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Israel Attacks Gaza Aid Flotilla

Israeli commandos attacked a flotilla of ships from the Free Gaza Movement carrying food, medical equipment, and building materials to besieged Gaza. Gaza has been blocked by Israel and Egypt since June 2007, denying basic goods to 1.5 million people.

Philly Responds to Flash Mob with More Youth Repression

Thousands of people flooded the streets. The police made numerous arrests for disorderly conduct, property damage, theft, and even arson. Local hospitals reported a slew of injuries.

These events occurred after the Phillies won the World Series in 2008. The city took it in stride. There was no public outcry, no crackdown on Phillies fans, no call to prohibit future baseball games. Riding the wave of euphoria, the public largely accepted these crimes as collateral damage. After all, the Series was good for the sports franchise, good for city tourism, and good for city pride.

On March 20th of this year, a similar event took place. Thousands of teenagers converged on South Street in a flash mob. Several injuries and incidents of vandalism occurred. The city’s reaction, however, was very different. The local media published images and video of unruly and destructive African American youth. Officials painted a picture of an epidemic of Black teenagers terrorizing the innocent people of the city. The violence that occurred provided a pretense for perpetuating a longstanding racial stereotype of the threat of out-of-control Black youth.

Break the Chains of Student Debt!

Paying back student loans can be a real downer. Loans can make organizing after college virtually impossible as they force debtors to work a full-time corporate or nonprofit job, or join the military just to pay them off. When I graduated from college, I had $50,000 worth of student loan debt. I felt I was forced to get a full-time job, and pay them off as quickly as possible so in the future I could finally dedicate myself to social change work. Luckily I didn’t have to make this choice, as there are other options available! Here are a few worth knowing about.

Human Rights Coalition Courtroom Report

Lady Justice by Leonard JeffersonMay 18, Harrisburg PA: After two days of testimony from state prisoners and PA Department of Corrections staff, a six-person jury ruled against Ravanna Spencer in his lawsuit against guards who beat him during a cell extraction at SCI-Camp Hill in 2006.

Temple Hospital Workers Launch Month-Long Strike, Defeat Boss’s Attempt to Bust Union

The nurses, instead of remaining demoralized, began to organize immediately. Tired of the low militancy and poor representation of their parent union, the Temple nurses left and formed the independent Pennsylvania Association of School Nurses and Practitioners (PASNAP). Three years later and much better organized ,the nurses were able to mount a credible strike threat and won a contract that not only erased the losses of 1999 but also made substantial gains in wages, benefits, and working conditions.

Three years following the 2003 contract victory, the leadership of the professional and technical employees union (also dissatisfied with the low militancy and poor representation of their parent union) approached the leadership of PASNAP to affiliate. They made their affiliation formal in a landslide election.

Thousands of Students Strike in New Jersey High Schools Against Budget Cuts

Students Walk OutTens of thousands of New Jersey high schools students walked out of class on April 27 to protest the proposed $820 million in education cuts by New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie. Around 17,000 students walked out at Montclair, Eastern Regional and West Orange High School and many other high schools in Newark and Camden. The walkout was organized through Facebook, a social networking site that high school students used to facilitate communication.

Book Review: Common Ground in a Liquid City

by Matt Hern

We thought of the place as a free city, like one of those pre-war nests of intrigue and licentiousness where exiles and lamsters and refugees found shelter in a tangle of improbable juxtapositions...but what happened is that Reagan was elected and the musk of profit once again scented the air.” -from Luc Sante’s “My Lost City” Kill All Your Darlings (2007)

Freud’s final book, Civilization and Its Discontents (1930), compares the complexity of the individual psyche to Rome, Eternal City of layers and layers of architecture, history and experience, a city whose “long and copious past [has created] an entity...in which nothing that has once come into existence will have passed away and all the earlier phases of development continue to exist alongside the latest one.” This makes it difficult to trace what influences, crises, developments, made it what it is today and for whom. Each of a city’s inhabitants has his or her own set, or map, of memories, streets, arteries, markers, tribulations, traps and desires. A city is an urban eco-system we all contribute to, for better or worse. Returning from my first trip to Rome, with its labyrinthine streets, lush fountains and ancient ruins, I remember how dull, with its gridded street plan and brick houses, my city, Philly, seemed. Still, as always, I was glad to be home. I love Philly – its neighborhoods, backstreets, graffiti, food, music, parks, bars; its weather-work-wear n tear-driven blend of grumpiness and enthusiasm. I’ve ridden my bike around the city for 30 years, and it still feels new and exciting to me. But Philly has problems – one of the highest poverty rates of the country’s BIG cities, displacement, homelessness, gentrification, violence (“Killadelphia”), pollution, high unemployment rates, police brutality, and racial inequality, to name a few. Like most cities globally we are struggling for sustainability – human, economic, social, and environmental. What are the possibilities? Within the constructs of global capitalism, the push has been to recreate cities (consider New Orleans – see Mike Davis’ “Who is Killing New Orleans?” in The Nation, 10 April 2006) in terms of corporate profitability. Corporations court city governments and vice versa. Over and over again we’re told that’s how to sustain the city’s economy: make the city attractive to people with money: “If we build it, they will come.” Then what? Journalist Luc Sante and urban theorist Matt Hern, among others, describe what happened to Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the 80’s and 90’s, the “‘shock treatment’ that began the steady displacement of community and flavor from the neighborhood in favor of gentrification. A market mentality, skyrocketing rents and a distinct loss of vibrancy.” Comcast? Casinos? Stadiums? Or, a city can value its people, natural and social environment, have ethics.

Philly Cop Shoots Himself, Blames Non-Existent Black Suspect, And Still Won’t Go to Jail!

Maybe everyone else might want to try and gloss this over, but we sure as hell won’t.

Here’s the deal: back in April, Sgt. Robert Ralston claimed that he was shot by a robbery suspect while on patrol in West Philadelphia, or to make it more nuanced, a black man with cornrows and a mark or tattoo under his left eye. Anyone who deals with police brutality issues regularly, and particularly with how cops act when their own get shot, knows what happened next. An all-out manhunt went down. This is the same police department who can see nothing wrong in pulling people out of cars and collectively beating them down while news helicopters tape the scene, or with bum-rushing a baby shower and assaulting attendees while looking for a suspect that wasn’t there, or even with dropping a bomb on a city block because they are pissed off at a few political activists (May 12th was the 25th anniversary of the infamous MOVE bombing). So Philly’s all-out manhunts tend to be a problem, especially where shot-up cops are concerned.

Arizona on the Delaware? Philadelphia Police Aid Deportations

Sign a petition calling for an end to Phila Police - I.C.E. collaboration.

In late April Arizona Governor signed Senate Bill 1070 into law. SB 1070, also know as the ‘Papers Please’ law, mandates that all police officers inquire about immigration status if the officer has “reasonable suspicion” that a person is undocumented. This state sanctioned racial profiling has received intense opposition from across the country, with major political and cultural figures such as basketball player Charles Barkley speaking out against it.

Philadelphia has been participating in a program similar to SB1070 for the past 2 years.

The Philadelphia Police Department collaborates closely with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the federal agency that focuses on deportation and detention. In the early winter of 2009 Mayor Nutter re-established a policy of "non-inquiry," which prohibits police officers or any other city employee from asking about immigration status.

New Arizona

In the midst of the Arizona state government passing the most outrageous anti-immigrant law since the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, several happenings pass unnoticed by the national media. At a packed Flagstaff City Council meeting discussing the law, waves of people declare publicly that they are undocumented, practically daring law enforcement officers to arrest them.

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