Sounds of Independent News - Headline 3 - May 2011

Sounds of Independent News - Headline 3 - May 2011

photo: Clayton Conn

Welcome back world! This is the third segment of our Baltimore-centric (although not exclusive) headline-news-round-up called Sounds of Independent News. We are committed to posting snippets of independent news, to help equip and inform local social justice activists and organizations. We are committed to posting regular segments and updates. We solicit your important news and announcements, as well as any suggestions and ideas. Email us at:


Headlines for Mid-May 2011

United Workers Release Hidden in Plain Sight: Workers at Baltimoreâs Inner Harbor

On May 4th, the United Workers, an organization led by the poor to end poverty, released their two-years-in-the-making report : Hidden in Plain Sight: Workers at Baltimoreâs Inner Harbor.
In collaboration with the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative, the United Workers conducted over 1,000 interviews with Inner Harbor workers- as well as analyzed various sources- that together compile a stunning detailing of the systemic human rights abuses conducted at Baltimoreâs infamous area of commerce: the Inner Harbor. Unveiled in the report are workers elaborations on: the reality of having 1,000s of dollars deducted from their pay, either from fees or from being clocked out while working, the pervasive lack of offered health insurance, the constant threats to their job if they donât agree to work through illness, injuries, or important personal events, and that unsustainable hours and rampant harassment of all shades are the norm.

In 2008, the United Workers began the Human Rights Zone Campaign to fight for Fair Development. Their belief is that you can work collaboratively with workers and merchants to protect vital rights- such as: fair working hours, sustainable conditions, and equitable pay- but still grant sustainable public economic benefits.

As the Inner Harborâs busy summer season approaches, the United Workers hope to galvanize support in order to enforce that their demands are met for just and equitable worker rights.

You can access their report by going to:

Sparrows Point Makes Steel Again
An update on a story we presented last month. This past week the steel making plant at Sparrows Point began producing steel once again, after being fully closed for nine months. Once known as Bethlehem Steel and employing over 35,000 workers at its peak, the plant, now recently under the management of RG steel, a subsidiary of New York-based holding company the Renco Group, will have 500 workers operate the âLâ Blast Furnace.

The Renco group is known to have a poor environmental track record at its other holdings, having faced environmental lawsuits, and exorbitant fines and fees for its pollution.

Shomrim Trial Postponed

According to a police report, on November 19,2010 - Eli and Avi Werdesheim attacked a fifteen-year old African American Northwestern High School student as he was walking along Fallstaff Road. They broke the teenâs hand in the attack. There are no signs that the teen provoked his attackers and numerous accounts point to extremely racially-charged motivations.
Eli is a former member of Israeli Special Forces and a current member of the Orthodox Jewish vigilante organization: Shomrim. Shomrim is a closely knit first-response group that, while only having legally granted civilian rights, states that they aim to protect the Jewish community through the Jewish community; regardless of city police intervention.
In January, felony charges were dropped to be replaced by three counts of misdemeanours: second-degree assault, possession of a deadly weapon, and false imprisonment.
The Werdesheimâs trial was scheduled to begin on May 2nd. As the trial date approached, it was quickly rescheduled to Tuesday, July 12th - at the request of Werdesheimâs lawyers for further preparation time.

No More Blood! Mass Mobilization Against the Drug War
From May 5th-8th Mexico experienced massive demonstrations rejecting an end to cartel and government violence related to the Drug War declared by Mexicoâs President Felipe Calderon, in 2006. Carrying signs that read âNo More Bloodâ, an estimated 100,000 Mexican citizens filled the streets demanding for the end of the violence, corruption, and Impunity being perpetrated by drug cartels, the Mexican Military, and the police. This past year in particular has seen a drastic spike in violence as roughly 40,000 people have been killed to drug-related violence, in the past five years.

The demonstrators presented a âCitizenâs Pactâ that demands six points:
1) Resolution of the assassinations and disappearances and the naming of victims;
2) An end to the war strategy and adoption of a âcitizen securityâ strategy;
3) Effective measures against corruption and impunity;
4) A focused attack on the economic roots and criminal revenue streams, including money laundering;
5) Immediate attention to the plight of youth and effective actions to rebuild a broken society, including reorienting the budget to education, health, culture and employment; 6) Participatory democracy.

Over 20,000 Turn-Out to Protest NYCâs Budget Cuts

New York Cityâs Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed to cut billions from the public spending budget- grossly effecting teachers, education programs, housing, transportation, HIV/AIDS programs, and more. Nearly 5,000 teachers are expected to lose their jobs - nearly $30 million promised funding for the homeless is expected to disappear.

