From the border

Hello Everyone.. I finally get a few moments to work on the computer!! Don from Ohio and I were picked up again this am by security on the way to buy some water and were transported to Arish the nearest big city, which is about 2 hours away from the border, before we were let go.. now we are waiting for security to lose interest in us, before we try to go back though the many check points to the border... What better place to hid than in the net works!! The border is very hot, we are sleeping in tents, in what could be called a large car port, with security all over the place... we are about 100 yards from the gate and the border runs about 200 yards along the side of us.... most mornings we wake to the sounds of bombs being dropped very is said to be on the tunnels,. so the whole earth shakes... and at night too there is bombs being dropped.. Our daily skd is pretty much the same each day.. getting up.. washed in the bathroom (if security has't locked us out) and you wouldn't want to call it a bathroon... it is really a line of really dirty small ( the john in the office is 3 times as big!!) room with a hole and a water pipe... we have found a cut off plastic bottle works well to collect the water from the pipe and pour over the body!! so much for showers... and than washing our clothers in another large plastic be put out on the tree to dry .. and we are ready for going to the gate to talk to all the different people denied entering Gaza...there are 50 or 60 people each day who are denied and many of them keep coming back ..secuity keeps saying they don't have the right papers. 10 people from United Nations are being denied right now...many people are from the US... families coming to visit their parents or to attend a wedding, the stories are women was told that the house of the family she wanted to visit was destroyed so she didn't have the right address to enter!! Well it is time to pick up some water and look for a way back in.Love and. Peace to all Ellen... I moved my tkt up.. will be back Monday.. Hugs Ellen

International Community Activists Arrive at the Rafah Border

More about Ellen Grave's group...

At 8 a.m. Egypt time, seven of the International Movement to Open the Rafah Border walked to the Rafah, Egypt/Gaza border. The group consists ofDavid Mattacchioni, Italy; Christian Chantegrel, Micheline Garreau, Jacque Denko, France; Paki Wieland, Ellen Graves, and Don Bryant, USA. Theycame by a circuitous route, avoiding all checkpoints between El-Arish and Rafah. These international activists attempted to enter Gaza the morning ofJune 9, but were denied. They were told the border would open at 1 p.m.

The goal of the International Movement to Open the Rafah Border (IMORB) is not to enter Gaza, but to protest the extended siege and the 22-day Israelimilitary attacks of Gaza. "A humanitarian crisis exists in Gaza due to the siege and the Israeli invasion in December and January." explained Don Bryantof Cleveland, Ohio. "We were in Gaza three months ago and saw the extreme destruction in every village, refugee camp, and business district. Over 1400were killed, 85% were civilians."

"There's a lot of destruction, almost like the day of judgement." said Cesar, born in Gaza, now of Denton, Texas. His family had planned to return to Gazauntil their last visit, when they decided it was just too bad to stay. The IMORB sat with Cesar, his wife, and four children, at the border checkpoint, as theywaited to enter Gaza, to visit with family.

Four men who wanted to go to Gaza today also waited with the IMORB. Awni from UAE wanted to see his sick mother, Mohammad had surgery in Cairoand wishes to go home to Gaza, and two students, Salama and Mohammad graduated and are hoping to go home to Gaza. Awni told the activists,"unfortunately, we found the border closed, and we have to wait, six days now. What do they think, we are not human? What did we do to these people?

There are treating us very bad, they treat us like animals, but we are all the same as you from America. Why? Why?"

In late morning, a European Parliament delegation came to visit Gaza. The IMORB displayed a banner, "Open the Gaza Border," and hoped to have a meeting with the dignitaries. The Rafah gate was suddenly opened wide to make them pass as quick as possible in order to make sure there was no contact with the activists or the other people waiting. The demonstration was captured on camera by convoy passengers. Families trying to enter Gazajoined the demonstration.

If Egyptian security allows the international activists to enter Gaza, they will accept the visa on one condition. "If the gates are open for everyone to comeand go as they wish., explained Ellen Graves. "We have people here with us who have come to visit their loved ones; forbidding these visits is againstinternational law, and contrary to human dignity. Families come long distances, and then they have to sit here for days before entering, It is inhuman.

