community-based, non-corporate, participatory media
On this week's show... * Thousands protest around the world in response to Mumia Abu Jamal's denial of a new trial * The One Hill Coalition reaches a tentative Community Benefits Agreement with the City, the County, and the Penguins hockey team * The City of New York withdraws its plans to build a new $375 million jail in the Bronx * Grassroots organizations work to bring clean water to Iraq * Plus we bring you the weekly radio spin and the radical day in history
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Welcome to this week's edition of Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of the news from the grassroots, news overlooked by the corporate media.
On today's show...
Rustbelt Radio is broadcast live from WRCT studios every Monday at 6 PM on 88.3 FM in Pittsburgh, and the program airs again on WRCT every Tuesday morning at 9AM.
We can also be heard weekly on the following stations:
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We turn now to local stories.
Chants of “Free Mumia” resonated across the globe on Saturday April 19th as thousands demonstrated to demand justice for award winning journalist and Pennsylvania death row inmate Mumia Abu Jamal. From Paris to Mexico City to Abu Jamal’s home city of Philadelphia people gathered to protest the 3rd circuit court of appeals decision to deny Mumia Abu Jamal a New Trial. Abu Jamal has been sitting on Pennsylvania’s Death Row for the past 26 years for allegedly killing a Philadelphia police officer. His case has been emblematic of racial bias in the judicial system and the flawed process in which people are sentenced to death.
In 2001, a federal judge threw out Abu-Jamal's death sentence after finding that the original judge gave the jury improper instructions. But both sides appealed this decision and Abu Jamal's case was brought before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals last May.
On March 27th, 2008 three judges unanimously UPHELD THE 2001 decision to overturn his death sentence. However, two of the three judges also voted to deny him a new trial despite the fact that Prosecutor Joseph McGill used 10 of his peremptory challenges to remove black jurors during Abu Jamal’s case.
Martha Connelly of the Pittsburgh Committee to Free Mumia says JUST the exclusion of black jurors in Abu Jamal's ORIGINAL trial in 1982 IS REASON ENOUGH for a new trial according to the Batsin Case:
2 of the judges on the third circuit court of appeals said that in order for the Batson case to apply, Abu Jamal would have needed to cite it when his jurors were selected. But the Batson decision was reached 4 years after Abu Jamal’s trial. The dissenting Judge Thomas Ambro wrote, "Our court has previously reached the merits of Batson claims . . . where the petitioner did not make a timely objection during jury selection . . . and I see no reason why we should not afford Abu-Jamal the courtesy of our precedents."
Abu Jamal said the court has demonstrated that they do not act in the interests of the people.
During his 26 years on Death Row, Mumia Abu Jamal has published numerous books, produced political radio commentaries and supported revolutionary causes around the world. Queen Mother Bariki a friend of Abu Jamal said that it is his tireless work for social change that must inspire people to continue to fight for his freedom.
Abu Jamal can now file a petition for his case to go before the full circuit court of appeals instead of just the three judge panel. From the full circuit court of appeals it has the possibility of going to the US Supreme Court. Abu Jamal and his supporters are hoping that these legal actions will eventually lead to his freedom as well as set an important legal precedent for others who face the death penalty.
The One Hill Coalition has announced that they have reached a tentative agreement with the City, the County, and the Penguins on a Community Benefits Agreement for the Hill District. The agreement includes many of the demands of the One Hill platform. The Penguins will contribute 1 million dollars for a grocery store, and the Urban Redevelopment Authority will match that contribution for a total of 2 million. The city and county will fund the creation of a master plan for revitalization of the Hill District with community input. The city and county will also provide assistance in helping the YMCA to develop and sustain a multipurpose center for Hill District youth, families, and seniors. The agreement also included a city-county review of social services in the Hill to identify gaps or problems and to prioritize needs.
