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Chinese And Hispanic Demonstrators Call For Health Care Coverage

By World Journal
June 6, 2002

Nearly two thousand Chinese and Hispanic immigrants protested in front of the U. S Courthouse on June 5, demanding that the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) provide medical coverage for residents in Chinatown and the Lower East Side, and that they conduct a study on air pollution caused by the World Trade Center site.

Led by a group of Chinese immigrants who suffered from the September 11 attacks, the demonstration was accompanied by Chinese drum-playing as marchers chanted "everybody needs medical care."

Hsu Chin-tsai, who runs a garment factory on Centre Street and north of Canal Street, said he and more than 20 of his workers did not work for the two weeks after September 11 and were barred from the area because they could not provide resident identifications. Their FEMA applications were turned down and they all have suffered from the toxic air in the area and have been coughing ever since. Taking two hours off from work, Hsu and his workers joined the protest calling on the government to provide medical coverage for the residents of Lower Manhattan.

More than 1,500 protestors gathered in front of Yung Wing Elementary School and marched along Division Street, Bowery, Worth, and turned onto Centre Street, arriving at Foley Square in front of the U. S. Courthouse.

The protest was organized by the Chinese Staff and Workers Association and National Mobilization Against Sweatshops (NMASS). Demonstrators listened to speeches in Cantonese, Fuchownese, English and Spanish attacking the government for not taking care of the residents in Chinatown and the Lower East Side.

Mike Andrade Lalan, an organizer from NMASS, said the toxic air from the World Trade Center site is still covering Lower Manhattan, affecting the health of more than 10,000 children and senior citizens. He attacked the government for covering up the effects of the toxic air and said that many of FEMA’s policies make it difficult for victims to obtain compensation.

According to Lalan, FEMA statistics showed that more than 30,000 people applied for federal aid but that only about 300 applicants receive aid every day. He added that much of the assistance provided is only temporary and is not enough for the thousands of people who lost their jobs. He called for medical coverage for those whose health was affected.

Many of the protestors are Chinese women who work for garment factories and have no medical care. Many of them said their health has been affected by the toxic air and hope that FEMA can provide appropriate medical coverage.

Chen, one of the protestors who works in a garment factory, took a day off to join the demonstration. She said it was her first time in a demonstration since she came to the United States. six years ago because the government has been negligent in taking care of the people affected by the September 11 attacks.

Echoing the Chinese signs saying "Everybody needs medical care" held by the Chinese protestors, the Hispanic protestors held English signs that read "Rebuild life, rebuild New York.". The demonstration lasted for about an hour and half, ending at 1:30 p.m. The whole process was emotional but it remained a peaceful protest.

Translated from Chinese by Larry Tung.

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