A Cry for Justice

February 20: National Day of Solidarity with Muslim, Arab, and South Asian Immigrants

Revolutionary Worker #1141, March 3, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org

These are times when major challenges confront all those who hate injustice and dream of a better world. The U.S. rulers declare they are "on a roll," rampaging around the globe to recast the world in their predatory interests. In this country, there is rapidly intensifying police-state repression, especially against Muslim, Arab and South Asian immigrants. Over 1,500 have been rounded up so far by the government--many detained for months without charges, denied their basic rights, beaten and abused, and threatened with military tribunals.

On February 20, people around the U.S. took a stand against this repressive offensive. This was the National Day of Solidarity with Muslim, Arab and South Asian Immigrants. The call for the day, initiated by La Resistencia, came out in January. In a few weeks, the call gathered over 230 supporting signatories, and various protests and events were organized to mark the day.

Speaking at the Feb. 20 rally in Houston, Travis Morales--supporter of the Revolutionary Communist Party and member of La Resistencia National Council--said: "Today there are activities in over 27 cities across the country, in churches, universities, schools, cultural centers, and the streets. In places as diverse as New York City; Honolulu; Oklahoma State University; Fresno, California; University of Southern California; Greensboro, North Carolina; Columbia University; Minneapolis; New Haven, Connecticut; Greenville, South Carolina; and many others, people are marking this day. And still the e- mails and phone calls are arriving with more endorsements and plans to mark today."

A broad range of organizations participated in the day, and people found various ways to express their solidarity with Muslim, Arab and South Asian people. Many of those participating in the day wore blue triangles with the names of those "disappeared" in the government round-ups. The call for the day explained: "In the early 1940s, German Nazis used many different colored triangles to categorize and divide people in the concentration camps. We will not allow the same kind of profiling to happen here. We will wear a blue triangle in a positive way to show our solidarity with those being targeted today."

The "Pledge of Resistance" written by Travis Morales was read in many places:

"Today, February 20, 2002, they are coming first for the Palestinians, Pakistanis, Saudis, Jordanians, Egyptians, Afghanis, Yemenis, Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians.

"But today, February 20, 2002, I pledge resistance to the disappearances, indefinite detentions, deportations, torture, and secret military tribunals.

"I pledge resistance to the government's persecution of people based upon where they were born, the color of their skin, their immigration status, the language they speak, or the religion they practice.

"I pledge resistance to the hateful racism and vigilante attacks that have been encouraged by the government's anti-immigrant hysteria.

"I pledge to unite and work with as many people as possible from all backgrounds to find the ways to stop all of this now and in the future.

"I pledge and commit myself to people here and around the world to work tirelessly, to unite with thousands, tens of thousands and ultimately millions, to stand up to whatever the government may throw at us, to do whatever is necessary, so that together, we can stop these and all attacks on Muslim, Arab, South Asian and all immigrants."

The following are reports from some of the activities on Feb. 20.

New York City

Four hundred people rallied a few blocks from "ground zero." At the federal building where the FBI and INS offices are located, South Asian, Arab and Muslim people courageously spoke out. They were joined by people of various nationalities.

Among the speakers at the rally were Uzma Naheed and her son, Harris Anser. Uzma's husband and brother have been held in detention for five months, and her entire family recently received deportation orders. Other speakers included Monami Maulik of Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM); actor Brendan Sexton, Miguel Maldonado from the Immigrant Workers Association; Sakou Diallo, whose son Amadou Diallo was shot 41 times by NYPD cops; Janet Yip of Refuse & Resist!; Sami Halabi, a representative of Al-Awda, the Palestinian Right to Return Coalition; Carl Dix, National Spokesperson for the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA; Carlos Rovira from the Vieques Support Committee; King Downing of the ACLU; Debbie Almantaser from Muslims Against Terrorism; and Chaumtoli Huq of the Taxi Workers Alliance.

A group of teenage women wearing hajabs (head coverings) were among the protesters. One said: "I think it's hypocritical how George Bush in his national address a week after September 11 said don't target Muslim Americans here--`they're just different, that's what makes America beautiful.' But here the U.S. government is detaining 1,500 Muslims!... If you really get down to it, it's not so beautiful. In fact, it's really ugly."

People marched to Washington Square Park, with immigrants at the front. A Black woman held a homemade sign saying "No More Racial Profiling!" Men in business suits marched and chanted alongside youth from Refuse & Resist! Everyone wore a blue triangle, and many people carried large signs with blue triangles and detainees' names. The march was warmly received as it went through Chinatown and Greenwich Village.

