Jan. 10: Coast-to-Coast Protests Defend Arab and Muslim Immigrants

Revolutionary Worker #1183, January 19, 2003, posted at http://rwor.org

"My grandmother graduated from high school from behind barbed wire out in the desert. Like most other Japanese families, living during those times was most painful and they lost everything. 60 years ago there was a similar gathering of names like this one. I can't stand by and do nothing as history repeats itself! The crimes that the government committed in the past lumber in front of us again--not too far to see but not quite close enough for the public to verify. We need to catch up with it! We need to stare it in the face and say, `God damn it, I see what you are doing! You can't come and terrorize another community like you did before. You can sanction whatever fear you want, whatever racism and justification for your greedy ugly asses you want, but you're not doing it on my behalf.' We see through those lies and we're not stopping until everyone else sees through them too. Until we have hundreds in front of hundreds saying, `You have to come through us before you get to them.'"

Aimara from the Not in Our Name Projectin San Francisco

"NOT IN OUR NAME calls on all people of conscience to stand in solidarity with our Arab, Muslim and South Asian brothers and sisters by voicing opposition to the `new normalcy' in creative, determined and daring ways.... Let the INS and our government know we are opposed to this outrageous and unjust `re-registration' and the detentions and round-ups of our friends, neighbors, classmates, professors and co-workers."

From the NION call to demonstrate on January 10 against the Special Registration

The U.S. government is carrying out a massive repressive registration campaign--profiling, targeting and persecuting immigrants from Arab and Muslim countries. In mid-November Attorney General John Ashcroft ordered all male non-citizens over 16 who were born in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan and Libya (and do not have permanent resident status) to be fingerprinted, photographed and questioned by December 16. Immigrants from 13 additional countries--Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen--were ordered to register by January 10, 2003. Immigrants from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have been told to report by February 21. (See RW #1182)

The mass registration allows the INS to compile a database of immigrants that can track people's whereabouts, immigration status, and be integrated with the FBI criminal database. Those who fail to register face criminal prosecution and deportation.

By the end of the first deadline, the INS in southern California had detained 1,000 men and boys, fully a quarter of all those who came to register. The men, mostly Iranians, were held for days in deplorable conditions, denied access to lawyers or their families. Mass detentions were also reported in Houston and Cleveland. Most have now been released on bail, but must return for INS hearings.

In cities across the country, broad coalitions quickly formed to oppose the Special Registration and detentions and organized protests for January 10. Refuse & Resist! issued an Emergency Call to Action: "The Special INS Registrations are unjust! Stop the Special Registrations! Free the Detainees!"

The RW received the following reports from actions that were held on January 10 to protest this ugly campaign of repression.

San Francisco Bay Area

Over 750 people from community, religious, union, legal, peace, immigration rights, radical and revolutionary groups; students, teachers, attorneys and others demonstrated at the San Francisco INS offices. Almost everyone in the crowd wore a blue triangle with the name of a person detained and "disappeared" by the government after September 11.

The demonstration was organized by an ad hoc group (which met for the first time on Christmas Eve) that included: A Jewish Voice for Peace, American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Global Ex- change, If Americans Knew, the National Lawyers Guild, Nosei, INS Watch, the Not in Our Name Project and the Service Employees International Union, whose members in the Bay Area include many janitors from Middle Eastern countries.

During the week, activists had kept a presence at INS offices and counseled immigrants going in to register, giving them pamphlets in Arabic or English telling them their rights and taking down names so it would be known who didn't come out after going in to be interviewed. The actions were widely covered in the press.

The RW spoke with the wife of a Tunisian man who was detained earlier in the week and was still being held on Friday with a bail of $5,000. He was detained because he was here on a student VISA and missed several months of school due to a medical problem. "I think that they're singling people out because they come from a certain region or because they practice a certain religion," she told the RW .

Immigration lawyers say it is difficult to determine how many people were detained because the INS is not releasing any information, but estimate that at least 12 people were detained at the SF INS office on January 10.

A large number of protesters were from the Asian community. Reverend Norman Fong of the Chinatown Community Center said, "As Chinatown activists, we see the struggle of Middle Eastern people--or people who look Middle Eastern even--as our struggle too and that's important. We need to bridge each other's struggle. My father was detained for two years on Angel Island when he first came to America." "Justice for New Americans," a group formed off of the imprisonment of Chinese American scientist Wen Ho Lee, carried signs in Chinese denouncing the INS attacks.

"As one of 120,000 Japanese Americans who were uprooted, evacuated, and incarcerated during WW2 and held in remote desert lands and swamplands we want to make sure today that nothing like that will ever happen again to any group," said long-time activist Yuri Kochiyama. Japanese Americans with the group Nosei carried signs with pictures from the internment of Japanese Americans in the 1940s which said "Japanese Americans say never again to scapegoating."