The two key issues of arena jobs and a community fund for the Hill were addressed in the agreement, although modified somewhat from the One Hill platform. The agreement provides for a First Source job training center which will receive 90 thousand dollars from the city and county for at least the first two years. Additional funding may be provided by foundations. The Penguins have also agreed to give qualified Hill District residents first consideration for service-related positions in the new arena. The issue of union neutrality in businesses that will occupy the land to be redeveloped was not settled. The One Hill platform originally included a community fund for the Hill District. The new agreement does not provide a guaranteed fund, but instead states that a team formed by One Hill and the Hill House will identify community priorities and bring them to a state tax credit program for funding consideration. The state tax credit program allows corporate sponsors to donate money in return for tax reduction. One Hill estimates the program may bring in up to 600 thousand dollars per year for the community.
The agreement will go before the One Hill Coalition’s membership for ratification on May 4th.
Philadelphia's Newly Elected mayor Michael Nutter revoked a permit earlier this year for the Sugarhouse Casino, planned for construction along the Delaware River. He questioned the benefits of casinos within the city. "You Pay Even if You Don't Play" is the name of a new cost and benefits analysis released by the organization Casino Free Philadelphia. The study states that two new slot parlors slated for Philadelphia will cost the city 52 million dollars, a hefty price tag that they hope will convince government officials to abandon plans to open these new gaming facilities.
Andalusia Knoll brings us more on the struggle in Philadelphia:
For more on local news, you can visit pittsburgh dot I-N-D-Y-M-E-D-I-A dot org.
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You are listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news overlooked by the corporate media. We turn now to news from other independent media sources around the world.
Radio Rootz brings us this radical history lesson for April 29th:
Workers at the Grangemouth refinery in Scotland have gone on strike for 2 days, shutting down the refinery completely. The company that owns the refinery, Ineos, is cutting worker pensions and cutting jobs. The workers’ union says the company makes plenty of profit and has been unwilling to negotiate, thus driving them to strike for the first time in 70 years. The refinery provides 10% of Britain’s fuel, and 95% of the fuel for Scotland’s most populous region. However, it also provides power for the forties oil pipeline that runs from the North Sea, and the pipeline has to shut down concurrently with the refinery. The pipeline carries oil from over 70 fields in the north sea, amounting to 40% of the oil produced in the UK. The strike’s impact extends beyond two days because the plant must shut down and start up gradually, over the course of several weeks. The government has said that there is enough fuel stocked, and warned consumers that a run on fuel will worsen the problem. However, long lines for gas and shortages at some stations have developed in Scotland and England nonetheless. The strike is scheduled to end tuesday; however, no progress in negotiations has yet been made public.
On November 25, 2006, Sean Bell was killed in a hail of 50 bullets in Jamaica, Queens hours before his wedding. Bell, a 23 year old Black Man who was unarmed, died when three police officers fired on the vehicle he was in with two friends as they were leaving a Strip Club. This past friday April 25th, a New York State Supreme Court justice acquitted the three New York police detectives of all charges related to the fifty shots that killed Sean Bell.
Moments after the decision Bell’s fiancé commented on the lack of justice in the court.
Hundreds of protestors gathered in Jamaica Queens in the afternoon to protest the decision and demand justice for Bell and an end to senseless Police violence. Spoken Word artist Suheir Hammad says that people felt enraged by the verdict and the lack of value placed on black people’s lives.
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Since the Day that Bell was murdered, family members and supporters have been protesting outside the Queens courthouse. Some organizers have lamented the lack of impact that these protests have and question how the movement should proceed forward. Rosa Clemente, a long time organizer against police brutality with the New York based group People’s Justice says that we need to look at the larger picture.
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Today Congressman Conyers, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee was set to meet with the bell family and visit the Jamaica site where Bell was killed. Anti-Police Bruatality activists and sean bell’s supporters say that they will make sure this case goes to a higher court so that those responsible for Bell’s death are brought to justice.