On June 4, 2009

In response to US President Barrack Obama's visit to Cairo, Egypt on June 4, seven "international community activists" from the International Movement to Open the Rafah Border, and US anti-war groups Code Pink and Raging Grannies began a day-long protest to end the Siege of Gaza. The group began their protest at 9 am at the US embassy in Cairo. They unfurled a banner in front of the embassy with the message, "End the Siege of Gaza." Code Pink co-founder, Medea Benjamin carried a letter from the Palestinian government, Hamas, to deliver to the embassy and to President Obama. The letter had been issued to Medea the day before coming from Gaza. The correspondence from Hamas stated their desire to negotiate with israel and the US with no preconditions. "It was a very dignified letter," said French demonstrator, Christian. The group was also asking President Obama to visit Gaza, Palestine on his Middle East tour. "If the president could see Gaza for himself, he would see the result of US tax dollars, that support the Israeli war crimes in Gaza ," shouted the demonstrators. "Obama, go to Gaza!" they continued.

The international community activists (ICA) were diverted from delivering their message to the embassy, being directed from one entrance to another. They were also told that cameras would be confiscated if any pictures were taken. The group was joined by members of two student delegations that had been to Gaza. The students had scribed a letter to the president, protesting the Israeli siege and war crimes in Gaza. Tigue from Code Pink had a contact within the embassy, whom he called to find out who was in control at the embassy that day. He was told that embassy security had the final say. Embassy security tried to contain the ICA in a barricade, which they crawled under, and escaped.

The demonstration was pure improvisation. After leaving the embassy the ICA had planned to display their banners from various bridges or buildings. Instead they decided to see how close they could get to the Cairo University, where the president would deliver his Middle East address.

Being separated from the students, the seven travelled in two taxis, arriving 1 km from the university. The police stopped all traffic including their taxis. Exiting from the taxis, the demonstrators began walking freely, through the heavily secured area. Christian said it was like the American movie, "Little Big Man," when Dustin Hoffman escorted the blind native chief through a raging massacre. The demonstrators walked for one minute towards a monument thirty meters from the university and the security checkpoint. The plaza was crowded with spectators, security officers, and police dogs.

In front of the monument the demonstrators unfurled the bright pink banners in English and Arabic. All the spectators had to pass by the demonstrators on their way to the presidential address. While some of the ICA remained with one banner in front of the monument, the others wandered among the crowd addressing the spectators by microphone, openly displaying the letter from Hamas. People took interest and took pictures of the letter and the demonstration.

The demonstrators saw about 1000 security officers; Egyptian officers in white and black, and many plain-clothes police from the US and Egypt. Security officers noticed the protestors and communicated on walkie-talkies apparently trying to figure out how to handle the demonstrators. The demonstration went on for nearly 1/2 hour before security finally approached them. Actually there were 30,000 security officers on duty, as was later revealed. Security told the ICA to leave but they said, "we are Americans. We are protesting. This is our right of free speech." The only Egyptian protestor was told to leave, but others joined the demonstration, which now included, one Chinese and three American students, two Frenchmen, and four others from the US....the Italian who tried to join them was searched and sent away because security discovered a video camera in his back pack.

Three of the ICA took a banner to another gate where the president was supposed to pass by. They were told to leave this area. As they went to rejoin the larger group, security tried to drive them with some physical force, to no avail. Medea told them, "President Obama wouldn't like you do that."

Finally, a full line of security officers faced the demonstrators. The ICA knew something was about to happen. Suddenly sirens blarred. The Obama motorcade was approaching. President Obama passed, as fast as possible, by the demonstration in full view of the banners' messages "End the Gaza Siege," "Stop Funding Israeli War Crimes."

When Obama had entered the university, the situation was calmer and Egyptian security warmed up to the protestors, serving them juice and cookies.

When the president's speech was over, suddenly a huge crowd of diplomats, journalists, and Egyptian VIPS all left at the same time. In the hot sun an intensity resurged. The ICA met the masses with increased vigor. and they were actually greeted by some of the crowd. Some of the demonstrators were engaged in interviews by the journalists.

The group decided it was a good time to exit when they noticed that most of the public had dissipated and that other security forces were slowly enclosing the area around the monument. The International Community Activists quickly packed their banners and slipped through an opening in the security barrier, even while the police were following and trying to grab them.

The banners were later hung from a hotel on Independence Plaza.

Upon later reflection of the intense deployment of security, Raging Grannie Paki, said, "what kind of a world is this that we have to have this much security?"

Christian answered, " it is an occupied world."

