Strike Busters Migrant farmworkers have to play by a different set of rules. William Beardall Jr., litigation director of Texas Rural Legal Aid n August 8, a strike involving about 500 farmworkers was terminated by a brigade of 24 El Paso police officers, equipped with batons and helmets. The officers were called to South El Paso to quell what Captain Louis Meir, had labeled a “near riot.” According to the accounts of participants and eyewitnesses, people were milling about in groups, chanting slogans and trying to prevent fellow workers from boarding the labor contractors’ buses. According to workers’ accounts, the protest never turned violent; at no point did workers physically harass each other, the contractors, or the police. Nevertheless, the police commanded the crowd to disperse after telling them to get onto the sidewalk. “I approached the officers to find out what was going on and they said everyone had to leave immediately,” recalled TRLA lawyer Mark Schneider. “They told me to get across the street and threatened to arrest me if I didn’t, on charges of inciting a riot. I told them I was an attorney and that the people had a right to peaceful protest. Then I went across the street.” At that point the police formed a line, like a wall, and began jogging toward the crowd. The police stuck out their batons and began to push the demonstrators north down the street. Several Border Patrol agents joined the police forces. According to the union and TRLA, a second group of farmworkers was forced in the opposite direction, south toward the Paso del Norte Bridge and over to Juarez, Mexico. Captain Meir denies this. Participants and observers charge the El Paso police with unnecessarily aggressive and even brutal action. Maria Elena Navarro was one of two people arrested for inciting a riot. The following excerpt comes from the complaint she filed with the El Paso Police Department: “The officer in charge … told us to shut up. I told him that this was not justified and that we were fighting for a higher salary. Two female and two male officers grabbed me. They began to push and strike me with the sticks. My 13-year-old daughter was also pushed and struck … They placed me in the patrol car and a male officer kicked me in the right leg … I was left handcuffed in the cell until about 10 a.m. I received injuries to both wrists due to the handcuffs. They are both swollen and the right hand is numb. I have scabs on the outside of my right ankle.” The union and TRLA met with the captain of the El Paso Police Department on the following day and the police agreed to honor the right of the farmworkers to protest. In an interview after the incident, Captain Meir defended his actions. “I told the lawfully blocking the streets and sidewalks. Anytime you have more than three or five people blocking the sidewalk and streeets, you need a permit from the city … people were protesting and drinking and, for the safety of innocent bystanders and my officers, appropriate actions were taken to quell the situation.” Although according to the union, the actions of the police department and the Border Patrol constitute a clear violation of the workers’ constitutional rights to free speech and assembly, TRLA and the union decided that a lawsuit would deflect attention from the strike. This would not have been the first time the police battled TRLA in court. On July 30, 1990 growers and public officials in Deaf Smith County were ordered to pay TRLA clients a $201,688 settlement for conspiring to stymie a 1980 strike. L.P. MLK PHOTO EXHIBIT The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, will present an exhibition of photographs that document Martin Luther King’s role in the civil-rights movement, from the 1956 bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama until his death in 1968. The exhibit will be accompanied by a film series and a lecture and show from February 12 July 7. For more PEDRO RODRIGUEZ EXHIBIT “Voces y Llantos.” Artwork by Pedro Rodriguez, director of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, will open at Las Manitas Avenue Cafe in Austin, Sunday, February 10 at 6:00 p.m. Sponsored by La Pena. PACIFICA NEWS IN AUSTIN Beginning Tuesday, January 22, KAZI-minute daily news program produced by Pacifica News Service. The program will be on the air from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m. seven days a week. OBSERVANCES February is Black History Month February 1, 1870 Jonathon Jasper Wright elected to South Carolina Supreme Court the first black to hold a major judicial post. February 1, 1965 Martin Luther King Jr. and 700 others arrested in Selma, Alabama, while demonstrating for black voting rights. February 6, 1945 Bob Marley born. February 9, 1946 Alice Walker born. February 10, 1989 Ronald Brown becomes the first black chair of the Democratic National Committee. February 12, 1909 Founding of the National Association for the Advancement of February 14, 1817 Birth of Frederick Douglass, escaped slave, editor of The North Star, an abolitionist newspaper. February 19, 1919 First Pan-African Congress organized by W.E.B. DuBois and others in Paris, France. February 21, 1965 Malcolm X, age 39, shot to death in New York City. LEGISLATORS ON STAGE The Texas Alliance for Human Needs will present “Legislators on Stage,” at Club XS February 20. See state lawmakers singing, dancing, and otherwise embarrassing themselves, and benefit the Alliance, which educates the public about the need for sofor information. ENVIRONMENT CONFERENCE “The Environment and the Mechanized World,” a conference of the American Society for Environmental History, will held February 28 March 3 in Houston. ConAUSTIN HISTORY EXHIBIT “Something Made Austin Grow,” an Austin History Center exhibit, runs January 25-May 4. The exhibit features photographs, manuscripts, books, and memorabilia highlighting major events and people SOCIAL CAUSE CALENDAR 6 FEBRUARY 8, 1991 6. ,,,,,,4,…40,4-100.**;400?rI
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