The End of an Era: The Eighteen-Year Court Case between Ecuador and Chevron


Damage done by oil-drilling in the Oriente.
Scientists survey damage done by oil-drilling in the Oriente.

 For decades in the 1900s, Texaco (now under Chevron) extracted oil from the Ecuadorian Amazon. The environmental and social consequences of this enterprise include thousands of open toxic waste pits, over 18 billion gallons of toxic waste and elevated cancer/miscarriage rates with deaths in the thousands. Much of the region, known as the Oriente, has been left destitute and Chevron’s actions in the area have been repeatedly cited as human rights abuses by Amnesty International. While the people of the Ecuadorian Amazon sued for the environmental damages in 1993, the Ecuador Chevron lawsuit is ongoing and is now the largest environmental lawsuit in the world with damages totaling up to $113 billion. A decision is expected in the next few months.

A Look Back

The nature of the long-winded lawsuit lies in a series of controversies over ownership of damage. Chevron initially claimed to have completed liability work in the 1998, work which exempted it from future damage costs. Completed liability work however would not have released Chevron from individual claims, which will be paid if Ecuador wins the lawsuit[i]. More currently, two Chevron employees are being held under criminal indictment for fraud related to false certification documents for the purported 1990s clean-up. Recent evidence indicates that less than 1% of Texaco sites were actually cleaned-up and much of it was done in careless ways.[ii]

Throughout the case’s sixteen-year history, Chevron repeatedly brought up accusations of corruption in the Ecuadorian legal system. Many of these were proven unfounded but did serve to greatly delay decisions. Most notably, in 2009, Chevron accused Ecuadorian officials of being involved in a bribery scheme, based on a series of possibly incriminating tapes turned in by concerned citizens. However, investigations into the two citizens who illegally recorded the conversations found one to be a long-time Chevron employee and the other a convicted felon and prominent marijuana drug trafficker. A myriad of other claims over unfair trials and corruption color the case.

The Case Today

A recent, 2010 court decision allowed Chevron access to raw footage of the documentary, “Crude”, which followed Ecuador’s efforts for over three years. While this decision has been condemned by groups advocating first amendment rights, including The New York Times, certain statements made by the plaintiffs, possibly taken out of context, will likely aid follow-up suits in favor of Chevron. In other related suits, the New York Supreme Court is considering Chevron’s claim that all possible damages should Ecuador lose the case, are the responsibility of Ecuador’s leading oil company, Petroecuador, which took over drilling in the country after Texaco.

As of December 17th 2010, the original case dating back to 1993 has been closed and a decision is expected in the next few months. Ecuador’s ongoing campaign is supported by Amnesty International, Al Gore, Amazon Watch and many others. Because appeals are expected to follow a decision in favor of either side, take advantage of this time to take action.

Take Action

Visit: http://chevrontoxico.com/ to write to Chevron and to find out more.


Video review: Napalm Ladies

napalm ladies“Napalm Ladies” was produced by 48 South 7th, the video project of the Peace & Justice Center. The following review was contributed by SJSU intern Jamie Silva:

Napalm Ladies is an extraordinary story about four women determined to make a difference. This story follows Joyce McLean, Beverly Farquharson, Lisa Kalvelage, and Aileen Hutchinson and describes how their actions became a catalyst for informing the public of war events here in the Bay Area during the Vietnam War.

The most important day of the Napalm Ladies’ anti-war efforts was May 24th, 1966. They informed the media of the napalm shipments that were leaving from a port in the town of Alviso, CA and of their attempts to stop these shipments planned to leave that day. These women had mentally prepared for the worst, jail, in the time before the actual day. They had planned on the possibility of being sent away for 6 months, with prior arrangements being made with family and friends. I can only imagine how difficult planning something like that might have been, but must also take into account the level of determination these women must have felt for their cause to put themselves at risk to be taken away from their family and the comfortable life they lived. This day, although they were eventually arrested and tried, these women’s actions proved to be the first step in informing the public, through the media, of the injustices happening locally. The publicity gained from their personal protest on May 24th to their subsequent arrest and trial, they were even able to influence famous singer/songwriter Pete Seeger to the point of having him write a song about the events and even perform benefit concerts on behalf of our own San Jose Peace and Justice Center on 48 S. 7th St. in downtown San Jose.

