Raleigh action held against repression

By Yolanda Carrington
Raleigh, N.C.

The Raleigh chapter of Fight Imperialism-Stand Together and other activists organized a "Defend Free Speech in Raleigh" news conference/demonstration Nov. 19. Media outlets in attendance at the North Carolina State University Memorial Tower included reporters from the Associated Press, the Raleigh News and Observer, the Independent Weekly, and local television stations such as WRAL-5, Disney ABC-11, and WB-22.

The news conference took place during the weekly demonstration of "Honk for Peace" by the Student Peace Action Net work at North Carolina State University.

This media event was organized in the aftermath of the Nov. 5 political protest at the North Carolina Republican Party headquarters that resulted in the arrest of three young activists on felony charges. In the wake of that incident, local and federal law enforcement began a campaign of haras sment targeting the Raleigh/ Triangle activist community.

Participants in the evening's conference-demonstration felt that this media outreach was important in alerting the general public to the real dangers posed by the intervention of state repression. Elena Everett, chair of the North Carolina Green Party and an NCSU student, said, "The outcome of the trial, if these three youths are convicted, could set a dangerous precedent for other activists and all political activity in the future."

Everett played an instrumental role in sending out a national statement to "Defend Free Speech in Raleigh" and in support of the three arrested activists. So far 100 prominent activists and progressive organizations have signed on to this call.

Everett and others say there is no valid evidence tying the youths to the felony charges.

Members of both FIST and SPAN felt that this news conference was necessary to show solidarity with the three young people accused of vandalizing the GOP headquarters and with the North Carolina activist community. Dante Strobino, co-founder of NCSU SPAN and a member of FIST, says: "We are reclaiming the left. We must show solidarity in the face of state repression and harassment."

He also points out that in the aftermath of the GOP incident, no activist in Raleigh was immune from state scrutiny. Members of both the Joint Terrorism Task Force of the FBI and Raleigh City Police immediately began pumping local acti vists for information related to the case.

Contributing to this already egregious behavior on the part of law enforcement was an article that appeared in the Nov. 9 edition of The News and Observer by writers Oren Dorell and Barbara Barrett.

Headlined "Man Charged in Courtroom Scrap," the article attempted to link the incident at the GOP headquarters to the weekly SPAN-sponsored Honk for Peace event held six hours earlier. The article implied that SPAN members were directly involved in the act"--FBI's words--at the GOP office.

This irresponsible oversight promp ted an angry email response from Raleigh FIST member Yolanda Carrington to co-author Dorell, castigating him for tainting the public image of both SPAN members and political activists in general.

Many of the people who participated in Friday's events felt that a show of solidarity with the three young people charged in the case was very important. Most of them were very clear that the youths' struggle with state repression was everyone's struggle.

Attempts by reporters at the event to elicit condemnations of the actions of Nov. 5 were met with stiff rebuttals from all activists interviewed. People refused to contribute to the hypocrisy of popular discourse of denouncing an act of petty vandalism while the U.S. government continues its vicious military assault against the city of Falluja in Iraq.

Says SPAN's Strobino, "They [the state] are terrified that power will shift away from them, and we are doing everything we can to fight back and reclaim the message." Email ealbiston@yahoo.com for more information about the Raleigh 3 case.

Also on Nov. 19, in addition to the news conference and "Honk for Peace," a mass contingent of bicyclists, including Stro bino himself, participated in Raleigh's version of Critical Mass, the widely popular international movement of bike riders who take back the streets from motor vehicle traffic. Regularly held during the last Friday of every month in Raleigh, this Critical Mass protest was important and large enough this time out to force police "protection" of the bikers in the form of two Raleigh motorbike cops.

Queeneta "Q" Allen, the leader of Raleigh FIST, said, "The cops have been giving us some trouble lately, but this time they were there to escort us."

A candlelight vigil honoring the Pales tinian leader Yasser Arafat (1929-2004) was held by the Middle Eastern North African Students Association in the evening of Nov. 19. People observed a brief moment of silence for the long-time freedom fighter, who passed away in early November in a Paris hospital at age 75. The vigil for Arafat, a voice for oppressed peoples everywhere, was a more than fitting end to the historic events of the Friday evening.

The writer is an organizer of Raleigh FIST. Email FIST at FIST@workers.org or go to FIST's website www.FIST.cc


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