Thomas Nelson

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Thomas Nelson

Response to 9/11

A Portland-area peace coalition that formed officially in mid-August 2001, to augment existing programs to support justice for the Palestinians suddenly doubled its membership on the day of terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, DC and Pennsylvania that killed untold thousands. Over 100 people representing diverse progressive organizations in the Portland metropolitan area turned out on the evening of Sept. 11 for an emergency meeting to share their grief over the tragedies at the World Trade Center and Pentagon and to coordinate actions in response to immediate threats of retaliation targeting the local Arab-American population.

The meeting, held at Portland State University’s (PSU) Campus Ministries and initiated by Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights (AUPHR), also included members of Women in Black, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Friends of Sabeel North America, the Pacific Green Party, Arabs for Building Community, Iraq Affinity Group, Peace and Justice Works, the National Lawyers Guild, Northwest Veterans for Peace, Freedom Socialist Party, and Metropolitan Human Rights.

Portland attorney Thomas Nelson facilitated the large gathering. A member of AUPHR and the National Lawyers Guild, Nelson recently returned from Jerusalem, where, along with other Americans in association with the International Solidarity Movement to Free Palestine, he participated in non-violent protests outside Orient House and was among those attacked by Israeli forces on horseback swinging billy clubs.

The goal of the meeting, Nelson explained, was to hear three lawyers speak on issues of civil rights for the benefit of groups and individuals who might be targeted for harassment, and to devise a unified plan of action to respond to government threats of military retaliation.

“Every time there’s a crisis the lamp gets brighter,” began lawyer and Guild member Allen Graf, referring to a Hebrew scripture which implies an opportunity to evolve. Graf said a high level of belligerent patriotism and jingoism could be expected as a result of the attack. “ state is going to tighten up,” he said, “and Arabs and Palestinians especially are going to get targeted.”

Graf asked for volunteer legal observers to sign up to monitor upcoming peace marches. Attorney Steve Sherlag explained the importance of remembering and writing down details of police mistreatment, and urged Arab Americans to defend themselves by knowing their rights.

Fellow AUPHR and Guild member Steve Goldberg discussed discrimination against Arab Americans and offered copies of federal and state employment law. It is critical, he explained, for everyone “to stand up for people who are being discriminated against.”

Dave Mazza, editor of the alternative weekly newspaper The Portland Alliance, called for participation in a Sept. 26 hearing at Portland’s City Hall to discuss renewal of the Portland Joint Terrorism Task Force. The task force was approved by the City Council in November 2000 to investigate criminal terrorist activity. According to the web site of the local police watchdog group CopWatch, however, the ordinance lacks clear language defining “criminal activity,” could allow for the targeting of legitimate political activity, and contains implications for the federalization of the police.

Several Palestinians present voiced their concerns over their personal safety. One suggested a meeting with Portland Police Chief Mark Kroeker, who had been invited to the meeting but was attending a simultaneous meeting of the Muslim Educational Trust. Another mentioned a phone call from a friend in Los Angeles whose mosque had received over 200 telephone threats. Mazen Malik, an economist and an activist working in the Palestine Arab-American Association, Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights and Friends of Sabeel, said that he was very worried about Arab children, including his own 8- and 10-year olds, who need the protection of local officials, the media, school administrators and teachers. Malik, whose family is from Nablus, asked for immediate concentration on these concerns, stating, “There are people fanning the flames of genocide and talking about lynching someone. We feel vulnerable and targeted,” he added.[1]

Open Letter to Obama on Iran

In 2008 Thomas Nelson an Attorney at Law, Welches, OR signed an online petition “A Open Letter to Barack Obama on Iran”.[2]

"Support Bill Ayers"

In October 2008, several thousand college professors, students and academic staff signed a statement Support Bill Ayers in solidarity with former Weather Underground Organization terrorist Bill Ayers.

In the run up to the U.S. presidential elections, Ayers had come under considerable media scrutiny, sparked by his relationship to presidential candidate Barack Obama.

We write to support our colleague Professor William Ayers, Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who is currently under determined and sustained political attack...
We, the undersigned, stand on the side of education as an enterprise devoted to human inquiry, enlightenment, and liberation. We oppose the demonization of Professor William Ayers.

Thomas Nelson of the University of the Pacific signed the statement.[3]

Public Facebook group


Eugene Democratic Socialists of America public Facebook group, accessed March 31, 2017;