HONOLULU, Hawaii: State legislature challenges Patriot Act

Hawaii is the first state to debate legislation that directly challenges the Patriot Act, passed in the wake of September 11, 2001. One Republican state representative and one Republican state senator have signed onto bill initiated by the Democrats, because of fears that a Patriot Act could lead to sacrificing fundamental human rights and civil liberties.

State Senate majority leader, Colleen Hanabusa (D), said her constituents petitioned for relief recalling that 440,000 of the islands residents had their civil rights suspended under marital law following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Many of Hawaii’s Japanese-Americans were sent to California and jailed in internment camps.

If the state passes the legislation, Hawaii will join 89 communities, including six counties, which have already declared themselves “civil liberties safe zones.” Over 6.4 million residents are covered by local legislation directly challenging the Bush Patriot Act. The largest city is Detroit and the smallest is Windham, Vermont. Among the six counties are Alachua, Florida; San Miguel, Colorado; Blount, Tennessee; Benton, Oregon; Rio Arriba, New Mexico and Yolo, California. Since the invasion of Iraq began on March 20, another 16 cities and towns have passed resolutions confronting the Patriot Act and confirming the Bill of Rights.

Kentucky and Oklahoma: Save our schools

In February, Americans were in the streets to not only halt the Bush war against Iraq, but to save public education. With the states facing a combined $80 billion short fall in funding, public education is on the chopping block.

We missed reporting mass marches to save public schools in Oklahoma where 20,000 were in the streets and Kentucky, where 25,000 jammed the state capital. Both demonstrations occurred on Feb. 12. Both states are considering slashing programs including kindergarten, closing schools and laying off staff.

The Kentucky Education Association, the teacher’s union, and a broad coalition of parents, students and legislators marched on the state capital, Frankfort. The march was so large buses backed up traffic on the interstate for 2 miles. “I’ve never seen a rally like this down here, period.” said State Treasurer Jonathan Miller. “The fact that there is such a huge turnout indicates to me that there is tremendous grassroots support for public education funding and we need to do everything we can to protect it.”

“Books not prisons; Save Our Schools” was the rallying slogan for the Oklahoma Education Association and their school-based coalition.

While the state’s public schools have seen their budgets gutted by $342 million since 2002, state spending on prisons skyrocketed by $204 million, despite a decline in the crime rate. The National Education Association called the Oklahoma education cuts “war rationing”.

Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry addressed the rally announcing that $25 million was transferred from the state’s ‘rainy day fund’ to education and vowed to plug remaining gaps with a lottery.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.: Drummond Coal sued for murder of Colombian miners

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama has ruled that a suit brought by SINTRAMIENERGETICA, the union representing coal miners in Colombia, can proceed.

The suit was filed seeking justice for the brutal March 2001, murders of SINTRAMIENERGETICA leaders Victor Hugo Orcasita Amayan and Gustavo Soler Mora at Drummond Coal Company’s La Loma mine in Columbia. The court ruled that international human rights law does allow for corporations to be and, in fact, should be held liable for torture and murder.

Speaking on behalf of U.S. miners, United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) President Cecil Roberts pledged the union’s full support for the Colombian miners.

National Clips are compiled by

Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696@aol.com)