Numerous organizations have critically examined Bloombergâs budget and have made calls to
reinstate the âMillionaire Taxâ -ending subsidies to large companies- and to renegotiate contracts with the cityâs big banks that organizers claim are the main source swallowing public funds. By following these proposed measures, it appears that NYC could save $1.5 billion dollars -- and thousands of peopleâs jobs.

On Thursday, May 12th, over 20,000 demonstrators turned out on the steps of Wall Street to protest Bloombergâs proposed cuts. Initially organized as a splinter of cell protests marching around the vicinity of Wall Street-the scores of demonstrators eventually converged into one mass onto the financial district.
Bloomberg states that the cuts are sacrifices that the public must make in order to survive these tough economic times. Bloomberg also has an untouched $3.2 billion budget surplus.
Gibb Surette, a local member of United Auto Workers, stated, "...we're being told thereâs nothing left in the cupboard for children, poor people, sick people, job development, or just about anything else we need. Weâve sacrificed enough. [Wall Street] is handing out bonus checks. We've come for whatâs ours. We created all of this wealth."

MD Dream Act Signed
After much anticipation and battle, this past week the Governor of Maryland, Martin OâMalley, signed the Maryland Dream Act. The bill will allow for undocumented immigrant students to receive in-state tuition and rates at state universities and colleges. This finally comes after the state voted for the bill, in the mid-spring, during the final hours of Marylandâs regular legislative session.

The bill would not have made it this far without the relentless efforts of activists, students, community organizations, and immigrant rights organizations. Gustavo Torres, Executive Director of CASA de Maryland, one such immigrant rights organizations stated: âToday in Maryland we are making a declaration that despite federal failure to fix a terribly broken immigration system, our state recognizes the talents of immigrant student leaders and the basic human dignity of their families.â
He went on to say, âLetâs hope that Washington hears this drumbeat for change.â

Georgia Anti-Immigrant Bill
In related news, the State Legislature of Georgia passed Anti-immigrant legislation in the mid-spring, and the State Governor, Nathan Deal, signed it into law this past week. The bill titled HB87, is similar to the well-known Anti-Immigrant legislation proposed in Arizona title HB1070, that seeks to criminalize undocumented migrants and immigrants. Aside from allowing police to question people about their immigration status, HB87 mandates sanctions for people who harbor or transport undocumented migrants.

The signing of the bill did not go unnoticed, however - as hundreds of protesters congregated around the Georgia State capital the night of the signing. Also, the Office of the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Mexican Government, issued a statement stating that the law, "...potentially will affect the civil and human rights of Mexicans that live or visit that region."

Mexican Government officials went on to state, that it, "...criminalizes migration and opens space for the possible improper application and use of the law by local authorities."


Baltimore History Evenings: Where Do We Go from Here? The 20th Anniversary of The Baltimore Book

Thursday, May 19th, 2011 - 7pm @ The Village Learning Place - 2521 St. Paul Street

This month Baltimore History Evenings takes an in-depth look at the groundbreaking piece: The Baltimore Book. Celebrating its 20th Anniversary in-print, The Baltimore Book revolutionized the cityâs critical history by popping open the lid on issues from labor - to race and gender relations - to much more. The Baltimore City Historical Society and The Village Learning Place invite you to spend an evening diScussing what this book gave to Baltimore and how we begin to look forward from the past.

Charm City Boys Celebrates Nine Years!
Thursday, May 19th 10pm @ Grand Central -1001 N. Charles St

Baltimoreâs much-beloved and renowned drag king & community performance troupe : Charm City Boys celebrates nine years of exploratory gender-bending performances with a Fan Appreciation Show. They promise an amazing show to thank all those whoâve supported them on this fabulous gender playground whirlwind.

Catonsville Nine Commerated
Saturday, May 21st 12pm @ Catonsville Post Office 1001 Frederick Road

The Baltimore Phil Berrigan Memorial Chapter of Veterans For Peace commemorate the nine peace activists who, forty-three years ago took draft files from The Catonsville Draft Board Office and burned them in a local parking lot.They were later sent to prison for this action. In a vigil, the community aims to commemorate their courageous action.

Anti-Hate Prom
Saturday, May 21st 9pm @ The Windup Space -- 12 W. North Ave.

Come celebrate International Day Against Homophobia with Hollaback Bmore!, the GLCCB, and The Den this weekend. Wear what you wouldâve worn to prom if there were no fear. Dance with who youâd wish as if there were no hate. Rally to end bigotry through celebrating who you are.

Tickets are $5 with prom attire and $7 without. All proceeds go to benefit the mentioned sponsoring organizations.