This past weekend in Tacoma, Washington, a protest march targeted the Northwest Detention Center, opened in 2004 on the tide flats of the Port of Tacoma. The center is owned by a private corporation under a contract with ICE -- Immigration and Customs Enforcement -- and the US Department of Homeland Security.
The recent demonstration was another in a series of protests in Tacoma. Last November, at the same time as the No Borders Camp was being held, on the US-Mexico border, people also took to the street in opposition to the privately run detention facility. In addition to these street actions, there is also a weekly vigil held outside the center, organized by the detention watch network.
After last November's protest, Tacoma students for a democratic society members produced a short documentary about the detention center and the protests. Rustbelt Radio has excerpts:
This past Saturday, another protest march was held in Tacoma to raise awareness about the Northwest Detention Center and to denounce ICE's raids on immigrants. A large police presence closed down a bridge preventing the march from reaching the detention center. The march reached downtown Tacoma before turning back to the park where it began, as police in riot gear forced marchers onto the sidewalk, and reportedly struck some people with their bikes. At least two people were arrested.
As immigration raids continue, ICE is requesting a budget increase of 95 million dollars for Fiscal Year 2009, adding 1,000 beds in detention centers due to what they call (quote) "demand generated by increased immigration enforcement activities."
And now we bring you the Weekly Radio Spin, from the Center for Media and Democracy:
You're listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.
The City of New York has just withdrawn its plan to build a 2,040-bed $375 million jail in the Hunts Point neighborhood of the Bronx. This decision comes as a victory for Community in Unity, a broad coalition of community members and organizations who fought for two years against the proposed jail. They have been pushing for a Community Planning Process which would allow the community to decide what the best use of the land would be An organization unaffiliated with Community in Unity, Sustainable South Bronx says they hope to use the land that was designated for the jail for an industrial park devoted to remanufacturing construction material as part of their Green Jobs not jails campaign.
Hunts Point is an area with scarce resources, and rampant enviromental devastation. Pilar Maschi of Critical Resistance, a national grass roots organization that advocates the abolition of prisons, says that it is neighborhoods like Hunts Point that are most targeted by jails.
While Community in Unity has celebrated the jails defeat, they are still weary of the city's plan to a jail in a different neighborhood in the Bronx as well as new facilities in all the boroughs. Maschi said there campaign wasn't based on the "not in my backyard principle" but instead based on the belief that the prison industrial complex can not solve societal problems.
When Bronx residents have complained of a lack of employment opportunities, city officials have responded saying that the Jail would provide jobs. Lisa Ortega of Rights for Imprisoned People with Psychiatric Disabilities says that they are in need of meaningful employent that could help provide healthy living to all.
Ortega says that prisons have become a destination for people with mental health issues.
When the city first planned its construction of $375 million jail facility they did not alert members of the surrounding Bronx Community. When one local group discovered the city's plan they alerted a broad range of organizations including environmental justice groups, homeowners associations, civil rights organizations, prison activist groups and community centers. Together they mobilized a mass movement which according to Pilar Maschi led to their sucess.
Organizations vow that they will continue to find for community solutions in the Bronx, while fighting jail expansion across the city. For more information visit criticalresistance.org.
... And that was Rebeldiaz with "Which Side are you on?"
Last Sunday, Veterans for Peace brought Sami (SAW-mi) Rasouli, a Muslim Peacemaker from Minneapolis to speak to a crowd at St. Paul's church in Cleveland Heights, Cleveland. Sami, who was born and raised in Iraq, spoke about his experiences in his country and his perspective on the current occupation. Sami immigrated to the US with his family many years ago to Minneapolis and started a successful ethnic foods store. In 2003, after the US invasion, he returned to Iraq for a family member's wedding. For four weeks he celebrated with his family, but also saw the misery of the Iraqi people under the US military occupation. When he returned to his life in Minnesota, he was unable to function normally. Sami knew in his heart he had to go back and since then, he has dedicated his life to being a foot soldier for peace. He has come and gone to Iraq many times in the last five years and has been able to build an extensive network as a Muslim Peacemaker, both in the US and Iraq.