At Washington Square Park, a South Asian woman who took part in organizing the protest called it "a great beginning" and told the crowd: "In North Korea Bush said, `No nation should be a prison for its own people.' This is hypocrisy...Let the detainees go! We don't want them deported... [Their homes] are ravished by the U.S. military. Where do they have to go? Nowhere! We need to build a conscious movement in this country that can put our issues on the forefront. We cannot remain silent anymore!"


Five months ago, on September 13, a mob of hundreds in suburban Bridgeview gathered near the Mosque Foundation, shouting racist chants and waving U.S. and Confederate flags. On February 20, the Bridgeview Mosque Foundation hosted a much more welcome event. 150 people of diverse nationalities, religions and political beliefs gathered at the Foundation's Universal School for a program to "Stop the Witchhunt" and "Stand with our Muslim, Arab and South Asian Sisters and Brothers."

The event was co-hosted by representatives from Refuse & Resist! and from the Mosque Foundation. The speakers were flanked by reminders of the human cost of the U.S. government's "war on terrorism." To the left was a beautiful painting of an Afghani youth and a U.S. warplane. On the wall to the right hung a banner demanding "Free the `Secret' Detainees," signed by over 70 African-American residents of Chicago's Cabrini Green public housing project.

It was a night where cultures mixed. As people enjoyed a Middle Eastern meal of humus, pita bread and falafel, poet Sammer Ghouleh read her new work, "Together," followed by Abdul Latif, a young Black man from Lathrop Homes, who recited "The Revolution is Coming." As a woman from the Arab-American Action Network spoke in Arabic, a Black high school student from Cabrini Green housing project ran his camcorder so he could share the event with others in his community.

It was a night of painfully gained experiences and knowledge shared. Patty Love's son, Robert Russ, was a young African American college student gunned down two years ago by the Chicago police. She urged those present to never give up. Sam Osaki, a member of the Japanese-American Citizens League (JACL), described how as a high school student he and his family were torn from their home in California during WW 2, forced to live in a horse stable at a race track, and then imprisoned in a concentration camp in Arkansas.

It was a night where divisions and barriers were chipped away. Lydia Taylor from the Justice Coalition of Greater Chicago pointed out that her African ancestors arrived on this land not by choice but by force and that many communities were silent when Black people cried out against racial profiling. "Allah works in strange ways," she said speaking of the various communities that came together that day. There was a speaker from Not In My Name, a predominately Jewish group opposed to Israeli occupation of Palestine, and a representative from the K.A.M. Isaiah Israel congregation. Mahmud Ahmad of the Committee for a Democratic Palestine pointed out that African Americans and Puerto Ricans have long faced racial profiling and political repression.

Above all, this was a night of defiance, of desire to resist and of refusal to submit to oppression. Andy Thayer of the Chicago Coalition Against War and Racism and the Chicago Anti-Bashing Network denounced the government kidnapping of Rabih Haddad and the detention of hundreds of others. Jim Fennerty of the National Lawyers Guild announced the translation of a pamphlet on civil rights into Farsi, Arabic and soon Urdu. An Egyptian man from the Mosque told how he fought the Israeli occupiers of Palestine in 1967--and then was betrayed by secret police agents within the Egyptian Air Force. He came to the U.S., only to find himself in a worse situation. "We've got to stand up," he said. "Unless we all stand up together, we're going to be defeated one by one by one by one by one. I don't want to be that one. I'm sure you don't want to be any of those ones."

Dearborn, Michigan

Dearborn, near Detroit, has the largest community of Arab people outside of the Middle East. On Feb. 20, 75 people rallied at the Dearborn City Hall. Young Arab women were at the forefront, leading chants and waving signs. A local Arab-owned sign-making company donated a beautiful banner with a large blue triangle and the words "Solidarity with Muslim, Arab and South Asian Immigrants." A man from ACCESS (Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services) said, "This is not a fight for just Arabs and Muslims, it's a fight for all of us. Today it might be me, tomorrow you could be next." Members of the Censored Arab Artists of Detroit made a display featuring shirts with the words "Missing in the USA" on them, attached to clotheslines.

A diverse array of groups and individuals came out, including: Detroit Anti-War Network, Triangle Foundation (Michigan's largest advocacy group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people), Committee to Free Rabih Haddad, ACCESS, the Trumbullplex Anarchist Collective, National Lawyers Guild, Green Party, Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, RCYB, Black nationalists and Pan-African activists from Wayne State University, youth of different nationalities from Detroit and suburban high schools as well as Arab youth from Dearborn.


