Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Reports on International Women's Day Activities Around the United States

International Women’s Day in U.S.: ‘We will organize & mobilize’

Published Mar 15, 2008 11:07 AM

On March 8—the 100th anniversary of the day militant working women took to the streets of New York City—women throughout the U.S. honored International Women’s Day and vowed to continue the struggle for liberation.


An initial downpour of rain didn’t stop several hundred women and their allies from continuing the legacy of IWD. With militant chants, participants marched to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory memorial, where 146 women workers were killed in a fire on March 25, 1911, after the bosses locked them in. They then continued to the Solidarity Center for an indoor rally and celebration.

Placards featured pictures of women leaders and inspirational words, alongside others demanding women’s rights, including reproductive justice and an end to war, racism, LGBT oppression and poverty.

Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) Chair Valerie Francisco stated, “We will organize and mobilize until our demands are met and our collective voices are heard!”


Workers World Party friends and members gathered in Detroit to celebrate “100 Years of Struggle.” Debbie Johnson discussed how conditions that sparked the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire still exist in sweatshops around the world.

Sue Paquin gave a presentation on “Feminism and Marxism”—based on the book of that name. Written by WWP founding member Dorothy Ballan, it explains how women’s oppression arose with the division of society into oppressor and oppressed classes. Andrea Egypt talked about African-American women who have led the fight for a better life.

The featured guest speaker, Sue Davis from the New York City WWP branch, examined the Party’s historical relation to women’s fight for equality and reproductive rights, and showed how revolutionary women influenced those struggles. A lively discussion followed on how socialism will provide true liberation for women.

A delicious meal was prepared by male comrades.


The Women’s Fightback Network—Boston organized a car caravan of women activists and supporters. A sound truck played music while young women leaders led chants and rapped. Passersby gave thumbs up and raised fists.

In driving rain, the caravan passed Boston Police Headquarters, where activists demanded an end to Criminal Offender Record Information laws, and Boston City Hospital, where chants echoed: “Our bodies, our lives, our right to decide.”

A Countrywide Financial Co. office, across the street from a homeless shelter, became the target of a militant action when women plastered a banner demanding an end to ALL foreclosures. Countrywide is a major predatory lender.

With music blaring and chants of “Jobs Not Jails,” the cavalcade pulled up to the Suffolk County Community Corrections Center—where 150 to 200 women are incarcerated, unfurled banners and formed a picket line. Prisoners put their hands on the windows and pumped their fists.


Code Pink and the International Action Center of Buffalo/Western New York braved the mounds left from a weekend snowstorm to bring an anti-war demonstration commemorating International Women’s Day to a busy intersection. The contingent carried empty boots, representing the women soldiers who have died in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and occupations.

The groups are building for a car caravan and rally on March 22 to protest the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War.


Many women’s and labor groups formed a coalition for a spirited march through downtown on March 8, followed by an afternoon of plenaries, speakouts and cultural performances in the hall of the union UNITE-HERE. They discussed the need for women to unite and struggle for housing, health care, education and an end to the war. Speakers included a survivor of the Katrina disaster in New Orleans and Pam Africa from MOVE.

Kris Hamel from Detroit, Berta Joubert from Philadelphia, the WW Boston Bureau and the WW Buffalo Bureau contributed to this report.

Articles copyright 1995-2007 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

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Women’s Day march targets Texas prison for immigrants

By Gloria Rubac
Taylor, Texas

Published Mar 13, 2008 1:00 AM

Activists from several Texas cities, joined by reporters and local residents, gathered here March 8 to march against the incarceration of immigrant families in the T. Don Hutto immigration detention prison. The occasion was International Women’s Day.

The prison, run by Corrections Corp. of America (CCA), the country’s largest for-profit jailer, is 30 miles north of the Texas capital. It imprisons families and children under harsh conditions that have caused protests to get it shut down.

Adrienne Evans with the Free the Children Coalition in Terlingua, Texas, had called for people “to join together and make a stand against this injustice inflicted on women and children by our government. What better way to spend International Women’s Day?”

Women, children and their male allies held a peace walk through downtown Taylor and then rallied across from the detention center until sunset. They ended with a candlelight vigil and a prayer ceremony.