Contact (002)0144169801

Christain Chentegrel


David Mattacchioni

Time for a Citywide Tenants Organization

If there's one issue bringing people into Arise for Social Justice these days, it's housing.

Today a Navy veteran with a nine year old autistic son needed some help in finding out where she is on the list for subsidized housing. She'd call HAP the other day but they misunderstood what she was asking and they told her they're not taking new applications because there's a ten year waiting list! She feels as if the family members she's been living with are running out of patience with her because her son is not easy to live with, but her income is under $900 a month in SSI for her son and TAFDC for her so she hasn't been able to find anything she can afford.

Another woman last week was never notified by her landlord as to which bank is holding her security deposit, and now that's she's moving, she wants to know where it is-- minor in the light of things, except that she needs the money to put down on the new apartment.

Of course we see our fair share of bad housing issues, the occasional case of sexual harassment by a landlord or other tenant, pending evictions because not having the rent money, and a steady stream of single men and women looking for an efficiency apartment they can afford. People are feeling shell-shocked and discouraged yet somehow they keep on with the struggle.

Funny how even living poor, you can be so shocked by the situations of others. Arise was started in the mid-eighties by four of us on public assistance, so we all knew something, but I still remember the day I found out that there were so many homeless families, they had to be put up in motels. I still remember the day I first heard someone say, "How can there be empty buildings when the shelters are full?" And I remember the day I figured out that rents had gone up 161% in just three years.

This was just a few years before the savings and loan debacle, where buildings were emptied and boarded up as their overextended owner, who thought they could just keep flipping buildings at higher and higher prices, with no chance ever to be able to meet a monthly mortgage payment based on tenants' rents, finally faced the bursting of their own housing bubble.

Arise was involved in the one and only development project we've ever undertaken just after that bubble burst-- we built a coalition of organizations and agencies and purchased the old Rainville Hotel on Byers St., a building that defined the word seedy. It had been taken over by the Resolution Trust Company, a Government-owned asset management company. and we turned it from a 60 some odd unit dump into forty-three efficiency apartments for homeless people "ready for independent living." I write these words so blithely, but it took three years of difficult development work to make it happen, and we have now provided housing for ten years. Never again, we decided.

But just because we don't want to do housing development doesn't mean it shouldn't be done.

We at Arise have taken no particular opinion at this point on the proposed development of Longhill Gardens, a controversial affordable housing rehab, except, of course, to be aware of how many of the project''s opponents seem to believe that poor people are indistinguishable from criminals. But the cry of "No more affordable housing!" begs the question: affordable to whom?

I had an amicable conversation with a project opponent at an candidates' training sponsored by Arise. He said that Longhill Gardens would be designed for people who make 60% of the median income, as if that was a terrible thing. I asked him what that was and he said it was about $20,000. Well, I'm an intelligent person and I've worked all my life but I'm not college-educated and the work I do tends not to be valued very much. For all but three years of my working life, I qualify to live in Longhill Gardens.

So here we are, 24 years after Arise was founded, with homeless families in motels, unaffordable rents, and streets so riddled with boarded and abandoned houses they look like the site of a natural disaster.

A federal law that gives tenants in foreclosed properties some rights was just passed this May, and we're getting ready to do door to door with information because not knowing you have a right is the same as not having it. We learned that one a long time ago.

Although (because?) Arise is primarily an organization that organizes, we also do a lot of advocating. It's time to bring the people we advocate with plus our members together so there's a vehicle to spread information about people's rights. What are the other issues people will bring to the table? I have a pretty good idea, but we'll find out.

There's strength in numbers and it's time to form a citywide tenants organization.

Join us on Wednesday, June 24, from 6 pm to 8 pm, at 467 State St., Springfield, for the first meeting.

Graphic by Eric Drooker.

Emails from Ellen in Egypt

In chronological order, here's what we've heard so far from Ellen:

Date: Thursday, June 4, 2009, 6:31 PM

Please forgive this "mass mailing," but I wanted each and all of you to hear our news.Report #1, Cairo, after landing, getting our affidavits, riiding the bus to & from the pyramids, a quick visit to the Egyptian Museum and almost figuring out the cell phone, etc. in weather that was over 100 degrees yesterday! 6/4... TODAY! After 2 CUPS of Egyptian coffee, Paki and I hooked up with Medea Benjamin and other CP ers to go to the Embassy to deliver Yussef's letter from Hamas to Obama. The place was in high intensity mode! TOP SECURITY!!! We then helped form the group of about 12 code pink members and friends who held banners and chanted, "No money for Israeli war crimes," and "Justice for Gaza" at the University of Cairo today. President Obama's motorcade drove past the protesters who stood for 5 hours in the Egyptian's midday sun. The crowd listened as we chanted and Medea Benjamin reported on her recent time in Gaza, from where she returned yeaterday..

