York: December 6th!

Oct. 18 Coalition sets a new date
Saturday's rally was postponed to keep the focus on its purpose -- human rights for immigration detainees.
Daily Record correspondent
Monday, October 20, 2003

A group that had planned a Free the Detainees, End the Occupations rally Saturday at the York County Prison said Sunday night that it is refocusing and plans to hold a similar rally during the first week of December.

Many of the 25 attending the meeting at their West Market Street headquarters in the city Sunday said members of the group, known as the October 18 Coalition, also belong to other human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and People For Peace and Justice.

The coalition also has a member who claims to be a communist and another who uses the label anarchist.

The latter two members' involvement, while not unwelcome by the coalition, sparked confusion and public concern about the intent of the cancelled rally.

Patrick McKale, 22, of Baltimore said Saturday's rally was supposed to bring attention to the ongoing detention of immigrants following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He said some detainees have been imprisoned for more than two years without a trial.

"Some of them don't even know what offense they're being charged with," McKale said.

The rally was to be followed by a march to the nearby Caterpillar plant. According to the group's meeting facilitator, Kathleen Lucas, Caterpillar is selling bulldozers to Israel, which that nation's government is using to destroy Palestinian homes and villages.

"And these aren't just regular bulldozers," said 32-year-old York resident Keith Dobson. "These are more like armored tanks with shovels on the front."

McKale said the group postponed Saturday's event to ensure that when they do rally, the focus will be on human-rights issues and not the political beliefs of those that rally.

"The money being accepted from the federal government by the (York County) prison is blood money," said Ben Price, co-facilitator of the meeting. "Without realizing it, the people of York have overlooked the unjust treatment of these immigrant prisoners because of the prison's economic impact on the community."

McKale said there is no incentive for the prison to push for the normal legal process to begin because if and when the prisoners do leave, so does the money.

"The prison can get away with keeping them for so long because (U.S. Attorney General John) Ashcroft has pretty much said that constitutional rights do not apply to non-citizens," McKale said. "But that's absurd."

While Dobson said some immigrant detainees have gotten in trouble for doing little more than incorrectly filling out a green-card visa application, he acknowledged that some of those being held face more serious criminal charges.

Lucas asked whether the coalition should limit its activities to supporting detainees' rights against extended incarceration without a trial, or also take up the cause of those charged with minor offenses.

"If they've been accused of a crime, they deserve a trial," Dobson said. "No American is allowed to be kept in prison for years without a trial."

The group agreed to include all immigrant detainees in its call for fair treatment.

Group members also agreed to include the march to the Caterpillar Parts Distribution Plant as part of their Dec. 6 rally.

The group would have liked to have done it sooner. But they decided to re-schedule after the conclusion of the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, which begins Oct. 27 and ends Nov. 25.

The group also decided to wait a week after Thanksgiving.

With the dates and focus of the rally set, coalition members say they will now try to garner local and national support from other human rights groups.

McKale and Lucas said it's possible that more than 1,000 people from around the country could come to York for the rally.