Syracuse socialism conference brings together activists

On Feb. 12, as people the world
over were celebrating the victorious struggle in Egypt, over 50 people gathered
for the Syracuse Liberation Conference in Central New York. The conference,
co-sponsored by the Party for Socialism and Liberation and the ANSWER Coalition
(Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), focused on both local and national

People traveled from Albany and
Ithaca, N.Y., as well as Connecticut and Washington, D.C., to participate in
the conference, which was held at the Southwest Community Center in Syracuse’s
South Side.

In addition to talks about the
situation in Egypt and building the anti-war movement, the first major panel
focused heavily on the reality of the police state in the U.S. Marissa Bryant
spoke about her friend, Chuniece Patterson, who died as a result of medical
neglect at the Onondaga County “Justice” Center. Bryant said that, “Chuniece
was treated worse than a dog. If you kill a dog you can go to prison, but
nothing has happened to the people that let Chuniece die.”

On the same panel, Luz Encarnación,
President of the Syracuse chapter of the League of United Latin American
Citizens, recalled the day that Raul Pinet Jr., a 31-year-old Puerto Rican man,
was killed by Syracuse law enforcement. She said that people in the community
watched as the police carried Pinet, who was beaten ruthlessly by police, into
the police van. Pinet was pleading for his life, screaming “I don’t want to die
like this!”

Encarnación also spoke about the
ways in which oppressed people in Syracuse are fighting back against police
repression. She spoke about the March on the “Justice” Center that took place
last September, the rally against police spy-cameras that took place at City
Hall months later and a series of people’s forums that have taken place to
organize the community. Encarnación said that, “I am honored to have the ANSWErR
Coalition as my right hand and left hand in this struggle.”

Eugene Puryear, a PSL member from
Washington, D.C., presented a Marxist analysis of the police state. “When I
talk about the police state,” he said, “I’m not talking about Egypt. I’m
talking about right here in the U.S. The fact that brother Raul [Pinet] knew
that he was going to be killed by the police that day, speaks to the epidemic
of police violence in this country.”

After the lunch break, the second
major panel concentrated on the issue of national oppression. First, José
Perez, an immigration attorney, spoke about the so-called “secure communities”
legislation, which is an intensification of the cooperation between Immigration
and Customs Enforcement and local and state police. Perez said of the program
that it “actually makes our communities more insecure. nIt subjects people to
racial profiling and makes victims of crime unwilling to come forward for fear
that they will be deported.”

José Guerrero received a standing
ovation after reading a statement from his brother, Juan Mejia. Mejia has been
fighting deportation charges since the fall of 2010. In Mejia’s statement, he
spoke of how ICE agents pulled him over on his way to school with their guns
drawn. They then took him to his house, where he lived with his mother, and
proceeded to tear the house apart claiming that they were looking for “weapons
and drugs.”

Mejia fell victim to the raid
because of a misdemeanor conviction that he received 10 years ago, for which he
had successfully completed probation. Since Mejia’s detention, his mother has
received a foreclosure notice on their home.

Rebecca Fuentes, an immigration
activist, spoke about the need for unity in fighting racist and unjust ICE
raids. She spoke about the September 2010 raids that took place at two homes in
Syracuse. ICE agents barged into one home, kicking the door into the stomach of
a pregnant woman. ICE claimed they were looking for one person, but they
arrested over 10 workers, documented and undocumented alike. They then
transported the workers hours away to a detention center in Batavia.

Other talks in the conference
focused on the oppression of Native American and Asian American people and
understanding the situation in the Sudan. PSL member Derek Ford talked about
building socialism in the United States. “There are only two options,” Ford
said. “Either the wealth of this country will be held by a handful of
individuals, to enrich only them, or it will be owned publicly and used for the
benefit of all of society.” That socialism is not only possible, but necessary,
was a thread that ran through the entire conference.

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