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Birmingham protest:

"Who is a terrorist? Drummond is a terrorist!"

by Jim Toweill |
July 16, 2007
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People with protest signs
Alabama protest slams Drummond corporation for backing Colombia's death squads. (Fight Back! News)
Protesters with signs
Sign: Drummond + US Fund Death Squads
Alabama protest slams Drummond corporation for backing Colombia's death squads. (Fight Back! News)
Alabama protest slams Drummond corporation for backing Colombia's death squads. (Fight Back! News)

Birmingham, AL - "Who is a terrorist? Drummond is a terrorist!" rang through downtown here, July 9 as members of Students for a Democratic Society at Tuscaloosa and Birmingham peace activists marched towards the Federal Courthouse to demand justice for the three Colombian trade unionists murdered in 2001 and 2002.

Drummond, an Alabama-based coal company, is being charged with arranging the murders to halt unionizing efforts in its La Loma plant in Northern Colombia. Initially the corporation faced both wrongful death and war crimes charges, but the former charge was thrown out by Bush-appointed judge Karon Bowdre.

"The political atmosphere that has been perpetuated by Drummond's actions is despicable. The people of the USA need to realize the damage, terrorism and murder that American companies are doing in Colombia,” said protester Christine Jackson.

While jury selection was taking place inside the courthouse, protesters picketing in the hot sun held signs demanding justice for Colombia. SDS-Tuscaloosa, which organized the event, made sure to stress to onlookers and passersby that Drummond's involvement in the murders is not the case of ‘one bad apple,’ but is indicative of the attitude of many U.S. corporations operating without impunity in Colombia and around the world.

"The people in Colombia become targets for violence when they resist the U.S.'s so called free-trade agreements that impoverish their country and hand over their wealth and resources to U.S. multinationals like Drummond," said Chapin Gray, a student activist with SDS. "Jobs were exported from the southern U.S. to Colombia so that the company could pay the workers dollars a day, ignore safety and environmental concerns and reap enormous profits at the expense of the people. When workers try to organize to improve their situation, they are threatened, kidnapped and even tortured and murdered."

The protesters also stressed the role of the U.S. government in perpetrating the violence: the U.S. gives billions of dollars in aid to Colombia that ends up in the hands of right-wing paramilitary death squads. These death squads do the dirty work for Colombia’s President Uribe administration and the big corporations. Colombia has one of the worst human rights records in the world, yet the U.S. continually pumps in money, paying for weapons, for fumigation, for murder. Moreover, the U.S. has soldiers on the ground in Colombia, who are there to protect the economic interests of oil companies and other corporations. Just as it invaded Iraq to promote its own economic dominance, the U.S. is after the rich resources of Colombia and doesn't care how much destruction and death it creates so long as companies rake in high profits.

So far this case is also evidence that the judicial system is in the hands of pro-corporate forces. Judge Bowdre has already dismissed eyewitnesses prepared to testify about the crimes in Colombia and is making it difficult to obtain a conviction against Drummond. The protesters hope that bringing attention to this trial will put public pressure on Drummond and force the judge to carry out justice. They also hope to alert people to the vicious crimes being committed by U.S. corporations and its foreign policy. "We are prepared to continue putting pressure on Drummond and the U.S. courts," said Gray. "We are not going to let these big corporations literally get away with murder."