Dear Friends and Fellow Workers,
This August marks the one year anniversary of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) solidarity march in North Providence, RI. On Saturday August 11 of 2007, approximately 36 Rhode Island IWW members and supporters began a solidarity march organized on a local New England chain restaurant, Jackie's Galaxie. The Providence IWW accused Jackie's of openly and knowingly supporting the Queens, NY based HWH/Dragonland. a dry goods supplier notorious for its slave labor conditions of 100 hours per week, sub minimum wages and no overtime or benefits. Many of the workers there are undocumented immigrants and have few places to go for help when dealing with workplace problems. HWH/Dragonland workers had organized themselves under the "460/640" IWW campaign in New York City, but collective bargaining had been marred by lockouts and illegal activity by HWH bosses.
En route to the Jackie's Galaxie in North Providence, RI, the demonstrators were cordoned onto the sidewalk by the North Providence Police. North Providence Police officers then began to shove and manhandle the demonstrators. The situation escalated and came to a head when policemen went after Providence IWW member Alexandra Svoboda. Three officers arrested her simultaneously, causing the severe dislocation of her knee and sending Alex to the ground. Even though the policemen knew the obvious seriousness of the act they had just committed, one officer aggressively sat on and handcuffed Alex while others pepper sprayed another demonstrator and arrested Jason Friedmutter, also a Providence IWW member.
Shortly thereafter, Jason was taken to a North Providence police station and Alex was rushed to Rhode Island Hospital. Alex underwent emergency surgery the evening of the 11th to save her leg. Alex ultimately sustained a torn popliteal artery in her knee, a fractured tibia and fibia, multiple torn ligaments, and tears in both meniscus. The attack also damaged the nerves from her knee down. Doctors stated that if the surgery hadn't gone as well as it did, plans for amputation would have ensued.
Despite the police attack, the Providence IWW finished its march, confronting Jackie Kho, the owner of Jackie's Galaxie, face to face with several members of the press present. Victory came only a couple of weeks later when Jackie's Galaxie agreed to drop HWH/Dragonland for good. The widespread media coverage of the event and continued IWW organizing eventually brought four more restaurants to drop HWH as their supplier.
Alex spent two weeks in the hospital that August undergoing a total of four operations to replace her damaged artery and stabilize her knee. Since then, Alex has done hundreds of hours physical therapy, both at her therapists office and at home. Fortunately, Alex has had excellent health care that covers the bulk of her exorbitant medical expenses.
To add insult to injury, the city of North Providence brought charges against both Alex and Jason. Alex's original charges were three felony counts of assaulting an officer, one count of resisting arrest and one count of disorderly conduct. Alex's three felony charges have since been dropped to misdemeanors. Jason faces one count of obstruction of justice.
Alex and Jason's cases were going through pre trial in Rhode Island's District Court system, but the process stalled out and their cases have been moved to RI Superior Court for a more expedient trial. Due to the legal process, Alex must now undergo the humiliation of a criminal trial while having to endure and rehab her injuries. Alex's four operations and hospital stay cost over $100,000 (with at least two more operations scheduled to begin in the fall), her ongoing physical therapy has cost thousands, and Alex has not been able to work for more than ten months. It would not even be possible to quantify the hours and hours on end Alex has spent in pain, rehabilitation, undergoing painful medical procedures and enduring severe nerve pangs and muscle spasms.
However, Alex, a long time bicycle enthusiast, went for her first bike ride in nearly ten months recently and has made great progress, unrelentingly working towards full recovery. Alex also continues to organize for the rights of immigrant and marginalized workers alongside fellow Providence IWW and community members, her determination has only grown stronger.
This August 11th, 2008 will be one year since the incident in North Providence. This year we will send a message to the Police and City of North Providence as well as to the State of Rhode Island that:
- The city of North Providence should right the injustice done to Alexandra Svoboda and Jason Friedmutter
- All charges against Alexandra Svoboda and Jason Friedmutter should to be dropped and in full.