What personally stuck me the most about this story was these women’s approach to the anti-war protest, by way of their attire. These women had seen current displays of protestors who were slightly disheveled, younger teenagers. They decided to take a stand with a different look. They dressed in their best dresses, pearls, high heels, and gloves, posing as clean cut, established women, protesting a war they felt was unjust. Their approach helped the anti-war protesting at the time because it showed that not just younger generations but older generations as well did not approve of the Vietnam War.

Another interesting point made was why Joyce McLean believed that horrific things were being allowed by the public in times of war. McLean believed that the public becomes brainwashed during times of the national distress and the public “hoists the flags” immediately. She believes that people should not blindly accept all the government proposes, taking time to determine the effects of each action our country’s top officials make and be able to point out when things are wrong and should be set right. I found this to be a bold statement, especially since our country is in a state of war-like mentality with the Middle East. Losing our own to preserve US foreign policy is simply unthinkable and incomprehensible. We need to come together, as McLean has stated, and change the current course of events to bring our troops home from an invasion that we are not going to “win”. There are current injustices being committed “in the name of national security” of racially profiling people of this country, even those who are citizens, of acts of war and treason and subsequently being deported for any suspected links to enemy power. Although I am not saying that the country would not be as seemingly safe as it is without government officials initiatives that have protected the citizens, does not give the government the right to have free rein while those benefitting from the war are getting richer under false pretenses of national security risks.


Film review: The Most Dangerous Man in America


This following review of “The Most Dangerous Man in America” was written by SJSU student Jamie Silva:

Daniel Ellsberg is a prominent figure in American history for controversial reasons. Ellsberg, a US military analyst, released a top-secret study conducted by the Pentagon regarding wrong doings by the Johnson administration. These papers, later deemed the “Pentagon Papers”, exposed the calculated lies by the administration to the American public and Congress regarding the importance of the war and pushing an alternate, invested interest by participating in the war. The papers also proved that the Johnson administration was fully aware of the slim chance of winning the Vietnam War based off of statistical data collected. Ellsberg circulated the numerous copies of the report to opponents to the war, Senators who were already on the fence regarding the decision to go to war, and huge media outlets. He felt as though he assisted in our nation’s decision to go to war and subsequently chose to risk his life to leak the papers to the rest of the nation to get us out.

It has been debated that his decision to leak the Pentagon Papers was questionable and could have hindered national security. But is that really so? Especially if these papers exposed the undeniable knowledge that our highest powers of government were aware that our soldiers would be fighting in a war that they had no chance of winning? What right does our government have to be knowingly sending our own on a suicide mission? Was there no conscience present within those we pay to protect and make the best decisions for our nation? At what point do we, the public, say this is enough with the Vietnam War or the war we are currently fighting? With no end in sight, it is clear, as it was in Vietnam, that we might evacuate the Middle East. It is becoming apparent that our occupation of the Middle East is just a way to extend US foreign policy.  Ellsberg got a first hand experience of the Vietnam War and completely changed his initial opinion to the point where he was willing to give up his freedom to expose the truth. Is this the only way for decision making government officials to understand the gravity of their decisions by subjecting them to the same setting as the soldiers they ship off? If this is the case, this must be done immediately to break the continuous cycle of fatalities, to avoid more misallocated funds to war, and to sustain the life of all Americans.


Film review: The Tillman Story

The following review of “The Tillman Story” was written by SJSU student Jamie Silva.

Patrick Tillman was born November 6th, 1976 in San Jose, Ca. Patrick Tillman was killed April 22nd, 2004 in Sperah, Afghanistan. He became well-known for his highly publicized decision to leave the NFL and a lucrative contract with the Arizona Cardinals to serve in the United States Army a few months after the devastating events of September 11th, 2001. Pat became an overnight celebrity. His name was known throughout hundreds of thousands of households, as media coverage was based solely on him and the events that led up to his death. It was initially reported to his family and the nation that Patrick died running uphill towards the enemy to save the others in his group.

The Tillmans were devastated. The loss of their son was more than any family should bear. In addition to their collective and private grief, they soon became a matter of public display. With the occurrence of suspicious events and information being withheld, the Tillman’s became wary. They wanted answers regarding Patrick’s death and the United States military had been face with a force they had not anticipated, a family’s undying determination for the truth.

