Revolution #231, May 1, 2011

Article from Readers:

Georgia: Thousands Protest Ugly Anti-Immigrant Law

From readers:

We Revolution distributors in Atlanta want readers to know about the recent ugly attacks on immigrants by the Georgia state legislature…and the beautiful resistance of the people. As these attacks have unfolded and organizers have brought forward growing resistance, we've been joining with the resistance at every opportunity, to "Fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution," bringing Revolution newspaper and the works of Bob Avakian into the mix. Here is a brief account of what's been happening:

On April 14, after months of organizing, protests and rallies by thousands of immigrants and their supporters—including some very heroic acts of civil disobedience—a vicious and reactionary bill escalating legal attacks on undocumented immigrants was passed in Georgia. Opponents of this new "Arizona copy cat" law prepare to continue protests the day Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signs the new bill and to make plans to continue to fight this cruel and unjust law.

This law, House Bill 87, is said to be one of the most extreme of the anti-immigrant bills that lawmakers in over 30 states are trying to push through. It will increase the number of raids and deportations that tear families apart and punish immigrants for the conditions that imperialism has put on them, making it necessary for them to leave their homes and come to the U.S. in any way they can, to try to live and support their families. It would make local police agencies take on enforcing the unjust and punitive immigration laws as if they were all deputized "la Migra" agents. Racial profiling would be even worse than it is now, and justified if anyone "looked" illegal—you don't have to guess what that "look" is!

Along with targeting undocumented workers, a parallel attack is being waged against undocumented students in the state university system. There are many students who came to this country with parents or other relatives as babies or small children, went through school in Georgia, and have earned the right to scholarships and entry into state colleges and universities. Just like the lie that "immigrants are taking away our jobs" is spread to scapegoat immigrants and blame them for the massive unemployment caused by this system itself—these students are accused of "taking away funds and space" in the most competitive universities in the state at a time when tuition and fees are rising for all students, education budgets have been slashed and enrollment restricted. In a very ugly move, the state legislature required universities to go through their student records and identify how many undocumented students were currently enrolled at each school—reminiscent of the purging of Jews from the universities in Nazi Germany—and disgustingly, the campus administrators complied. 

The Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights and the Georgia Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition are two organizations that have taken the lead in organizing much of the resistance and have been forging broad support for immigrant rights. There is participation among student organizations, progressive churches and clergy organizations, civil rights groups, trade unions and other progressive groups in Atlanta and throughout Georgia.  Since last year there have been a number of marches and rallies, vigils and petitions against this legislation. Many of the people involved hope to see immigration reform like the proposed "Dream Act" become law so that they can become citizens. Others hope to return someday to their home countries, but want an end to living in fear, of being swept up and ripped away from their jobs, friends and families.

The night the bill was passed, hundreds rallied on the steps of the state capitol, staying into the night with a candlelight vigil as the legislators "worked" inside to reconcile two versions of this racist bill. Some of us were there with Revolution, getting copies of the statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party, "The Revolution We Need…The Leadership We Have" out into the crowd. There were dozens of banners and signs and many people took turns helping us hold a banner that stretched across the wide steps reading "Immigrants are not criminals, the system is!" in Spanish and English. Well over half of the vigilers were Latino but there were also multi-national student groups—including a class from Georgia State University who marched up together with their teacher, chanting "Immigrant rights are under attack, what do we do? STAND UP, FIGHT BACK!" There were civil rights activists, progressive religious forces, and others. One especially moving speaker—a young Latina raised in Georgia—talked about how her family was driven here after the farm they had worked and owned for generations was lost because of NAFTA. She spoke about her determination not to give up the fight against this unjust law. And, when the word came that the vote was over and it had passed, a haunting image—a Latino family with three young children, all weeping openly and embracing each other with anguished faces—brought home just how cruel the impact of the law will be. 


Leading up to the vigil that night there have been a number of inspiring and determined actions opposing this law and rallying support for immigrant rights. On April 5, this was taken to a whole new level: a well-organized and courageous act of civil disobedience by undocumented young people took place called "Undocumented and Unafraid." This included a rally and march of over 150 people in the streets and parks around Georgia State University (GSU is an urban university spread out in the middle of downtown Atlanta, only a few blocks from the Capitol building). The protesters, immigrants and their supporters who were mainly youth and students, listened to compelling "testifying" from one undocumented student after another. Each one told their story—describing what they had gone through coming here and being "illegal" and why they were stepping out now and refusing to live in fear anymore.

One of these undocumented students, a young Latino, challenged the many Latino youth in attendance not to be politically passive and to "come out of the shadows." Several civil rights veterans talked about the critical role Black students played in the 1960s and told the crowd "your time has come." After a spirited march, a huge banner was unfurled and laid down in the middle of Courtland Street—a major artery downtown. It said "We will no longer remain in the shadows" and the people who told their stories at the rally sat down while hundreds chanted in support. They blocked traffic for over an hour before they were arrested. This marked a step beyond the first action of civil disobedience back in November (then, five activists heroically stepped into the street and blocked traffic in front of the Federal Courthouse until they were arrested; they included documented immigrant activists and African-American civil rights activists and clergy). The April action was the first protest here by people who openly declared their undocumented status, risking both arrest and deportation, to challenge the unjust and immoral laws that declare some human beings "illegal" for just trying to work and survive.

Another large and defiant demonstration, "No Human Being is Illegal: Rally for Truth," took place just a little over a week before the "undocumented and unafraid" rally and civil disobedience action. This was in late March and was significant for the large numbers, over 6,000 people, who rallied and protested for hours at the Capitol against this law. The crowd was overwhelmingly Latino but there were many, many others opposing this racist bill. Speeches were translated into both Spanish and English for the crowd. The Indigo Girls performed their song "Shame on You," accompanying themselves with guitars—this was also roughly translated afterwards by rally organizers with bullhorns. The variety of signs that people brought with them reflected the different ways people were thinking about this issue: "Immigrants Make Georgia's Economy Stronger," "God didn't put the borders there," "Let us prove we are good citizens and not criminals," "Immigrant rights are human rights," "Stop racial profiling," and one heartbreaking sign held by a small girl, "Don't take my Daddy."

Revolution Books Outlet (which was an endorser) and a small team of Revolution distributors got out thousands of the Message and Call, "The Revolution We Need…The Leadership We Have" (in Spanish) to the crowd and the palm cards for the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal). We also sold Revolution #226, "On the Strategy for Revolution," and 70 CD copies of "Why Do People Come Here From All Over the World?", an excerpt from Bob Avakian's talk Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About.

We had our "Immigrants are not criminals, the system is" banner and from the time we first arrived and unfurled the banner, people stepped forward to help us hold it, so that our small team would be able to distribute the materials to the crowd. The banner was very popular—there was a continuous stream of people taking pictures of it or having their pictures taken beside it.


Now that the racist bill has passed and will certainly be signed any day by the governor, organizers are calling for ideas for continuing this fight with the goal of rolling back these attacks. Some proposals are calling for a general boycott of Georgia from conventions, businesses, entertainers and tourists. Others include legal challenges to the constitutionality of the law with the hope that the federal courts will block implementation. We look forward to joining with others in continuing resistance in creative ways and involving more and more people, and we will continue building the movement for revolution in the midst of this fight.

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