by Cindy Hanford

NOW Activists and chapters pledged more than $30,000 to NOW/PAC during NOW's 30th Anniversary Conference.  Pictured are activists who each gave $1,000.

Activists in Chicago and San Diego staged major protests surrounding the two political conventions held in their cities over the summer. And activists also were on alert due to threats to clinic safety during the conventions.

San Diego NOW joined in eight different events on a wide range of issues -- affirmative action, reproductive freedom, lesbian and gay rights and the gender gap. The chapter organized a major rally and march on abortion rights and a gender gap speakout.

Illinois NOW and chapters from all over the Midwest addressed a host of our issues in a rally held between the two conventions. It was designed to send a message to conservative elements in both political parties.

Willamette Valley (Ore.) NOW

Activists formed a new NOW chapter in Willamette Valley, Ore., to counter the increase of radical right extremist activity in the area. The day after its first meeting the new chapter embraced NOW's action agenda by protesting outside an event held by the Oregon Citizens Alliance (OCA), the group responsible for placing anti-gay rights initiatives on local and statewide ballots.

The event featured as speakers Lon Mabon, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate and founder of OCA, and presidential candidate Alan Keyes, a former U.N. deputy administrator in the Reagan administration and an outspoken critic of affirmative action. About 20 members of the new chapter carried signs and shouted slogans, such as "Lon, be gone" and "OCA Go Away." Michelle Howard, one of the chapter's organizers, told local press that "Keyes and Mabon ... and the rest of the radical extremists would like to roll back 50 years of progress in this country. We will not allow their platform to deny women the choices that make our families and communities strong."

Northwest Hillsborough NOW

The Northwest Hillsborough (Fla.) NOW chapter has called for the resignation of Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Peter Taylor, who has made numerous sex-biased rulings. In May, Taylor granted custody of two sons and a daughter to their abusive father living in California, even after California authorities substantiated the evidence of abuse.

Taylor also ordered the mother, Michelle Dudek, to pay $450 per month in child support because she was pregnant and living with another man. Taylor said her sons would especially benefit from living with their father.

Just five months earlier Taylor sparked controversy when he jailed a woman who cried in the courtroom after he rejected her request for a restraining order against her ex-husband, whom she had accused of rape. In this case, a judicial qualifications committee filed charges against Taylor, but subsequently found no reason to remove him from the bench.

NW Hillsborough NOW President Margaret Zeller, widely quoted in the press, said "Judge Taylor's continued presence on the bench threatens the rights, health and lives of women and children." Zeller has received calls from women across the country with similar stories about disastrous decisions made by judges.

The chapter organized a June 5 speak-out for women with problems in family courts. The chapter also established a fund to help Dudek pay legal costs. Contributions can be sent to the Michelle Dudek Contribution Fund in care of Zeller, 14740 Lake Magdalene Circle, Tampa, FL 33613.

Macomb County NOW

Macomb County (Mich.) NOW and the Macomb County NAACP helped organize a celebration of Juneteenth Day (June 15th). Juneteenth Day is a traditional African American holiday celebrated on the approximate day slaves in the South realized they were free.

The event involved a rally and a walk, and walk participants received a T-shirt emblazoned with the NOW and NAACP logos. Organizers sold refreshments, and information tables and free entertainment were provided. Local politicians also joined in the celebration.

Cincinnati NOW

On April 13, the Cincinnati NOW chapter organized a picket of the annual convention of Human Life International, a radical anti-abortion organization. More than 150 persons from many diverse groups joined in the protest. The groups also bought a full-page ad in the Cincinnati Inquirer that displayed a sampling of anti-Semitic, anti-lesbian/gay, anti-Muslim and anti-woman statements by HLI leaders. Local media covered the picket.

The Cincinnati chapter conducted a public speak-out May 21 and produced a flier about the local domestic relations court, drawing attention to the ways women and children who survive abuse are further victimized by poor custody decisions.

Southwest Indiana NOW

Chapter members and other reproductive rights supporters celebrated three victories in Indiana's primaries, according to Southwest Indiana NOW President Harriett Kimmel.

Democrat Jonathan Weinzapfel won his party's primary and faces Republican incumbent Congressman John Hostettler. "We've had a couple of actions a month since last December against Hostettler, and we think he's vulnerable," Kimmel said.

In a hotly contested, three-way race in the Indiana Democratic primary to fill the seat vacated by retiring State Rep. Jeff Hays, pro-choice Brian Hasler narrowly won. Kimmell said Hasler faces no serious Republican opposition this fall.

"But the really big news is Republican State Rep. Vaneta Becker's win in District 78," Kimmel said. Becker is a long-time women's and reproductive rights legislator, she said.

San Fernando Valley/Northeast Los Angeles NOW

Garment industry workers, the San Fernando Valley/Northeast Los Angeles NOW chapter and its allies called on officials of Robinsons/May department stores to end purchases of garments produced under sweatshop conditions. Demonstrators protested May 29 to draw attention to the downward trend of wages and working conditions in the garment industry that encourage sweatshop operations.

"So-called `slave camp' operations like the one exposed in El Monte (Calif.) in which 72 Thai workers were kept behind barbed wire and in concentration camp conditions are becoming a prevalent feature in the garment industry," said NOW chapter president Jean Morrison. Workers at two factories owned by the same people who ran the El Monte operation were reportedly working under similar conditions, she said.

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