“When I heard about the raids in Mississippi it made my skin crawl,” Stacey Farley told Rachele Fruit, Socialist Workers Party candidate for the Atlanta School Board, in Hermitage, Tennessee, Aug. 9. Farley was referring to the arrest two days earlier of 680 workers at seven poultry plants.
Farley described how she and several neighbors in Hermitage had formed a chain to block Immigration and Customs Enforcement cops from seizing an immigrant neighbor and his 12-year-old son when they tried to arrest him at his home July 22. For more than four hours the worker and the boy sat in a van in their driveway surrounded by neighbors, who brought food, water and kept the gas tank full to run air-conditioning in 90 degree heat. The ICE agents eventually left.
“I would do it again,” said Farley.
Fruit showed Farley an article in the Militant describing the fight waged by coal miners in Harlan County, Kentucky, to get pay owed them from Blackjewel mine bosses who have declared bankruptcy. “Taking a stand like these miners are, and like you and your neighbors here, are important examples for all of us,” Fruit said.
“The whole neighborhood knew about what happened here,” Lee Butler, a 30-year old glazier, told Fruit when she spoke to him on the same street where Farley lived. “These ICE raids are just to scare people.”
Fruit pointed out that her campaign calls for an amnesty for all undocumented workers to unite working people and cut across the divisions the bosses use to drive down wages. Butler got a subscription to the Militant.
Campaigning in the same area, Fruit spoke with Michael Smith, a 30-year-old floor layer. “Many here are barely surviving. What is 40 hours a week at $7.25 an hour?” he asked. “Even if two people are working you can’t make it with kids. After rent and utilities, there’s nothing left for food or anything else.” Part of the fighting program presented by SWP candidates is the call for the minimum wage to be set at a rate that allows workers to have a home and start a family.
Fruit told Smith, “This is why working people need to organize ourselves in unions, fight to change our conditions and quit supporting the Democrats and Republicans, the parties of the bosses.”
‘Hands off Iran! End the sanctions!’
“The same government that attacks workers’ living standards, unions and health care in this country is now threatening Iran,” Communist League member Hugo Wils told people passing by a protest called by the League Aug. 4 in Manchester city center in the U.K. The action demanded an end to U.S. sanctions on Iran and that the U.K. government release a tanker carrying oil from Iran that was seized by Royal Marines off Gibraltar. “They do this to shore up their profits at the expense of working people in both Iran and the U.K.,” Wils added.
Many of those who stopped to talk agreed with Wils. But one person told protesters, “They got our oil tanker, why should we release theirs?”
After speaking to those picketing, Benjamin Higham subscribed to the Militant and bought a copy of In Defense of the US Working Class by SWP leader Mary-Alice Waters. “I don’t like the Iranian regime, but we’ve had enough devastation,” he said. “The U.K. soldiers should come home,” from where they are stationed in the Middle East.
Solidarity with Hong Kong protests
“Working people have a common interest in the fight for democratic and political rights,” Annalucia Vermunt told participants attending a forum organized by students at the University of Auckland Aug. 6, in support of the wave of protests for political rights in Hong Kong. Vermunt is the Communist League’s candidate for Auckland mayor. “We continue to stand with you as you press further with your demands.”
The meeting, attended by more than 100 people, was called after student Serena Lee was pushed to the ground at the school by three supporters of the Chinese government. Beijing’s Consulate in Auckland released a public statement praising this act, claiming it was “spontaneous patriotism.”
“We are here to show solidarity with the Hong Kong anti-extradition bill movement,” Lee said at the meeting. “This is a platform for students to express their views and opinions on the issue of democracy in Hong Kong.”
Other speakers at the forum called for those present to uphold freedom of speech and to debate the issues.
A few participants spoke in opposition to the demonstrations, which have included calls for more direct elections.