers and students protesting budget cuts at the Capitol were arrested this evening after the building closed and California Highway Patrol officers warned them repeatedly to leave.

The crowd chanted "shame on you" as protesters were led off one by one, mostly without incident. All were booked into the Sacramento County Jail on misdemeanor trespassing charges, CHP spokesman Sean Kennedy said. He said two or three of the protesters also face charges of resisting arrest.

The daylong protest, organized by the California Teachers Association, drew about 1,000 protesters for various activities. About 150 moved into the rotunda in late afternoon, and some of them refused to leave at the 6 p.m. closing time.

"We're not just here to lobby," Betty Olson-Jones, president of the Oakland Education Association, told the crowd before the arrests took place. "We're here to raise some hell."

Representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union and of peace activist Cindy Sheehan's group Peace of the Action monitored the demonstration and said booking the protesters into jail was unwarranted. They said protesters should instead have been cited and released.

"It's ridiculous," said Gregory Vickrey of Peace of the Action. "This was clearly a nonviolent event."

Kennedy said the CHP takes "the security of this building seriously." Protesters throughout the evening were given the option to leave on their own, he said.

Protesters linked arms and sang songs in the Capitol rotunda, the arrests coming in spurts as officers waited for vans to take protesters to a CHP office and return. Protesters' wrists were bound in plastic ties before they were taken in groups in an elevator to a van waiting downstairs.

An officer issuing warnings with a bullhorn - "The Capitol is closed," he said - could hardly be heard over the protesters' chants. One protester danced in front of him as he spoke.

The crowd chanted "CHP join us!" during a lull in arrests.

A CHP officer filmed the demonstration and the arrests. Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, D-Los Angeles, looked down on the protest from a second floor railing before officers started arresting protesters.

Mike Parker, a community college teacher who was among those arrested, said the protest was to provide a "moral witness...What's happening in this society is totally out of kilter."

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