Pat Tillman is yet another example of the injustices associated with the current war on “terror”. Patrick Tillman was just another individual willing to fight for his country and wanted to be treated as such. Being that Tillman was a public figure, his option for normalcy was nearly impossible to achieve. His life was placed under a microscope as soon as his passing became public knowledge and he was picked apart by various members of the media and government.

The most appalling issue of Pat Tillman’s false death report was how it was used as a catalyst for public support on the war. With the basis of this war being proposed under false pretenses, a funnel for US foreign policy, any negative outcome must be spun in favor of our occupation in the Middle East. It has become so apparent that appointed officials are successfully altering negative press and claiming essentially zero responsibility for knowledge of “privileged information” which had been leaked and might have created any sort of negative press. This information would have been so important that the generals would have been briefed upon the details. Either they were negligent of these very vital aspects during the oversight as a part of their position or they knew fully what wasoccurring and did nothing about it because it was supporting their agenda. I do not accept either of these alternatives from an appointed officer of my government.

It is outrageous and incomprehensible that issues like the death of Patrick Tillman, an American citizen who fought for this country, can be so easily changed. Has the meaning of human life become lost? When those who sign up for the Army, Navy, Marines also sign up for the disgrace of having their life and possible demise being changed in the good of whoever is in power? The fact that we have not been able to see any images of soldiers’ coffins is heartbreaking. We, as Americans, are left to think that this war has caused little casualties, and we then continue to blindly support the war in the Middle East and not take into account mothers and fathers without sons and daughters, children without parents.

When do we stand up as a collective mass and say this is enough? I can only say that I hope at that time it will not be too late.


Film review: No Tomorrow

“No Tomorrow” is the latest release from Public Policy Productions and will be shown on PBS in early 2011. The Peace & Justice Center got a preview copy and screened it in August. The following review was written by SJPJC intern Jamie Silva:

How much is a human life really worth? How much value can we place, or attempt to place on one life compared to another? What considerations or mitigating factors do we take into account when we determine if a fellow human being lives or dies for their actions? These questions, along with countless others, have been at the root of heated debate between prosecution and defense for decades. Unfortunately, the accepted consensus has failed to provide peace of mind for much of the general public and the story told in the film No Tomorrow, is no exception.

No Tomorrow follows the case of the brutal murder of Risa Bejarano, an 18 year old female with an inspirational background. Risa had only recently completed her foster care program and was on a college career path when it was speculated that she became involved with the wrong people which led to her premature and unfortunate demise at the hands of Juan Jose Chavez, a well-known gang member of the Los Angeles area. No Tomorrow follows the court case surrounding the murder, with a key piece of presented evidence on Risa being a documentary she starred in, entitled “Aging Out” filmed a few months before she was murdered. The documentary followed Risa as she completed her program, maintaining a stable job, and struggling with obstacles in her then foreseeable future. The documentary was a key point of withdrawing emotions of the jury as well as courtroom observers. As recognized by select members of the jury, defense, and family members of Juan Chavez the video ignited sentiments which could have blindsided the jury with destructive emotions that could alter a fair judgment, even though it allowed for the courtroom to “meet” Risa.

Is the use of the video a fair means of introducing Risa as the human she so rightfully was? Or was the video a ploy, with the premeditated hopes of the prosecution, to pull at the heartstrings of the jury? Although it may seem black and white, right or wrong, that is solely dependent on which side you stand. It is important, however, to understand where your decision would come from if you had in fact been a jury member of this trial. It is the responsibility of the jury to make rational decisions, either using the video to support your already made decision or otherwise. A juror had stated his recognizing how the video affected his mindset and was then able to remove himself from what he believed to be an unjust ploy. This was a moment of self-realization that the other jurors were hopefully able to grasp as well. During this trial, their sole duty was to determine what the fair punishment would be for Juan Chavez and to determine whether his life would be a fair repayment for the loss of Risa’s, affecting his family and friends, those who did not believe he could have done such a thing. What decision would you have made?


Responses to Kashmir Film, Jashn-e-azadi (“How We Celebrate Freedom”)

Jashn-e-azadi (“How We Celebrate Freedom”) was screened August 6, 2010 at the San Jose Peace and Justice Center. The event was sponsored by Culture & Conflict Forum and co-sponsored by San Jose Peace and Justice Center. The discussion was moderated by Yasmin Qureshi, whose account of her trip to Kashmir in August 2009 appears on Counterpunch: The Fate of Kashmir.