A rally featured speakers Tom Ammiano of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors; Reverend Cecil Williams; SF Public Defender Jeff Adachi; John Tateishi, National Executive Director of the Japanese American Citizens League; Walter Johnson of the San Francisco Labor Council; Aimara of the Not in Our Name Project; Yuri Kochiyama; Mark Vanderhout of the National Lawyers Guild; Service Employees International Union; Filipinos for Global Justice; Rene Saucedo of La Raza Centro Legal and Hatem Bazian, representing the Islamic community.


100 people gathered at the INS detention center at a press conference and protest called by NION and the Hate Free Zone Campaign (HFZ). There were young anti-war activists; middle class people newly activated in the movement against a war in Iraq; Japanese, Arab, Somali, Indian, and Latino immigrants; lawyers; human and immigrant rights activists; revolutionaries; feminists; students; and more.

Detainees locked up inside the center yelled out encouragement to the protest and tried to throw out notes to folks outside. Some of the protesters went inside to talk with immigrants--one immigrant said, "We didn't know what you were saying, but we knew you were there for us."

47 different organizations endorsed the press conference and an upcoming protest rally to be held January 13. At the press conference several speakers compared what is going on to the start of the processes through which the Japanese were rounded up in WW2 and what the Nazis did to the Jews.

Pramila Jayapal of HFZ said, "Special registration follows in the footsteps of previous round- ups of Arabs and Muslims through detentions and interviews that have provided no connections to terrorist activity. Special registration furthers the stereotyping of and prejudice against entire nations."

Peace activist Bert Sacks, who has been targeted by the U.S. government for bringing food and medicine to the people of Iraq, represented SNOW. He said, "I'm so proud to be here in Seattle with this good group of people that are standing and speaking up. We need to wake the rest of the country up, so when they come for us we will have spoken already and stopped this terrible policy, which is the closest I've ever seen to my imagining what it must have been like in the early years in Nazi Germany."


350 people protested at the Federal Office Building in lower Manhattan (which houses the New York INS and FBI offices). The demonstration was called by the Coalition Against Special Registration--a broad coalition that included Islamic organizations, anti-war forces, civil rights groups and immigrant organizations.

The demands of the demonstration were: Stop special registration; Free all detainees; Stop the repression of immigrant communities; Stop racial profiling of Arabs, Muslims, South Asians and all communities of color; Stop all the attacks on civil liberties; and End all repressive "anti- terrorism" legislation.


150 to 200 people attended a press conference and protest at the Federal Building/INS offices. The action was organized by the Chicago Not In Our Name Project and Refuse & Resist! and co- sponsored by Chicago Coalition Against War and Racism, Arab American Action Network, Blue Triangle, Chicago Anti-Bashing Network, League of Filipino Students, Iranians for Freedom, National Lawyer's Guild, Nicaragua Solidarity Committee, and Palestine Solidarity Group. All day long people stood at the doors of the INS and interviewed immigrants who were going in to register. People wanted to make sure that if someone went in and didn't come out that this would be documented.


Throughout the day about 100 people showed up at the INS offices to protest the registration. Representatives came from Wayne State Students' Mobilization for Justice, Detroit Area Peace and Justice Network, a contingent of Raging Grannies (who sang alternative Christmas carols), Committee for the Political Resurrection of Detroit, Ann Arbor U of Michigan Anti-war Action, Ann Arbor Committee for Peace, Women in Black, National Lawyer's Guild, Michigan Emergency Committee Against War In Iraq, Alliance for Democracy, Medical Committee for Human Rights, students from Michigan State U in East Lansing, the Triangle Foundation. Local TV and radio stations were there and interviewed members of the Blue Triangle Network.


75 people gathered in a downtown church, heard statements and speeches from the Muslim American Society, ACLU-Ohio, Japanese American Citizen League, October 22nd Coalition Against Police Brutality, the Cleveland Non Violence Network and other groups and individuals. The representative of the Muslim American Society spoke out about the 1.4 million people killed in Iraq from the embargo and called for people to stop the war on Iraq and Palestine. He said, "Don't attack us because we look different. We are all human."


70 people held a protest sponsored by The Coalition for Dignity and Amnesty, Harris County Green Party, Houston Answer (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), Houston Coalition for Justice Not War, International Socialist Organization, Islamic Education Center, La Resistencia, Not in Our Name, Progressive Workers Organizing Committee, and Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. A speaker for the Islamic Education Center said how gratified he was to see people refer to those under attack as their "Brothers and Sisters," and said that he felt that all those there were truly his "Brothers and Sisters."

Protests were also held in a number of other cities around the country.

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