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Working Class Hero

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  • Dan Clore
    News & Views for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo http://www.counterpunch.org/gross10082008.html October 8, 2008 Maimed By Cops,
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 9, 2008
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo

      http://www.counterpunch.org/gross10082008.html
      October 8, 2008
      Maimed By Cops, Charged With Felonies
      Working Class Hero: Alexandra Svoboda
      By DANIEL GROSS

      A peaceful union march is brutally attacked by police. A union
      activist’s leg is horribly disfigured and nearly amputated. Maimed
      possibly for life, she is charged with multiple felony offenses.

      The battleground is not the coalfields of Harlan County in the 1930s or
      1970s; it's not an example of anti-union violence in Colombia or the
      Philippines. Our setting is present day Providence, Rhode Island.

      On that brilliant Saturday, August 11 of 2007, Alexandra Svoboda didn’t
      do what she was supposed to do. She didn’t stay home and watch TV. She
      didn’t go shop at her local Wal-Mart. She didn’t waste away hours on
      MySpace.

      That beautiful Saturday afternoon, Alex chose action. A twenty-two year
      old worker, student, and union activist, she had heard the call for
      solidarity from a group of immigrant workers organizing at a Queens, New
      York sweatshop. The sweatshop, known as HWH-Dragonland Trading,
      distributed restaurant supplies and maintained labor conditions
      horrendous even by the abysmal standards of the sector.

      Some of the workers at the company joined the Industrial Workers of the
      World (IWW), the union which Alex is a member of. The workers were fed
      up with rampant abuse, stolen wages, and work weeks over 100 hours.

      When it became known that the sweatshop sold supplies to a restaurant
      chain with a location in North Providence, Alex and her fellow IWW
      members in Providence knew they had to act. They were motivated not by
      some notion of charity, but by a belief in solidarity and mutual aid.
      That is, the concept that as workers we all benefit when we stand
      together no matter our race, immigration status, gender, or sexual
      orientation.

      As the mostly young IWW workers marched toward Jackie’s Galaxie
      restaurant to raise awareness about its relationship to the Queens
      sweatshop, North Providence police officers began their attack.
      Inexplicably, three police officers singled out Alex and violently
      dislocated her knee as they threw her into the ground. A cop then sat on
      the horrifically injured Alex and handcuffed her. Meanwhile, fellow IWW
      member Jason Friedmutter was taken down, cuffed, and arrested as well.
      Other peaceful marchers were pepper sprayed. (Graphic photos of the
      brutal police assault are available here:
      http://jonathanmcintosh.smugmug.com/gallery/3293537 .)

      After the attack, doctors conducted an emergency surgery on Alex’s leg.
      Had the surgery not succeeded, they would have proceeded with amputation
      plans. Three more surgeries, unspeakable pain, and countless hours of
      physical therapy followed. The police had torn the popliteal artery in
      Alex’s knee, fractured her tibia and fibia, and caused meniscus as well
      as ligament tears. Because of her injury, Alex hasn’t been able to work
      in over a year. Her life will never be the same.

      Communities of color, low-wage workers, and other groups familiar with
      police brutality know that criminal charges or innuendo against victims
      is the norm following police aggression. The case of Alex and Jason is
      no different. Alex was charged ridiculously but not surprisingly with
      three felony counts of assaulting a police officer as well as
      misdemeanor resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. Jason was charged
      with obstruction of justice. Though Alex’s felony charges have now been
      downgraded to misdemeanors, the pair still face a criminal trial in the
      upcoming months.

      Confronted with the determined resolve of Alex and her fellow unionists,
      Jackie’s Galaxie ultimately cut off all ties with the HWH-Dragonland
      sweatshop. HWH-Dragonland has since reportedly gone out of business.
      While a union shop with quality wages and working conditions would have
      been a better outcome, at least there's one less worker abusing
      sweatshop on Planet Earth and one more example of the consequences of
      union-busting for other sweatshops.

      Alex Svoboda joins a long line of working class heroes who have been
      severely wounded or killed struggling for justice against the
      capitalists and their unchecked corporate power. In Thomas Paine’s
      phrase, she “dare[d] oppose, not only the tyranny, but the tyrant.” By
      engaging in direct action on behalf of her class, she aroused the ire of
      the State and suffered terribly for it.

      Revolutionary change comes about through the everyday hard work and
      sacrifice of people like Alex. She was out there for us that fateful day
      --- all of us who have felt the sting of indignity at work and who
      believe that working people deserve better.

      Let’s be there for her now. Alex and Jason need financial and moral
      support to have their innocence affirmed at trial. You can e-mail
      providenceiww@... for details on how to lend a hand.

      When you stand firm in your life not just against exploitation, but the
      exploiter-corporations themselves, I hope you’ll be strengthened and
      inspired by Alex’s example. I know I am.

      Daniel Gross is an organizer with the Industrial Workers of the World
      and the founding director of Brandworkers, a non-profit organization
      protecting and advancing the rights of retail and food chain employees.
      He is the co-author with Staughton Lynd of "Labor Law for the Rank and
      Filer: Building Solidarity While Staying Clear of the Law," just out
      from PM Press. You can contact him through http://www.Brandworkers.org .

      --
      Dan Clore

      My collected fiction: _The Unspeakable and Others_
      http://tinyurl.com/2gcoqt
      Lord Weÿrdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:
      http://tinyurl.com/292yz9
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo

      "From the point of view of the defense of our society,
      there only exists one danger -- that workers succeed in
      speaking to each other about their condition and their
      aspirations _without intermediaries_."
      --Censor (Gianfranco Sanguinetti), _The Real Report on
      the Last Chance to Save Capitalism in Italy_
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