Our protest was to remind President Obama to do what he can diplomatically to stop the suffering in Gaza. This includes cutting the funding to Israel for weapons which it uses in violation of International Law and to support justice for the Palestinian people.
The Egyptian and U.S. security was very much in evidence. There was intimidation of Egyptian activists who initially stood with us. They were not detained but certainly, they were not afforded the privilege of the 1st Amendment we exercise. I spoke with one woman this evening who expressed deepest appreciation for our presence (I thank you for your helping make this possible). The Egyptian authorities were initially heavy handed, but they backed down, allowing us to gather at the main entrance to Cairo University. It seems the President consequently entered through another entrance. Perhaps in keeping with the good will engendered by President Obama's visit, after about 4 hours in the midday sun the Egyptian authorities brought us water, juice and cookies. This sustained us to continue our protest as the crowds filed out of the hall following the speech. They seemed both bouyed by the visit of our President and supportive of our cries for just peace.
Tomorow we plan to leave for the border.
Love and Hugs to all .. Ellen

June 7 - Hi I am now in a little town called La laresch (in english).. but everything is in Arabic here as it was in Cairo..we are with in 10 miles of the border waiting for others to join us, before going tomorrow for our first try to cross..There are Chistian from Lisbon, Jock who is French, David from Italy Omar and Micheal fom England, Don from Ohio and Paki and I and we are being join by 10 others tomorrow from New Orleans... Many others are due in I hope inthe next 2 that point we go.. Before we left Cairo Paki, Chistian and I had a wonderful 4 hour conversation with Nada... One of the leaders of the Kaferfa Student Organization.. She was with us at the University until the the government security made her leave and tried to arrest her.. The conversation was about everything.. which I will share when I get back.. The police in this little town are always with us and watching.

Later in day the day.....
I am using a computer at a net shop!! and the letters are all in Arabic!!(painted over the English) so anyway the place we stayed last night was too expensive,, There were police sitting in the lobby and standing around the desk .. We moved to some rooms in a house (friends of Nada) The
police asked the taxi driver where we had gone.. and now the police are sitting in the drive way..So for their safety we are moving back... I have been unable to get on the blog because it is Arabic.. But will try again,, Peace and Hugs... Ellen.

A part of the Struggle.

Native American/Indigenous issues get very little airtime, especially in Western Mass. I'm not sure why this is but it is. Native issues are as much a part of the social/economic justice struggle as anything else is.
I have been following "Six Nations" fight to prevent Officers of the Canada Border Services Agency from carrying guns at the Cornwall crossing. This boarder crossing is on sovereign Mohawk land. If Canada wants to arm CBSA then they should do it in their own country.

picture from

Here is a bit of an article by Kaheninetha Horn editor MNN Mohawk Nation News, clan mother, grandmother, mother and activist.........


MNN. June 2 2009. In the US everyone needs guns. Canadians don’t need guns to protect themselves, yet! It is still different enough. Canadian society went hard against anyone that used guns in a crime. In the US if someone burglarizes, the home owner can shoot and kill them. In Canada guns can only be used in self defense. They always thought they could work things out.

Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, has taken on the US attitude where most enforcement agencies need guns to deal with criminals or the public, who will also need guns to protect themselves from the police. There are countless super violent standoffs in the US. This is being invited into Canada by Harper.

Harper wants to appear more masculine so that he is no longer just a sidekick of the US. To be the dominant party, he has to be as big and tough as Obama or Bush. He needs a macho image to compete with them. He needs a gun! Harper wants all enforcement agents to have guns. This idea is already expressed in many recent government legislation.
A truck driver in the US needs a gun to protect himself from being hijacked or killed. They used to get arrested when they crossed the border into Canada for carrying guns. They had to leave them behind. In Canada they still should feel safe. Things haven’t changed. It will always be a safe place even though Harper wants to change it.

What is the problem? It’s penis envy. In the minds of many men a gun is a phallic symbol which is a sign of masculinity and virility. This is untrue. If you get into a fight to defend yourself without guns, it requires a bigger person.

You can read the rest at: