[Marxism] IWW Protest in North Providence urges Justice

Greg McDonald sabocat59 at mac.com
Tue Aug 28 10:28:19 MDT 2007

Protesters urge 'justice'
By Mark Arsenault and Lynn Arditi

August 28, 2007

NORTH PROVIDENCE — Clenched fists raised, close to 200 protesters  
yesterday denounced the North Providence police and demanded  
"justice" for a protester seriously injured two weeks ago while  
demonstrating at an Asian restaurant on Mineral Spring Avenue.

"There's no labor picket line that should be attacked," shouted the  
star speaker, Billy Randel, an Industrial Workers of the World  
organizer from New York City. To the police officers keeping watch on  
the protest, Randel yelled: "Maybe you should get a little more  
training. Maybe you should join the IWW."

Local IWW members organized yesterday's protest to speak out against  
the police response to the protest two weeks ago, during which 22- 
year-old Alexandra Svoboda suffered a serious knee injury when  
arrested by the North Providence police. She had been part of a  
protest march down Mineral Spring Avenue toward a planned  
demonstration at Jacky's Galaxie restaurant. The IWW says Jacky's was  
targeted because the restaurant had done business with a New York  
vendor that is accused of abusing workers with low wages and long hours.

There's no doubt Svoboda, a Nebraska native and student at the  
University of Rhode Island who lives in Providence, suffered a  
serious injury — her parents say she has already undergone four  

How she was hurt is in dispute.

The protesters claim Svoboda is the victim of police brutality, and  
was jumped by the police merely because she was in the front of the  
march. Local IWW organizer Mark Bray, 29, of Providence, said  
yesterday that Svoboda was hurt when two police officers "grabbed  
her, one on either side" and one officer performed a "judo-like move"  
in which he "used his leg, swung it around her leg, and hurled her  
forward" onto the ground.

"It was a trip move similar to what you see, I imagine, in certain  
martial-arts training or police training," Bray said, in an interview  
after the protest. "Her knee had no place to go behind her leg." The  
officer then "kneeled down to cuff her and even put weight on her  
leg," Bray said, adding, "we have photos," which have not yet been  
released publicly.

The police claim Svoboda pushed an officer, swung a set of drumsticks  
at other officers when they tried to arrest her, then was hurt when  
demonstrators tried to pull her away from the police and the officers  
took her "down to the ground" out of concern for their own safety.  
Deputy Police Chief Paul Marino and Mayor Charles Lombardi have said  
they don't believe officers did anything wrong.

The office of Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch is conducting a  
review into how Svoboda was hurt.

Yesterday's demonstration, on a humid afternoon under occasional  
light sprinkles in the parking lot of North Providence High School,  
was noisy but orderly.

Randel, a 55-year-old truck driver and union representative from  
Queens, made the trip from New York with several other IWW  
organizers. He has light eyes and shaggy gray sideburns that nearly  
touch at the tip of his chin. He wore pressed jeans, work gloves and  
a blue bandana over his head.

"Raise the fist of the worker in the air and let Alex know that she  
is going to get justice," Randel shouted. ". . . The IWW will not  
back down. Justice will be won."

Four North Providence police officers and at least two state troopers  
watched the protest from the perimeter.

Jason Tompkins, 28, of Providence, who said he was with Svoboda at  
the time she was injured, read from a statement by Svoboda's parents,  
whom he said were participating in a similar protest yesterday in  
their hometown in Nebraska, which drew 150 people to the state  
capitol building in Lincoln.

The letter states that their daughter had undergone four trips to the  
operating room in seven days and still has not begun orthopedic  
reconstruction of her knee ligaments. "We've yet to hear of any  
athlete whose knee ligaments were torn with such violent force," he  
said, reading from the statement, "as to sever the main artery to the  
lower leg and necessitate a bypass operation to save the leg."

Svoboda's parents said that their daughter was protesting "a New York  
City restaurant supplier that paid workers only $4.95 per hour with  
no overtime." Her protest was not surprising, her parents wrote,  
because their daughter "has always had a big heart and followed her  
convictions with actions."

Svoboda was home from the hospital yesterday, recovering. She did not  
attend the protest.

The protesters yesterday included representatives from Rhode Island  
Jobs for Justice, the coalition of which the IWW is a member; DARE;  
Council 94 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal  
Employees; Students for a Democratic Society, the Olneyville  
Neighborhood Association and AS220.

"We're all supporting Alex," said Donna Schmader, 56, of Warwick, who  
joined the protest with other members of the Westminster Unitarian  
Universalist Church in East Greenwich. "We don't believe this can  
happen accidentally."

Among the protesters was Eliezer Maca, an unemployed warehouse worker  
from New York who said he lost his job after he began organizing  
coworkers for the IWW. Maca, 29, a native of Mexico, said through an  
interpreter that he now supports his wife and four children on $400 a  

One of the speakers, Senia Barragan, likened Svoboda to a martyr, who  
was targeted because she was "in the front."

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