Yasmin has forwarded five email responses she received after the screening, and below that, the Q&A she conducted with the audience:

I. Jashn-e-Azadi was released in 2007 and it has taken me until now to finally watch it, thanks to a screening organized by the Culture and Conflict Forum at the San Jose Peace Center on Friday, August 3rd, 2010. It’s difficult to remember the details, the names and the incidents from the documentary, but the extraordinary impression one leaves with, an impression that continue to haunt long after the screening, is the pervasiveness of the Indian military and paramilitary presence in Kashmir and the universal opposition to it. It’s one thing to have heard that there are 700,000 troops deployed there, one soldier for every 15 Kashmiris; it’s quite another to see them everywhere, in the city square, the streets and alleys, the countryside. It’s also one thing to have heard about the opposition to this military presence, and quite another to witness, through this documentary, the manifestation of this universal opposition from women, men and children of all ages, with huge turn outs at protests, funerals and marches, and even a street play. And, in striking contrast, was the observance of Indian Independence Day by the military forces under conditions of curfew with deserted streets.

Whatever be one’s position on the question of Kashmir, one thing is for clear from watching this documentary, that this situation cannot continue. Not for long. That inevitably raises the question where to from here. That indeed must have been what prompted some of the lively discussion that followed the screening, even though the question itself is not raised in the documentary, let alone addressed in it. To have raised this question is perhaps the most important service that this documentary has done.

It is easy to frame the question in religious terms, Kashmiri Muslims versus Kashmiri Hindus, facile terms made to appear justified on account of the tragic displacement of Pandits from the Valleys and the roles played by Pakistan and the Afghan mujahedeen in promoting violence. But to do so would also be to ignore that to most Kashmiris, it is a struggle for freedom and national self-determination, a struggle in the making for over 500 years that gave rise to Kashmiriyat, the unity of Kashmiris of all religions, a struggle in which religion has not been the divisive factor that it is portrayed to be in India.

II.  The first half of the film was like watching a thriller and left me spellbound! It moved so fast. There were 4 parallel tracks or stories – one of the old man searching for his son’s grave which was very touching, covering the militant resistance and what it did. Second the man surveying and documenting number of deaths. Third the arrogant attitude of Indians, as if they own and control Kashmir through the tourists and later through the pilgrims. Lastly the play which is very important as it explains the 100s of years of colonization and how Kashmiris were docile then but are now determined to fight for self determination. The history is important to understand why Kashmiris want freedom.  The scene of the women walking in the mosque followed by prayers in the snow was very surreal. The first half was complete in itself and maybe the Q&A session should have been then instead of in the end. It would have given more time for discussion. The scenes were going back and forth which may have been confusing for someone who doesn’t know much about the history and sequence of events.

III.  The film is not a comprehensive analysis of the Kashmir situation.  And it is not a straightforward narrative; (often, there wasn’t much narrative and in that regard it reminded me of Amar Kanwar’s Night of Prophecy). There are no easy answers, or clear sides that one can easily take. The film touched a nerve in me on many levels. In parts I wasn’t sure what the director was getting at. For example he hints at the plight of the pandits, and the religious dimension of the resistance; but doesn’t make any further comment on it. One thing came through loud and clear, though – it showed what an occupation by the Indian army looks like (and it does not look pretty).

The shots of Srinagar during Indian independence day were especially telling. If you have to put the entire city under lockdown in order to “celebrate” your independence, you aren’t having much “independence,” are you? And this is why it is probably an important movie to watch.

IV.  I think that the film – or the half of it that I saw- did not have much focus. Not because of any fault of the director but because of the need to show the film to a larger audience in India, the director perhaps was constrained to come out and show what he truly belivies to be the issue at stake. This lack of focus, in my view, is a direct measure of the sorry state of affairs vis a vis Kashmir in India. There is a dire need to keep the focus on Kashmir issue in and out of India by people like the director of this film who care for the people of Kashmir.

V.  It showed very well the beautiful people and the beauty of the region but also the poverty and violence. But the film was very long and confusing — it kept switching back and forth between different incidents of violence, interviews with people.

Question and Answer session
(Questions were answered by Yasmin Qureshi, member of Culture and Conflict Forum. She had visited the Kashmir valley in August 2009.)

Q: What was the message of the film?

