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Dec. 1 day of absence gets broad support

Published Nov 5, 2005 12:29 AM

On Oct. 27, New York City Council member Charles Barron and the Troops Out Now Coalition sponsored a news conference on the steps of City Hall in Manhattan. Scores of community activists joined a dozen members of the City Council to announce the introduction of a resolution to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Rosa Parks’ 1955 arrest with a day of absence against war, poverty and racism on Dec. 1.

Twelve New York city council
members and other activists back
commemoration for Rosa Parks.

The news conference took place three days after Rosa Parks’ death at the age of 92. This Black woman, then a seamstress, refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Ala., on Dec. 1, 1955. This act of defiance gave birth to the Montgomery bus boycott and also the modern-day civil rights movement.

Barron began the press conference by saying, “When Rosa Parks sat down, that is when Black people stood up.” Barron spoke of the significance of the resolution, which urges all businesses and schools to close down on Dec. 1 to allow workers and students to attend events in honor of Rosa Parks.

News conference at
New York City Hall.
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Barron also spoke about the “immoral and illegal” Iraq war, which has caused the deaths of more than 100,000 Iraqis and 2,000 U.S. soldiers, along with $300 billion wasted on this criminal war. “If you can impeach Clinton for Monica [Lewin sky], then you can impeach Bush,” Barron said.

Larry Holmes from the Troops Out Now Coalition (TONC) spoke about a day-long teach-in scheduled during a march and rally on Wall Street on Dec. 1. “We need to renew the civil rights movement.... We have to say no to the racism, injustice and poverty that creates a situation like New Orleans.... We won’t allow social justice, economic justice and the struggle against war to go to the back of the bus,” he said.

Brenda Stokely, a co-convener of New York City Labor Against the War, said that “honoring Rosa Parks is honoring a legacy of struggle.” Stokely described the struggle of Katrina survivors to return home to New Orleans and other Gulf Coast areas after the hurricane and explained how activists in a number of cities, including New York, are organizing solidarity committees to support this right.

LeiLani Dowell and Mia Cruz, organizers for Fight Imperialism-Stand Together (FIST), encouraged student walkouts on Dec. 1 and supported the on-going campaign against military recruiters in the high schools and colleges. Cruz is helping to organize a walkout at Humanities Prep School, with a follow-up rally at Union Square.

Other speakers at the press conference included three Black women on the City Council: Letitia James, Helen Foster and Yvette Clarke; State Sen. Jose Rivera; Nellie Bailey of the Harlem Tenants Council; Jasmine of Campus Anti-War Network; Ron Daniels of Center for Constitutional Rights; Jericho Movement leaders Herman and Iyaluua Ferguson; Black Waxx recording artist Nana Soul; Gloria Jackson, a daycare worker and mother of a GI who was in Iraq; Zul of the Green Party’s National Peace Action Committee, and others.

During the news conference, Brooklyn schoolchildren held signs calling for the Dec. 1 commemoration actions.

A public hearing on the City Council resolution is set for Nov. 18 from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. inside City Hall chambers to allow debate before a final vote is taken.