Monday, January 5, 2009

Protesters in S.F. and Europe blast Israel

(01-03) 21:02 PST SAN FRANCISCO -- Since the Israeli offensive against Gaza began a week ago, 18-year-old San Francisco City College student Ahmed Alkhatib can check in with his family only once a day- and that's if the phones work.

Otherwise, Alkhatib can only hope that his parents, two brothers and two sisters will stay safe in their Gaza home as they watch bombs fall around them. And, much like tens of thousands of people around the world did today, he can protest.

Alkhatib and hundreds of others who flocked to Market Street in San Francisco this evening said they were there to protest the Israeli ground invasion, which began earlier today. But they also had their sights set closer to home: Many said they want to urge American leaders and citizens to oppose any financial support of the Israeli government, by boycotting and divesting from companies that support the Middle East state.

"I do feel powerless and guilty, because I am part of the (American) establishment that is financing and supplying the occupation," said Alkhatib, a Pacifica resident who came to the United States three years ago as an exchange student and was unable return to Gaza because of ongoing violence.

"But I also feel powerful," he said. "If I wasn't here, there would be nobody to talk about my family, nobody to tell, through my family's story, that the violence is not just compromising one family, it is compromising thousands."The San Francisco rally began with several hundred demonstrators gathering around 5 p.m. at Market and Powell streets. By 6 p.m., the crowd - many of them waving Palestinian flags and wearing head scarves - had swelled to about 500, and marched up Market Street to City Hall. There were no counter protests, as there have been in days past.

Many protesters, such as San Francisco resident Ateyeh Ateyeh, were Palestinian.

"This is the least we could do to protest our government's action," said the U.S. citizen, who fled the West Bank in 1989 and brought his wife and four children to the rally. "We don't want to say, 'Support the Palestinian's ... cause.' We just want to say, 'Stay neutral, stop sending American planes and our tax dollars.'"

Many simply urged peace.

Francesca Rosa, a 54-year-old San Francisco resident, held an olive branch in one hand and a Palestinian flag in the other. And Natalie Hrizi, also of San Francisco, garnered loud cheers as she spoke to the crowd through a bullhorn.

"Palestine isn't just about Palestine, it's about all of us who stand for peace," she said. "It's about all of us who stand against racism and for justice."

The San Francisco rally - the fifth last week - was small and peaceful compared to many elsewhere in the world.

In Europe, tens of thousands of people demonstrated in major cities on Saturday against Israel's bombardment of Gaza.

In London, at least 10,000 people marched past Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Downing Street residence to a rally in Trafalgar Square. Outside Downing Street, hundreds of protesters threw shoes at the gates that block entry to the narrow road.

Shoe-throwing has become a popular way to express protest and contempt since an Iraqi journalist pelted U.S. President George W. Bush with a pair of shoes in Baghdad last month.

Rallies also were held in other British cities - including Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow. Elsewhere in Europe, protests in Paris, Amsterdam, Rome and Berlin all drew big crowds.

In Paris, police said 21,000 marched through the streets, shouting "We are all Palestinians" and "Israel assassin." Later, about 500 protesters threw objects at police, burned Israeli flags, overturned and torched cars, and vandalized several shops, police said.

Angry protests continued for a second day in Turkey, where about 5,000 demonstrators in Ankara shouted "killer Israel."

In The Netherlands, thousands of people marched through Amsterdam. One banner declared: "Anne Frank is turning in her grave. Oh Israel!"

In Athens, a few of the 5,000 protesters threw stones and gasoline bombs at police outside the Israeli Embassy. Riot police retaliated with tear gas and stun grenades.

More protests are planned, including another in San Francisco at noon Sunday at Powell and Market streets. Next Saturday, there is an 11 a.m. event in San Francisco's Civic Center.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


E-mail Marisa Lagos at mlagos@sfchronicle.com

Friday, December 19, 2008

In tough times, ranks of homeless students rising

By EVELYN NIEVES

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — As foreclosures and layoffs force families out of their homes, school districts across the nation are struggling to deal with a dramatic influx of homeless children.

Some districts are seeing increases of 50 to 100 percent or more and are so understaffed that it is taking weeks to help the homeless students and families who need it, according to a new survey on homeless children. Educators say students without a stable home are at greater risk of becoming truants, developing behavioral problems and failing in school.

An estimated 2 million children are at risk of homelessness because of the foreclosure crisis and economic downturn, according to First Focus, a child advocacy organization that examined Census and economic data.

The number of homeless students in foreclosure-ridden Oakland, with 38,000 students, has doubled to 1,200 since last year, said Mathew Uretsky, the district's homeless coordinator. And he thinks the number of school-age homeless children is four times as high.

"We find children in shelters who are just sitting there," he said. "Sometimes we find kids who aren't in school right now because they don't have bus passes. A lot of children of day laborers are not going to school because their parents don't think they have a right to go."

Some families end up in shelters, or bunking with relatives or friends. Others stay in run-down motels, or their cars. In cities where rents are high, such as San Francisco, a family that loses its home may spend months, even years, trying to find another.

Alex Rodriguez, 32, and Rosa Estevez, 26, both lost their jobs — he at a car parts store, she an insurance office — when their companies left San Francisco. Within two months, they and their 12-year-old son were homeless. They wound up at Rafael House, a family shelter.

Estevez, who is pregnant, said their son is often depressed.

"We try to stay upbeat for him," she said, "but I've noticed that he is not as interested in school any more."

A survey of more than 1,700 school districts released Friday by First Focus and The National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY), Washington-based non-profits, found unprecedented jumps in homeless students in the three months of the school year.

Most districts surveyed said they had identified more homeless students in the first three months than they had at the same point last year. Some 330 districts already have identified at least as many homeless students this school year as they did in the entire previous year. About 10 percent of the 16,000 school districts across the country participated in the survey.

But school district homeless liaisons, whose jobs are to identify and help homeless students, believe the numbers are even higher than reported, said Barbara Duffield, executive director of NAEHCY. Schools are finding it harder to identify homeless students because families new to homelessness often are moving targets. Many are not sure how to seek help or are too humiliated to come forward.

"Before this economic downturn, there was not enough shelter," Duffield said. "That is, the safety net was badly frayed. Now, it's got a gaping hole through which families who have never experienced this are falling."

Although the U.S. Department of Education still is tallying the number of homeless students for the 2007-2008 school year, all indications point to a problem with no end in sight, said John McLaughlin, coordinator of the DOE's homeless assistance program for school districts. "All across the board," he said, "in every state we got information from, there were some pretty big increases in homeless students."

The primary reasons for the surge are increasing joblessness and the foreclosure debacle, according to local and national homeless advocacy organizations.

"You've got dramatic foreclosures plus a million job losses," said Philip Mangano, director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, the administration's lead organization for addressing homeless issues. "We would have to be naive to believe that this wouldn't have an effect on families already struggling, and it has."

In this economy, there is no quick fix. Congress approved $3.9 billion in its last spending bill to aid communities ravaged by the foreclosure crisis, Mangano said. Advocates for homeless children are asking the Senate for $72 million in emergency funding for DOE's homeless children and youth programs.

The influx of homeless students also is costing local school districts. Federal law requires state and local school agencies to provide homeless students transportation to the school they began the year attending, as well as meals, books and other support. Some districts report that transportation bills eat up more than half of their funds for homeless assistance.

Cities and counties hard hit by foreclosures are seeing a corresponding rise in family homelessness. In Nevada's Clark County, with one of the worst foreclosure rates in the nation, the school district of 300,000 students reports 4,033 homeless students, double the number a year ago.

"We're falling in the same pattern as everybody else," said Myra Berkovitz, the district's coordinator for homeless students. "More need and less money."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cities see increace in homelessness

Capt. Martin Cooper of the Salvation Army has been handing out free sandwiches and soup near the Civic Center in San Francisco for the last year and a half. Lately he's noticed some troubling changes.(Full Article)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Homeless Portlanders set to sue to block anti-camping ordinance

The nonprofit Oregon Law Center plans to file a class-action lawsuit Friday in federal court challenging the constitutionality of Portland’s anti-camping ordinance. (Full Article)

Monday, October 27, 2008

STOP THE RAIDS IN THE FIRST 100 DAYS

The first of the 388 workers arrested in the immigration raid on the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, were deported in mid-October, having spent five months in federal prison. Their crime? Giving a bad Social Security number to the company to get hired.
(Full Article)
David Bacon | October 23, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

Don't Waffle - Breakfast with Sherman Alexie

Dear Activist,

Celebrate 14 years of community-building, quality alternative journalism, and effective grassroots organizing with the irrepressible Sherman Alexie and 500-1,000 of our best friends.

This has been a year of courageous risk-taking and relentless organizing. Help us be strong.

What: Real Change 14th Anniversary Breakfast
When: Wednesday November 12, 7:30-9am
Where: University of Washington, Husky Union Ballroom

Tickets are $50 each, $500 per table.

Guests have the following payment options:
1. A check made payable to Real Change, 2129 2nd Ave., Seattle, WA 98121. Mail previous to event (preferred) or give it to us at the breakfast.

2. Call Kathy at 206-441-3247 x201 to process a credit card payment over the phone.

3. Tickets are available online

Driving directions

Public transportation
- Destination is University of Washington HUB

Sponsored by PCC, University of Washington Honors Department, Catering by FareStart