Revolutionary Worker #1154, June 9, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org
Dearborn, Michigan--May 18-19. From all over the country, representatives of organizations and individual activists came together at the Arab Community Center for Economic & Social Services (ACCESS) for the National Summit to Stop Repression Against Muslim, Arab & South Asian Immigrants.
Immediately after September 11, 2001, over 1,200 people, overwhelmingly Arabs, Muslims and South Asians, were detained based mainly on their national origin, language, race, and religion. Many of these people have disappeared--the government will not even acknowledge they are in custody. Summit participants were starkly reminded of this as they walked into the conference room. Covering most of one wall were 8-1/2x11 sheets of paper with information and detainees released by the U.S. Department of Justice Joint Anti-Terrorist Task Force in response to a lawsuit by the ACLU. There were 92 names with addresses, etc. For another 725 people there were lists in which everything, including the person's name, had been blacked out except country of birth, date of arrest.
About 60 committed activists of all ages and nationalities came from or officially represented local and national organizations, including ACCESS, American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), Arab American Institute (AAI), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), National Lawyers Guild (NLG), Triangle Foundation, South Asians Against Police Brutality and Racism, Solidarity USA, Refuse & Resist! and its youth network, La Resistencia, Committee Against the U.S. Empire (CAU$E), supporters of the Revolutionary Communist Party, Libros Revolución in L.A., Revolution Books Outlet in Detroit, the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade (RCYB), La Resistencia Student and Youth Network, American Muslim Council, Muslim-American Society--Political Action Committee, and anti-war coalitions from Houston, Chicago, and northern California.
Pastor Martin Niemoeller's quote from Nazi Germany had served as an orientation building for the summit: "First they came for the Communists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, but by that time, no one was left to speak up."
People discussed the current situation in light of this quote. One of the speakers on the opening panel was Mo Nishida, who as a child was interned in WW2 concentration camps for Japanese-Americans. He said he wanted to comment on fear and fascistic moves. He pointed out before World War 2, the FBI had said that Japanese-Americans were no threat--but they were interned anyway. In the discussion Travis Morales, a supporter of the RCP and a member of La Resistencia from Houston, picked up on that and added that the government did that because they had a bigger goal--to create hysteria, to create an "enemy within," to terrorize people to go along with them.
Participants pointed out that Arabs, Muslims and South Asians are only the first people the government is targeting. Imad Hammad of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee said, "American citizens, look at these laws and see how they affect all Americans, not just me."
Randall Hamud, an Arab-American attorney from San Diego who on Sept. 12 was defending detainees, pointed out how citizenship does not protect people. He gave two examples of Arab-Americans in custody by the U.S. and by Israel.
A mission statement was arrived at through very vigorous and principled discussion among participants of very varied political views. It emphasized the purpose of the Blue Triangle Network and laid the basis for a plan of action. The statement read in part:
"...Insisting that national security is at risk, the government has launched wide-scale assault on constitutional rights and civil liberties. In order to defend these violated human and constitutional rights, this network dedicates itself to mobilizing the broadest number of people to challenge and oppose this repression. We do not accept the racial profiling, erosion of civil liberties, roundups, indefinite detentions, secret charges, secret evidence, secret military tribunals and demonizing of Muslims, Arabs, South Asians and others based upon where they were born, the language that they speak, the color of their skin or the religion that they practice."
The action plan included adopting the blue triangle as a symbol and the name Blue Triangle Network. In the Nazi death camps, members of various groups were forced to wear different symbols-- yellow Star of David for Jews, the pink triangle for gay men, the blue triangle for immigrants and stateless people. This hated symbol of oppression will now be transformed into a symbol of resistance.
A fact sheet will be written and distributed nationwide. The Network plans to participate in the proposed national demonstration in Washington, DC on Labor Day with the National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom. Teach-ins will be organized on selected campuses in the fall. The case of Rabih Haddad of Ann Arbor, Michigan will be taken up across the country as a concentrated case while the cases of others such as Farouk Muhti in Brooklyn and Jamal Salim in the Paterson, NJ detention facility will be promoted on the web site to be built. Cultural events will be organized. The Network will take part in building a national campaign to stop colleges from cooperating with federal agencies seeking to locate, identify and harass foreign students in the U.S. Each individual and organization will support the government lobbying efforts of the Arab-American Institute as they see fit within the scope of their political orientation. Youth plan on putting out a call for youth to come to Detroit for a week in late summer to do work to stop the repression of immigrants. Discussions will be held with the NLG, ACLU and Solidarity USA to figure out a strategy for legal actions and supportive actions in the streets.
At the end of the summit, participants felt they had taken a big first step to stop the post 9-11 increasing repression of immigrants. They had a plan, a commitment to carry out the plan and a beginning organizational structure to carry out the plan. As one participant from a Houston anti-war coalition said, "We have to go home and build a movement."
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.)