Friday, March 10, 2017

Salem and Woodburn make international news---we wish that it was positive, but its not.

The attack on Tuesday against an employee at Salem's Al-Aqsa restaurant by a deranged fellow triggered by racism was tragic. It was also predictable. This is not the first time a passer-by has entered an Arab-owned restaurant and insulted and threatened people here. Muslim women and men are also frequently harassed in public spaces in Salem. The dramatic events of last Tuesday have made international news, but there is a story behind a story and it is now one of racism and xenophobia.

Woodburn has also made the news. The Guardian has an article about ICE activity in Woodburn and how the community is responding to ICE and racist pressures. One store owner is quoted as saying, “People are paranoid walking around the streets...At least half or more of our customers are Latinos, 100% of our workers are Latinos. That sets us back.”

PCUN leader Ramon Ramirez got it right when he said, "This is what's happening in my community. We need help! We are build a Network of first responder to immigration raids. Come to our first meeting. Friday, March 17th at 5:30 at the PCUN hall in Woodburn, Oregon. For more information Call 503-989-0073." There is a path forward that takes us through commitment and action.

The story behind the story can remain one of racism, xenophobia, pressure and violence or it can become one of resistance and victory. The attack in Salem and the ICE arrests in Salem and Woodburn are linked by racism and xenophobia. 

We need a Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) chapter here in Oregon. We need a stronger alliance of groups working together, we need strong support for Causa's lobby day on March 31, and we need a mass turnout of everyone on May 1 in Salem.

Let's be strategic about how we respond and make everything that we do about building peoples' political power and capacity to struggle. Should we have therapists at our public meetings? Do we need more access to right-thinking doctors and therapists? What are our security precautions? What role does the community want anti-racists and allies to play? How do we combine the "inside" strategy of building political power with the "outside" strategy of protesting now? Can we get critical numbers behind an Oregon CAIR chapter and allies into Salem's Racial Justice Organizing Committee?  

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