During his discussion, Sami dispelled the notion that when the occupying forces leave, Iraq will spiral out of control. From his insider viewpoint, he believes the fighting in Iraq has nothing to do with long-standing hatred between Shiites, Sunni, and Kurds. It is not sectarian, but rather political. He asserts the political divide is between Nationalists, who want to Iraq to be independent nation, and Separatists, who are willing to sell Iraq at any price. According to Sami, the US occupation is causing the violence, and if the US pulls out, there will be stability in Iraq.
In addition to inciting violence throughout Iraq, the US government has done little to rebuild the country. While the US spends 12 billion a month in Iraq, the people and cities remain in shambles. In the Greenzone, workers are imported from all over the world to serve the Americans an abundance of food, yet outside the Greenzone, there are 25 million Iraqis who are in constant danger and are deprived of basic necessities. Seven million Iraqis are unemployed and find their daily food picking through the trash. Only 30% of Iraqis have clean water and the electricity only runs a few hours a day at inconvenient times.
Lack of clean water in Iraq has been an issue ever since the Gulf War in the early 90's and the imposition of sanctions by the UN. In 1999, the country was in a water crisis. Veterans for Peace stepped in and created the Iraqi Clean Water Project with help from Life for Relief and Development, another non-profit based out of Michigan. The first veterans to go into the country helped to rebuild the water treatment plants that were destroyed in the Gulf War and by the US's continued bombing throughout the 1990s. Their work of rebuilding water treatment plants and educating the American public about the devastating effects of the UN sanctions continued up until the most recent US invasion into Iraq. With the renewed occupation, construction has become too dangerous an endeavor and support groups had to find other ways to help Iraqis get access to clean water. They now direct their work towards establishing water filters in schools and hospitals.
Our Cleveland Corespondent, Abigail, spoke with Christian Peacemaker Michael McMurray about the Iraqi Water Project.
Earlier this spring, from March 13-19th, the Iraq Veterans Against the War convened a Winter Soldier testimony panel. The event reprised a similar panel convened during the Vietnam War, and like that panel it was designed for soldiers to make public the uncomfortable truths of their experiences with the war as a patriotic duty. Today we’ll hear testimony on the crisis in the veteran’s healthcare system.
Ron Kovic, a quadriplegic Vietnam vetern who authored the memoir Born on the Fourth of July, provided written testimony to introduce the issue of veteran’s healthcare. His letter was read aloud at the hearings:
We will now hear the testimony of one of the Iraq veterans who spoke on the issue:
Goodman condemned the practice of VA healthcare workers falsely telling veterans that their mental health problems were not caused by their military service, but were instead related to pre-existing conditions.
That was testimony from the Winter Soldier hearings held earlier this year. Rustbelt Radio will continue to bring you their testimony as long as the war continues and the mainstream media fails in this task.
And now we present the Indymedia Calendar of Events:
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Thanks for tuning in to Rustbelt Radio here on WRCT Pittsburgh, WPTS Pittsburgh, WNJR Washington, WVJW Benwood, WIUP Indiana and WKCO Gambier.
Our hosts and contributors this week are Andalusia Knoll and Ben Klahr with additional contributions from Carlin Christy, Matt Toups, Jessica McPherson and Abigail Diederich. This week's show was produced by Phill Cresswell. Special thanks to all of our hosts, producers, and contributors.
You can get involved with Rustbelt Radio! To contact us, or to send us your comments, email RADIO at I-N-D-Y-P-G-H dot ORG. All of our shows are available for download or podcast on our website at RADIO dot INDY-P-G-H dot ORG and this show can be heard again Tuesday morning on WRCT at 9 AM after Democracy Now!
Tune in next week at this time for another edition of Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.