National Clips

AUSTIN, Texas: Death penalty foes blast execution

Death penalty opponents blasted Gov. Rick Perry for ignoring a rare recommendation of mercy from the Texas parole board and allowing the lethal injection of a paranoid schizophrenic to go forward.

Kelsey Patterson, a 50-year-old African American man, was put to death on May 18. During his trial for two murders he frequently talked about “remote control devices” and “implants” that controlled him. Patterson fatally shot an oil businessman and his secretary in 1992.

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights has repeatedly passed resolutions against the execution of the mentally ill. Amnesty International, the human rights organization, said in a statement, “The evidence of war crimes committed by U.S. forces in Iraq has left the USA’s claims to be a global human rights champion in tatters … the USA has serious human rights problems at home as well as abroad.”





SEATTLE: March for affordable health care

Washington State Jobs with Justice joined grocery workers, nurses, health care workers, state employees, community allies, and religious groups at a march May 22, led by Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), to demand health care and workers’ justice.

Grocery workers have recently made headlines fighting against corporate grocery chains’ efforts to cut back worker health benefits. The United Food and Commercial Workers union contract affects over 25,000 workers here and was originally set to expire on May 2, but is now extended into June.

Union health care workers, who toil hard to provide quality care to patients, also face upcoming contract negotiations. Marchers said the crisis in health care – both cost and lack of coverage – hurts both workers and patients.





OLD BRIDGE, N.J.: Community vs. Omnipoint

Residents here are questioning a proposed plan to build a 130-foot cellular tower. At a May 6 zoning Board of Adjustment meeting, members of the community group, Residents Emerge Against Cell Tower (REACT), had a chance to confront representatives from Omnipoint Communications, Inc. about their plan. Omnipoint cancelled its appearance at the March and April meetings.

If approved, Omnipoint’s cell tower would hold 12 antennas. The company also wants to decrease the zone from 500 ft. to 400 ft. between an unmanned command center and residents’ homes.

Richard Conroy, a radio frequency engineer who testified for the residents, said there are already six cellular towers in the area. REACT President Luis Medeiros said he has never had trouble with his cell phone service. “I get service on Amboy Road, Route 34, Route 516 and the Garden State Parkway. I get service in all areas.”

Another resident, Allesandro Maniscalco, said Omnipoint should revisit two other sites, Nappi and Transport Resource. “Those are available. I don’t know why you don’t look in to them.”





LA PAZ, Calif.: Terminating Huerta? Say, No way!

United Farmworker co-founder Dolores Huerta’s term as member of the University of California Board of Regents expired on March 1. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has not yet acted to reappoint her. The UFW has launched a campaign urging her reappointment.

Huerta is the only Latina representative from the San Joaquin Valley and represents low-income populations and people of color. Her experience as a national leader on labor, civil rights, immigrant rights and women’s issues makes her contribution unique, the UFW said.

Urge Schwarzenegger to reappoint Huerta. Phone: (916) 445-2841; fax: (916) 445-4633; or e-mail: governor@governor.ca.gov.





CHICAGO: Equal rights, equal marriage

Part celebration, part demonstration, Equal Marriage NOW! held a rally May 17 to celebrate the first same-sex marriage licenses issued in Massachusetts, while demanding licenses for same sex couples in Cook County.

Outside City Hall, Scott LaBoda, of Equal Marriage NOW, read from the list of over 1,000 benefits accrued by married, heterosexual couples but denied homosexual couples. “Because lesbians and gay men cannot marry, they have no right to hospital visitation rights, sick leave and bereavement leave, and access to health insurance and pension,” he said.

The demonstrators, led by Michelle Baladad and Jennifer Widd of Skokie, Ill., filed into the Cook County Clerk’s Office. Widd and Baladad presented their $30 application fee and identification for a marriage license. The couple was denied an application. The 75-plus demonstrators refused to leave, chanting, “Marry us or marry no one.”

Protestors sat down and told personal stories on marriage, sang songs, and even ordered a pizza until the 5 p.m. closing time.

Protest organizer Sherry Wolf said, “Today is a success. Although we did not receive marriage licenses, no one in Cook County did either.” For more information: www.equalmarriagenow.org.





HUDSON, N.Y.: Suspensions rooted in racism?

Parents of a local middle school here are concerned about an alarming rate of student suspensions, worried they might be rooted in racism. Parents say that for every little infraction a student makes there comes a heavy suspension. The numbers are staggering. There were 200 suspensions last year.

According to the parents’ research, the suspended students are disproportionately Black. This raises the question of whether race has something to do with it. They submitted their concerns to the state education commissioner.

Terrie Albano (talbano@pww.org) compiled this week’s clips. Matt Helme from New Jersey and Blake Wilkinson from Chicago contributed.