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SURGE Hosts Global Issues Conference

The third annual Glocal Awareness Conference included 53 workshops focused on global issues.

The conference aimed to educate people on a variety of international issues by bringing them to a local level, which yielded the name of the conference, a combination of the words global and local.

The majority of the attendees were UNC students, but people came from various national and international locations, said Kate Witchger, a member of Students United for a Responsible Global Environment.

"We had people come from places like Washington, D.C., and Florida," Witchger said. "We also had about 40 people from other countries -- like Nigeria and Kenya -- register, but we couldn't get visas for all them."

Participants said the conference, which was organized by SURGE and cosponsored by 10 campus organizations and nine academic departments, was in line with SURGE's mission. "The mission of SURGE is to encourage positive social change through nonviolence," said SURGE member Tung Siu. "The conference was a way to educate others and network to achieve this goal."

During the course of the weekend, the conference sponsored 53 workshops highlighting an array of global issues, including political prisoners, vegetarianism, racial profiling and genetic manipulation.

One workshop topic was the case of Lori Berenson, a political prisoner in Peru. At a Friday press conference and a Saturday workshop, Berenson's father, Mark, spoke about what he said was her wrongful imprisonment and unfair trial.

"She was in a cage on the first day of her trial (in Peru)," Berenson said. "She said to the judge, `I am innocent until proven guilty, how can I show that from a cage?'"

Berenson has been working with a solidarity group to gain his daughter's freedom.

The conference also supported a myriad of associated events, including two film festivals, a peace rally, political satire and musical performances, and it culminated with a social justice rally sponsored by the Farm Labor Organizing Committee.

The FLOC rally, which took place at McCorkle Place, featured a guitarist and four speakers who advocated local and global farmer's rights. The rally concluded with a march to the Harris Teeter in Carrboro, protesting Mount Olive Pickles because of the company's labor practices. "We are boycotting Mount Olive Pickles because two years of lobbying failed to bring them to the negotiating table," said N.C. boycott organizer Nick Wood.

Other attendees said they wanted to learn more about global issues and tell others about them, which was SURGE's primary objective. "There is so much going on in the world that I don't like and don't agree with," said freshman Katie Rainwater. "I want to talk to people about (the issues) because a lot of people don't know what's going on in the world."

Brett Garamella contributed

to this article.

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