About 200 people packed the Art Car Museum. In November, FBI and Secret Service agents came to this museum to "investigate" what they called "anti-American activities"--because of an art exhibit on the U.S.'s "Secret Wars." The Feb. 20 event was the result of broad unity among different organizations and people, many of whom had never worked together before. Joe Vail, an immigration attorney, and Fernando Colon, a law professor at Texas Southern University, spoke about history of oppression of immigrants in the U.S. and the recent legal attacks. Various testimonials were read--including from a Japanese American woman who was imprisoned in a U.S. concentration camp. Njeri Shaur of the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement spoke of the unity of interests between African Americans and those targeted for repression after 9/11.

Organizers report that thousands of flyers for the event were taken by stores in the communities under attack, and many people in those communities said, "This is so important that you are doing this." Businesses in those communities donated the food for the Feb. 20 event.

San Francisco Bay Area

A multinational and diverse crowd of 90 people demonstrated at the Federal Building in downtown S.F. Everyone wore blue triangles--including a multinational group of youth in black clothing with giant blue triangles hanging around their neck.

Some speakers told personal stories of being harassed or almost arrested simply because they are Arab or Muslim. Several noted that 60 years ago on Feb. 19, the U.S. president signed Executive Order 9066 which led to the round-up and imprisonment of 110,000 Japanese Americans. Legal and civil rights speakers spoke about the eroding of civil liberties and the importance of saying "no" to the FBI and INS. Many stressed the urgency of the situation with the U.S. war and repression and the importance of people here standing with the people of the world. In the crowd were students from campuses around the area; activists from many different groups; workers from the nearby federal and state buildings; Muslims and Arabs; former SF supervisor Harry Britt.

During the day, speakers addressed students at a number of high school and college campuses in the Bay Area. At one Oakland high school, some teachers did presentations on the day to their students and gave out blue triangles. At UC Berkeley's Sproul Plaza, the RCYB, R&R Youth and Student Network, Students for Justice in Palestine, and If Americans Knew leafleted and spoke to students. At 24th and Mission, the heart of the Latino community in S.F., members of Mujeres Unidas (a group of women day laborers) came out to join people distributing blue triangles and to show solidarity with the post-9/11 "disappeared."

Other Areas

Los Angeles: 65 people rallied at the edge of the USC campus--across the street from a church that had served as a sanctuary for Japanese Americans at the time of the mass roundups during WW2. Students from many different campuses and representatives of various groups participated.

Atlanta: Students and other youth rallied at the University Center--where college students from Clark Atlanta, Morehouse, Spelman and Morris Brown pass through. The action was endorsed by many groups, including All African People's Revolutionary Party, Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance at Spelman, History Club at Morehouse, International Committee to Support Imam Jamil Al-Amin, Morehouse Sociological Assoc., Muslim Student Association, Refuse & Resist!, RCYB, Umijami Society at Clark Atlanta, and We B. Sassafras from Spelman. Another rally took place during the busy afternoon rush hour at the downtown Five Points station.

Philadelphia: About 75 people gathered for a vigil at the INS building.

Fresno, CA: In an event covered by local TV stations, 50-60 people held a candlelight vigil at a local mosque.

Fremont, CA: A press conference in front of a church in a community where many immigrants from Afghanistan live was covered by the San Jose Mercury, an all-news radio station, a Pakistani weekly, and a Chinese daily paper from S.F.

Arcata, CA: The Women's Center at Humbolt State University set up a booth to distribute flyers and blue triangles.

Greensboro, NC: A campus speak-out was organized by the Triad Antiwar Committee, Greensboro Peace Coalition, White Folks Against Racism, October 22 Coalition, and a Palestinian student.

Austin, TX: Speakers at a teach-in included an Islamic scholar, a University of Texas student whose family is from Egypt, an Arab-American journalism student, and an immigration lawyer from the Political Asylum Project.

Cleveland: The Northeast Ohio Radical Action Network held a coffee house at Pilgrim Church.

Kent State University, Ohio: Three campus groups--Muslim Students Association, Student Anti- Racist Action, and Kent State Anti-War Committee--sponsored activities for the day.

Honolulu, HI: Students from Refuse & Resist! passed out the Pledge of Resistance and blue triangles at the University of Hawaii. Then they confronted university officials and demanded that the university stop turning over names of foreign students to government agents.

Oklahoma State University, Stillwell, OK: The newly formed Refuse & Resist! chapter took up the day on the campus.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497
(The RW Online does not currently communicate via email.)