The Department of Homeland Security opened the 510-bed facility in May 2006 as the first detention center for families. Hutto holds men, women, some of whom are pregnant, children and infants while their applications for political asylum are being considered. None is charged with a criminal offense, yet they are all held in a former prison under prison-like conditions.

Most of the detainees are from Central and South America. There are also Africans, Asians, Europeans and families from the Middle East.

At a congressional hearing two days before International Women’s Day, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff had defended the administration’s treatment of immigrants during workplace raids and at detention facilities. He faced tough questioning by U.S. Reps. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) and Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) about the treatment of children at immigrant facilities in Hutto and a smaller family facility in Berks County, Pa.

On Feb. 9, community activists in Houston had heard a moving personal account of life at Hutto by a woman who survived it. Denia and her children, who came from Honduras, spent months at Hutto and are still dealing with the traumatizing incarceration. Speaking through a translator, she and her mother, María, shared how the children still have nightmares about the prison.

Denia said that her main source of stress while at Hutto was that she and her children were constantly hungry. They didn’t get proper nutrition, even though Denia was pregnant at the time. She received no prenatal care and worried that her unborn child was ill. María had heard about a woman having a miscarriage due to lack of health care, so she visited often and left enough money for Denia to buy food and phone cards. But Denia received only one bag of chips and one phone card.

Denia’s children were not allowed to have toys in their cell. They received only one hour of schooling a day and the rest of the time had to sit quietly. There was never normal playtime for the children.

The meeting was co-hosted by Multicultural Education through Counseling and the Arts (MECA) and Grassroots Leadership. A film, “Hutto: America’s Family Prison,” was screened about the ongoing campaign to shut down the facility.

Denia’s experiences are typical of abuses other detainees suffered in Hutto. Fortunately, the protests over conditions at Hutto attracted many in the immigrant rights movement in Austin, Texas, including attorneys and law students. The ACLU won a lawsuit against Chertoff last August.

Immigration lawyer Frances Valdez said the settlement resulted in dramatic improvements at the facility. Pregnant women detained at Hutto are now receiving prenatal care and better food. Children are allowed more time outside and families can wear normal clothes instead of prison uniforms which everyone, including infants, was forced to wear. Though the lawyers had hoped to shut down the facility completely, Valdez said the settlement to improve the situation was as far as they could legally take the case.

Valdez stressed the need for continued activism. “I really think the best way to change it is your political activism. With enough political pressure, you can shut it down.”

During the March 4 primaries in Texas, dozens of Democratic Party precinct caucuses in five counties passed resolutions to shut down Hutto. These resolutions will proceed to senatorial district conventions on March 29 and then to the state convention on June 5.

The detention of immigrants is the fastest-growing form of incarceration in this country. It has become a profitable business since 9/11. At the end of 2006 there were 14,000 people locked up for violating immigration law. This was up by 79 percent from 2005, the year that Chertoff announced the U.S. would no longer allow undocumented immigrants to remain free in the country while awaiting a court appearance.

While private prisons began in earnest in the 1980s, by 2000 they weren’t faring well as escapes, prisoner rebellions and mismanagement sent their stock values plummeting. But after 9/11, when the government began detaining more immigrants, they made their prison beds available and business was again profitable.

In 2005, the year CCA was awarded the contract for Hutto, the company paid close to $3.4 million to five different lobbying firms. CCA now charges the federal government $34 million a year to run the Hutto facility.

Williamson County, where Hutto is located, is the intermediary in the agreement between the federal government and CCA. The county receives a dollar a day for each detainee at Hutto, which can add up to as much as $180,000 per year.

One of the founders of CCA was Terrell Don Hutto, once the director of the Arkansas state prison system. He became the defendant in Hutto v. Finney, a famous case that went before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1978 and was one of the first successful lawsuits by prisoners against a prison system. The court ruled that Arkansas prisons, where inmates were held in solitary confinement for indefinite periods of time, used cruel and unusual punishment.

The land on which Hutto was built was originally cooperatively owned by Mexican workers. Since they had been denied a place in town to park their trucks during cotton season, the workers pooled their wages to purchase the land. It later became a place to congregate and have fiestas and eventually became known as Hidalgo Park.

During the 1980s the workers were unable to pay the property taxes, so they donated the land to the Catholic parish church with the understanding it would be parish property. However, the church later sold the land. Ironically, the CCA prison now sits on land once owned by immigrants.
Articles copyright 1995-2007 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

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