The Militant (logo) 
   Vol.65/No.42            November 5, 2001 
Miami mayor protests, but socialist speaks out
MIAMI--Despite demands by one mayoral hopeful that Socialist Workers Party candidate Michael Italie be prevented from stating his opposition to the imperialists' war against Afghanistan during a public forum, Italie refused to back down and received applause for a number of his statements in defense of working people.

The October 13 candidates forum included nine of the 10 people running for mayor, and was held at the Haitian Youth Community Center. The race for mayor includes the incumbent Joe Carollo, former mayors Maurice Ferre and Xavier Suarez, Libertarian Party member Emiliano Antunez, and two former lawyers for the Miami relatives of Elian González, Manny Diaz and Jose Garcia-Pedrosa, who sought to prevent the return of the boy to Cuba.

In his opening remarks Italie spoke out against the war the Bush administration has begun against the people of Afghanistan. "It is the U.S. government and its allies that are the source of violence and terror--from the dropping of the atomic bomb on the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to the use of napalm and other chemical weapons in Vietnam, to the killing of more than 150,000 people in Iraq 10 years ago," he said.

"Bush is using the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as a pretext both for going to war on Afghanistan and to further restrict workers rights in the United States," Italie said. "Examples of this include proposals for a national identity card and Attorney General John Ashcroft's moves to grant the government the power to arrest and jail immigrants without charges indefinitely. My campaign is for all those who want to fight the U.S. war in Afghanistan, build the union movement, and protest brutality."

Upon hearing these remarks, Miami mayor Joe Carollo took the microphone out of turn to call for the silencing of Italie's views. "I want to know if these kind of antigovernment statements will be allowed," Carollo asked the event moderator, "because I will not stay at a meeting that accepts this at a time when 6,000 people have been killed by terrorists and we should only be discussing issues concerning Miami." A number of people in the audience of 75 applauded in agreement with Carollo's demand.

The moderator of the program responded that while the candidates were asked to introduce themselves in their opening remarks, they could use their time however they wished. Again Carollo got up and threatened to leave the event if anyone were allowed to speak out against the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. The moderator restated his decision to allow candidates to use their speaking time as they wished. Realizing that his efforts to shut down opposing political views had failed, Carollo sat down and remained at the program. Later in the event candidates Maurice Ferre and Jose Garcia-Pedrosa stated that they disagreed with Carollo's attempt to silence the socialist candidate.

In the discussion period Italie pointed out that working people in Miami "should make our voices heard, and we must discuss the war and all issues that have such a tremendous impact on our lives."

In spite of the attack on Italie by the mayor of the city, the audience applauded several political points made by the socialist candidate. This began when Italie opened his remarks by stating that he is a machine operator at a sewing plant in Miami, and several people loudly applauded the fact that he is the only worker running for mayor. Many applauded again when Italie responded to a question about prisons in Miami by stating that "people with felony convictions must be allowed to vote. In the state of Florida thousands are unjustly denied the right to vote in this way. This outrageous attack on democratic rights falls most heavily on working people, and in particular on workers who are Black."

Several participants asked about ending poverty in the Little Haiti section of Miami. While the other candidates talked about working with businesses on "development," Italie explained that he would "turn City Hall into an organizing center for the labor movement in order to organize unions and advance the wages and conditions on the job. We would fight for a federally-funded public works program to build schools, hospitals, parks, libraries, and other necessary infrastructure." It was Italie's call for a "sharply increased minimum wage" that again drew applause from many in the audience, including among several who had shown disagreement with his views on the war in Afghanistan.

A public school teacher took the microphone to thank the socialist candidate for "so clearly stating his views tonight. If Carollo had gotten his way it makes me think of what it must be like under fascism or Nazism." When the program ended he left with Italie to attend the grand opening of the socialist campaign headquarters and Pathfinder bookstore, which are located just down the street from the Haitian community center.
Related article:
Miami socialist candidate fights political firing at garment shop  
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