A: Well, the director Sanjay Kak leaves it to the audience really. His objective was to bring out the voices of the people of Kashmir since we rarely read about them in the media and open an avenue for discussion on the issues and aspirations of the Kashmiris. Back in 2007 the word azadi for Kashmir was shocking for Indians. As a Kashmiri Sanjay wanted to make a film about the people there and what they feel.

Q: It is true the media doesn’t cover the Kashmiri Muslims but it also doesn’t cover the pundits either. How do you justify the killing and migration of 100,000 pandits?

A: I disagree the media doesn’t cover the pundits. In fact most articles published in India on Kashmir address this issue. What they don’t cover is what the army is doing there, the murders, missing people, rapes and what the people there want and why. Recently Shivam Vij had a detailed article on the pundits living in Delhi area in kafila.org.

Yes, what happened to the pundits is unjustifiable. And certainly Pakistan and the Afghan mujahedeen had a role to play as Kashmiris started crossing borders to get training in the 90s. The people I spoke to in the valley last year wanted them to come back. People there at this point are not in favor of a militant resistance.

Q: You mentioned the media and I am comparing to the media coverage of Palestine in Israel.  How is the Indian media coverage?

A: As I mentioned earlier, Kashmir is not covered well in the Indian media. Discussing aspirations of Kashmiris is taboo. For example, no one wanted to publish my article, “Democracy Under the Barrel of a Gun” in India. The media does write about the presence of army and that the Indian government needs to deal with it but what they don’t cover is what the militarization has done to the society. Or the root causes such as the annexation, as Kashmiris say, The Brahminical rule of India’. Mass graves were found, many women have been raped. This is not covered very well not just by Indian media but also the international media. There isn’t a discussion on what and why Kashmiris want azadi and what it means.

Siddharth Varadhrajan wrote an article recently on the protests in Hindu. He mentioned the elections of 2008. What he didn’t mention is that Kashmiris participated in them more to vote for local governance issues and not anything to do with future of Kashmir or rule of Indian state. However, the media presented the 60% turnout as a vote of endorsement of the rule of Indian state and the Kashmiris felt betrayed. Partly why we see the kind of massive protests since 2008 is this.

Q: But what about the militant movement in Kashmir? If it got independent they would take over.

A: The argument that Indian army shouldn’t leave or Kashmiris shouldn’t be independent because the militants will take over to me is similar to the argument that US shouldn’t leave Iraq or Afghanistan. Isn’t that what was said even during the Vietnam war?

At this point it is really a people’s movement – students, youth, women, ciivilans. The people saw what the militant movement did to them and how the Indian army dealt with it. Almost every family was impacted by it, killed, tortured or in custody. Also they see the power of the protests. I had asked the same when I went to the valley last year. What people said was the militant groups are not that prominent now and they don’t need a militant resistance anymore. I spoke a friend just two days ago to ask the same question since I knew someone would ask. He narrated an incidence. Two militants came to join a protest in a village but the people pushed them out!

Q: Why is the Indian government’s attitude so belligerent? Is it because of the vote bank they may lose?

A: There are many reasons. Yes, the vote bank is certainly an important one. Kashmir is the only state with a majority Muslim population and they want freedom from India! So they want another partition?

Kashmir is considered ‘Bharat ka atoot ang’ and to discuss anything about autonomy or independence leads to the question about further disintegration of India in the east for example or how it would impact other insurgencies such as in central tribal areas. Also the fact that it borders with Pakistan. The argument is ‘if we reduce troops Pakistan will invade’. But then have troops on the border. What is the justification for troops or police in a crowded city like Srinagar? If the argument is to protect pundits, most of them are no longer in the valley. So who is it protecting?

There isn’t a great willingness on either sides to deal with this issue even though it is the most important from a geo-political angle. Also, Kashmir is rich in natural resources, a source of water and India wouldn’t want to give those up.

[ Someone from the audience expanded on the ‘only muslim majority state’ by giving the history of the Dogra rule and how Maharaja Hari Singh annexed Kashmir (and that it was conditional) without taking the opinion of the Muslim majority and how that was the opposite of what happened in other princely states like Junagarh or Hyderabad where the majority was Hindu and the ruler was Muslim and the vote went the will of the majority population.]

This post originally appeared on the Jash-e-azadi blog.


Village Pastels: Exhibition of Eco-Friendly Handcrafts to Raise Funds for Pakistan Flood Victims

Village Pastels is holding a fundraising exhibition for the Pakistan flood victims on Sunday, August 29 from 2-7 pm at The First Presbyterian Church, 1140 Cowper Street, Palo Alto, CA.

It is co-sponsored by Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice, our developing world, American Muslim Voice, PakUSOnline, and SARelief.

The objective is three fold.  The first and most important mission is to raise funds for the people of Pakistan impacted by the devastating floods. According to United Nations the number of people suffering could exceed the combined total in three recent mega disasters – the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 2010 Haiti earthquake. More than 1,500 people have been killed and more than 20 million have been affected so far.

Secondly, the founder, Yasmeen Fatimah came up with this idea to bring together Indians and Pakistanis for a noble cause at a time of a humanitarian disaster.  Tensions between the two countries and its people have been high since a Pakistani citizen was arrested for having masterminded the attacks on Mumbai in 2008, and this is a way to rise above animosity and prejudices and go beyond borders.

Since it is also being co-sponsored by non-South Asian organizations, including our developing world and Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice, a conglomeration of 36 diverse faith communities,  it reflects a global, multi-faith community showing solidarity and support for the people of Pakistan facing a calamity of unimaginable proportion.

Lastly, the exhibition seeks to shed light on Village Pastels and its efforts to promote livelihood efforts by low income individuals in India.  Village Pastels is a company that seeks to promote handcrafted eco-friendly products from organizations and individuals, especially women, in India that work in income generation schemes.  It was founded by Yasmeen Fatimah in November 2009.   She is originally from India and used to work with women in Lucknow, Aligarh and Delhi to promote their hand embroidery skills before she moved to the US.   She works as a Web Program Manager in an IT company.   The ultimate goal of the company is to expand to other countries, particularly those impacted by war or other disasters.  This includes countries like Pakistan, Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq.   Consumers who purchase Village Pastels products are aiding organizations that help with livelihoods in India.

This exhibition showcases exquisite hand embroidered scarves with kantha embroidery on silk; Kashmiri pashmina scarves, bags, rugs and stoles; elegant and festive kurtis and stylish handmade evening bags. All proceeds after deducting costs will be donated to organizations in Pakistan involved in relief work as well as long term rehabilitation and community building.   More information about the exhibition, products and organizations is available on Facebook or http://villagepastels.com


San Jose Joins the Nation in Protesting the Implementation of SB 1070

This past Thursday, those passing through the intersection of Story and King Roads in San Jose were faced with a very visible example of resistance and solidarity. Between 75 and 100 people had joined together at that spot, armed with signs, chants and unflagging energy, to protest that day’s implementation of SB 1070, Arizona’s racist, anti-immigrant law. Though U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton instituted a temporary injunction on four of the most controversial provisions of the bill on Wednesday, legal challenges are expected, and vigilance is still necessary.

The intersection of Story and King is a busy one. Surrounded on all sides by shopping centers consisting of both chains and local businesses, it’s a spot guaranteed to ensure visibility due to the high volume of traffic passing through. And response from the community was exceedingly positive: many motorists honked, waved and cheered, and some even pulled over to talk to protesters.

The event was organized by MAIZ San Jose, a community partner of the San Jose Peace & Justice Center, and was attended by workers, students, and members of local activist groups, including De Anza MEChA and Californians for Justice. Protesters clustered on all four corners of the intersection, chanting and singing in Spanish and English. During green lights, smaller groups marched across the intersection, signs and banners visible.

The event began at 6pm, and by 7pm there appeared to be nearly 100 people present. Even at 8pm, two hours after the event had begun, attendance and energy levels remained high.

Similar protests took place throughout the Bay Area. In San Francisco, hundreds demonstrated at Mission and 24th Streets, and events also took place in downtown Oakland and in the Fruitvale district. A rally organized by the newly-formed Santa Cruz Immigrant Solidarity drew about 120 protesters, who marched from Depot Park to the clock tower in defiance of Santa Cruz’s restrictive law requiring permits for parades on public streets. Photos from the Santa Cruz event can be found here and here.

Action against SB 1070 was, of course, not limited to California. Arizona saw multiple protests and rallies statewide. A successful blockade of the Phoenix Jail interfered with Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s planned immigration raids, and more than 80 people were arrested, including Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Church, and Salvador Reza, leader of the Puente Movement. (During Reza’s first appearance in court, the judge and prosecutor agreed that no probable cause had been found for his arrest.) See Alto Arizona and Arizona Indymedia for more details on the actions which took place, and are still taking place, in Arizona.