- The governing bodies and law enforcement of RI respect ALL people's rights to work, organize themselves and fight oppression, regardless of color, gender or legal status.
What you can do to help:
- Come to Providence, RI August 11th, 2008 and join the Providence IWW and its supporters in making our message heard.
- Send donations or organize a fundraiser; Alex and Jason need financial support for legal fees to fight these unjust charges.
- Write to the Police Chief of North Providence, Mayor of North Providence and the At tourney General of RI, let them know that you stand in firm solidarity with Alex and Jason and that our message must be heard.
- Organize with the IWW, organize in your community, in your workplace, in your home. Help others in their struggle and join those in your own struggle and we can create the new world in the shell of the old.
With Solidarity and Sincerest Thanks,
The Providence, RI General Membership Branch of the Industrial Workers of the World
Alexandra Svoboda and Jason Friedmutter
2. Supporting Alex and Jason
Alex, Jason and the Providence IWW branch greatly appreciate all the support we have received in the past from people and organizations around the world.
The first and largest priority of the Providence IWW is the physical and emotional well being of Alex. The ability of Alex to receive justice is contingent on Alex and Jason winning their cases. We must help them win.
Their cases are expected to go to trial the Fall/Winter of '08 or '09. Alex and Jason are going to need considerable financial help to win their cases.
Fortunately, Alex has medical coverage that has deferred the cost of the four operations she has had . However, Alex has not been able to work and has had to pay hundreds of dollars for medical equipment, painkillers and physical therapy treatments.
Alex and Jason are able to attend fundraising events in the North East region, and would be more than happy to send statements of thanks and solidarity for events they or other members of the Providence branch cannot attend.
The Providence IWW branch has three special $1, $5 and $10 IWW assessment stamps that IWW delegates can sell to IWW members and other supporters of Alex and Jason's legal defense fund.
This summer the Providence IWW and supporters will be hosting several fundraising events in Providence, RI. We will also be having a rally on Aug. 11 2008 and an outdoor celebration the day before (Aug. 10).
Any IWW members and all supporters of Alex and Jason interested in more information on the scheduling and details of these events can contact the branch at ProvidenceIWW@gmail.com or Jason @ 646-732-6319 or Alex @ 402-639-4171.
Included in this packet is a form letter addressed to city, police and state officials of RI. We want to build public support of the IWW and Alex and Jason in this case. Please take this appeal for support to your membership base and anyone who wants to help. The completed letters can be sent back to the Providence IWW branch for dispersal. Our mailing address is Providence IWW; P.O. Box 5795; Providence, RI 02903.
Thanks and much Solidarity,
The Providence, RI Branch of the Industrial Workers of the World
3. Letter of Solidarity
Ernest Spaziano NPPD Chief of Police
1967 Mineral Spring Avenue
North Providence, RI 02904
Phone: (401) 233-1433
Charles A. Lombardi
North Providence Mayor's Office
200 Smith St.
North Providence, RI 02911
Phone: (401) 232-0900, ext. 226
Patrick Lynch Office of the Attorney General, RI
150 S. Main St.
Providence, RI 02903
Phone: (401) 274-4400
Chief Spaziano, Mayor Lombardi, AG Lynch,
On August 11th 2007 during a peaceful union solidarity march organized by the Providence, RI branch of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), North Providence Police Officers arrested Alexandra Svoboda and Jason Friedmutter. The arrest resulted in the maiming of Ms. Svoboda's left leg. The tactics and actions of the North Providence Police resulted in multiple injuries to Ms. Svoboda's left knee: a torn popliteal artery in her knee, a fractured tibia and fibia, multiple torn ligaments, and tears in both meniscus, as well as damage to her nerves from her knee down. I stand in solidarity with the IWW's right to peaceably demonstrate and its assertion that both Alexandra Svoboda and Jason Friedmutter have suffered serious injustices.
I join the Providence IWW in its message:
The City of North Providence should right the wrongs and injustices done to Alexandra Svoboda and Jason Friedmutter.
All Charges Against Alexandra Svoboda and Jason Friedmutter should be dropped in full.