Monday, 15 June 2009

SOAS students occupy to protest immigration raids

Following unprecedented immigration raids at SOAS, students have now occupied the college. More when we get it or go to SolomonsMindfield
By Sadie Robinson

Students and workers at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) have organised an emergency protest for 8.30am on Monday 15 June to defend cleaners at the site who are facing imminent threat of deportation.

Cleaners at SOAS were rounded up by immigration officials at an early morning meeting last Friday.

The raid follows campaigns by the cleaners to win union recognition and the London Living Wage.

Nine of the cleaners were subsequently held, including one woman who is six months pregnant. Their Unison union rep, Sandy Nicoll, said he was prevented from having any contact with them.

By Sunday three had already been deported. Others may be deported on Monday morning.

There is widespread anger and shock at the raid and at the speed with which the workers are being removed from Britain, with no opportunity to challenge the rulings or get legal advice. Many people saw the raid as the “kidnapping” of their fellow workers.

Some 200 students and workers protested outside SOAS on Friday evening. “I'm so ashamed of this institution today,” said Sandy. “It's not an accident that immigration raids are taking place in workplaces where cleaners have been organising to win better pay and conditions.

“London can't run without low-paid migrant workers to do work like cleaning – but if they try and fight for rights then they're out.

“Our union met today and unanimously passed a motion to back whatever campaign there is to stop the deportations of these cleaners. The cleaners are an important part of the union.”

Graham Dyer, the UCU union president at SOAS, was also at the protest. “I came in this morning to take part in a demonstration to support Stalin (a former worker at Soas who has been victimised by management after organising campaigns to improve workers' rights), only to find that the cleaning staff had been taken by immigration officials.

“The UCU is outraged. It's clear that management have been complicit in allowing immigration officials to come onto our campus.”

Sam, a student at SOAS, spoke poignantly to the crowd about the raid. “Just imagine what it's like,” he said. “You get up and go to work expecting to come home later and empty the washing that you've left in the machine, pick up your kids, etc. But no. Instead you get taken away to be deported.

“I'm almost speechless at management’s behaviour.”

PROTEST

Monday 15 June, 8.30am, on the steps if SOAS, off Malet Street, central London

From Socialist Worker (UK)

Peaceful protest at Netanyahu speech attacked by Israel's police

Netanyahu's vacuous speech was not an acceptance of a Palestinian state on his part but rather a demand that the international community endorses nothing more than an Apartheid-style Bantustan. For the real take on the mindset of Israel consider the treatment of CodePink protesters in Tel Aviv for Netanyahu's speech - Ann Wright writing for the Huffington Post
While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was making a major foreign policy speech at Tel Aviv University Sunday, Israeli police outside the university attacked international protesters of Israel's invasion of Gaza, illegal settlements and the apartheid wall.

Heavy-handed police treatment of the unarmed, peaceful members of the CODEPINK delegation there began immediately after they unfurled several pink banners that read "Free Gaza" and "End the Occupation." CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin and New York activist Zool Zulkowitz were physically dragged across the street from their original protest site next to the entrance gate to Bar Ilan University where audience members and press entered the university complex to attend the speech.

Several hours later, a French journalist and member of the CODEPINK delegation, was arrested as she crossed a small street in an attempt to take photos of the demonstration. As she was placed in an Israeli police car, several members of the delegation converged to determine why the journalist was being held.

Israeli police and military violently shoved the group back into a wall. Delegation member Tighe Barry from Santa Monica, Cali. was struck in the face with the butt of a military rifle and pushed to the ground where he could barely breathe. He was taken by ambulance to the Trauma Center of Tal-Hashomer hospital in Tel Aviv where he was treated for a concussion, an injured neck and an asthma attack. Benjamin and several other delegation members were bruised in the arms and upper body from being shoved and manhandled by the police and military.

The journalist was taken to a local police station and released an hour later without charges. Mr. Barry was treated overnight at the hospital.

The CODEPINK delegation has requested the Israeli police and military investigate the brutality used by their forces on the peaceful, non-violent protesters.

When President Obama spoke in Cairo on June 4, a separate CODEPINK delegation that had just returned from six days in Gaza in early June, held a demonstration right outside Cairo University holding signs that read "Stop funding Israeli War Crimes." Egyptian police allowed the demonstration to take place.

But not so in Israel.

"Is this the great democracy that the U.S. taxpayers pay for with $3 billion dollars a year?" Benjamin cried, as she was being dragged away by the police.

Ann Wright is a retired US Army Reserves Colonel and a former U.S. diplomat who resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the Iraq war. She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, and Mongolia. She was on a small State Department team that reopened the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan in December, 2001. She has visited Gaza three times in the past three months, co-leading two delegations of more than 120 persons.