Demonstrations also occurred in various cities throughout the U.S., including New York City (where protesters temporarily closed down the Brooklyn Bridge), Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Chicago, and Charlotte, NC. See Colorlines and The Frame for powerful images of resistance from across the country.

The full set of photos from the rally in San Jose can be found here.

Stephanie Brown is a volunteer with the San Jose Peace and Justice Center.


Students Mobilizing to Save Public Education

On October 24, 2009, more than 800 students, workers, and teachers converged at UC Berkeley at the Mobilizing Conference to Save Public Education. This massive meeting brought together representatives from over 100 different schools, unions, and organizations from all across California and from all sectors of public education.  After hours of open collective discussion, the conference democratically voted, as its principal decision, to call for a statewide Strike and Day of Action on March 4, 2010.  Local actions took place at De Anza College, San Jose State University, and local high schools.  The struggle and mobilization against budget cuts continues, and another statewide conference is planned for October 2010.

Below are personal accounts of how the budget cuts have devastated different students campuses during the past semester and quarter:

At San Jose State University, the statewide $2 billion cut to higher education is having devastating effects. First and foremost we are facing a $41 million cut at San Jose State. We have had 26 furlough days imposed on our academic year. As if that were not bad enough, we are facing fee hikes costing us more than $10,000 per year. Layoffs are at the order or the day, resulting in families being left to their own luck and fewer classes available for the students. In short, we are paying a high price for a poor quality education. What we are seeing is that the state’s financial crisis is being balanced on the backs of students, faculty and campus workers.

In the De Anza/Foothill Community College District, we are expecting a $10.6 million deficit. The physical shape of our campus has been deteriorating since there are only four custodians left maintaining our campus of 25,000 students. In total, 42 positions are to be eliminated, which will leave only 3 people working in the Administration and Records Department. More than 500 hundred classes have been cut already, and more cuts across the board are planned for all departments. Last fall quarter, there were more than 3,000 people on the waiting list. This quarter, three Spanish classes have been combined into one. This results in an overcrowded classroom with people sitting on the floor and the instructor having to juggle three classes at the same time for the same pay. The tutoring center is also in serious lack of funds and cannot provide the same service it used to. EOPS, a program to help out low income students, students of color, and those who are the first one to go to college in their family, is at risk. At the rate we are going, our tuition will increase over the next six years to $60 dollars per unit. Due to budget cuts, even community colleges like ours have to deny those seeking higher education, and those who are able to afford it receive a poor education.

Student Demands: Repeal Proposition 13, Support AB 656, Stop the layoffs, Stop the privatization of education, Democratization and transparency of our schools (Instructor, student and campus worker control over the management of our schools)

This article was written by student activists at De Anza College and San Jose State University.  

Watch video footage of the May 4 De Anza Rally:

Video by Anne and Phil Pflager.

Visit these sites for more information about the student movement against budget cuts:
De Anza Restoring Education (DARE)
SJSU Students for Quality Education


Who Are We?

Welcome to the San Jose Peace & Justice Center’s new blog!

You may be surprised to  know that the San Jose Peace & Justice Center has been around for over fifty years.  Over the years, we’ve been part of various struggles for peace and justice.  We’ve worked for nuclear disarmament and protested against the Vietnam War.  We’ve campaigned against apartheid in South Africa and fought against U.S. military involvement in Central America.

Currently, we are focused on ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We are also campaigning against San Jose-based Jeppessen’s involvement in CIA torture flights, and we support local struggles for justice in the South Bay.  In the past year, we have participated in the Martin Luther King, Jr. commemoration at the King Library, initiated the first annual San Jose Peace & Justice Center Peace and Justice Award,  and initiated 48 South 7th, our TV program on San Jose cable channel 15.  We also protested Condoleeza Rice’s talk at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, co-sponsored the May 1st march for immigrant rights, mobilized South Bay support for the historic community-labor boycott of an Israeli ship at the Port of Oakland, and gathered numerous handwritten letters to our Congress members to stop funding the war in Afghanistan.

We hope that this new blog will be a forum for South Bay community members to read about and discuss important peace and justice issues.  Would you like to write a post for the blog?  Let us know in the comments below.