On July 31, local coalitions organized car caravans and other actions demanding an end to Washington’s economic war against Cuba. The activities took place in a number of U.S. cities, as well as other countries. Organizers of these actions in Miami, New York, and Los Angeles sent World-Outlook the three reports that follow.
By Pete Seidman
For the 25th consecutive month, the July 31 Miami caravan was a triumph in the struggle against the U.S. blockade of Cuba. Some 130 people assembled in Coral Gables prior to deploying about 50 vehicles on streets, leading to a closing rally at the Miami International Airport. They included participants in the Pastors for Peace and Venceremos Brigade trips to Cuba who stayed over in Miami to join us.
We far outnumbered the 60 or so screaming, rabid supporters of the blockade whose leaders had threatened to physically attack our peaceful, legal assembly, as they had done in previous months. As during earlier caravans, numerous participants reported that these threats only made them feel more committed to attend.
For the first time, Coral Gables police officers used yellow tape to create a neutral zone between the two demonstrations, keeping us, as we had long requested, far apart on opposite sides of the wide Ponce de Leon Boulevard.
Wearing yellow vests, the caravan’s volunteer marshals — Guardianes de la Paz — formed an impressive wall along the sidewalk, making clear the discipline of our group and our refusal to be provoked. Also present were two legal observers, volunteers from the National Lawyers Guild.
In contrast, at one point, police officers waded into the increasingly unruly rightist crowd after one of them set fire to a flag of Cuba’s July 26 movement. When the cops arrested one of the rightists, others in the crowd surged against the officers. This led to the arrest of another rightist by the police. Soon 18 police vehicles, lights flashing, were on the scene!
The actions by the Coral Gables Police Department in protecting our right to demonstrate, in a city whose mayor has called us violent communists, is a tribute to the careful work of caravan organizers in seeking permits and campaigning politically to win respect for our right to free speech.
The rightists — whom Puentes de Amor (Bridges of Love) national leader Carlos Lazo calls “haters” — tried to drown out our event with expensive sound systems. Despite their efforts, however, we were able to conduct an inspiring rally. The event featured Carlos Lazo, who again flew to Miami to support our action; representatives from Pastors for Peace and the Venceremos Brigade; Max Lesnik from Alianza Martiana; YouTube personalities El Capitán Rodríguez and Liber Barrueta; Haitian community activist Paul Namphy; and others.
Participation by many more young people from Miami than ever before marked the rally. A committee of youth had organized a social event the previous evening to build participation in the caravan. The first part was an educational forum that some 20 young people attended, featuring Belly of the Beast videos about the impact of the blockade on Cuba and its people.
The frustration of the rightists, stoked by the police arrests, boiled over once again during the caravan itself. For the first time, they staged significant attacks against us while we were driving on public streets. They accosted moving vehicles, even getting out of their cars to threaten us. One of their vehicles drove into our line and stopped, seeking to block traffic on Calle Ocho, a major street through Little Havana. Another rightist knocked over one of the caravan bicycle riders.
Just west of the Versailles Restaurant, a group of rightists on the sidewalk attacked caravan vehicles as they drove by. They used a key to scratch the paint on my car, for example, while also breaking off the Cuban flag attached to my window and ripping off a vinyl sign on my passenger side door. I was by no means alone!
One of the rightists held up a gun as he drove past a vehicle that a central leader of the caravan drove.
The rightists also illegally sought to enter our closing rally at the Miami International Airport (MIA) as well as use their super-sound weapons to drown us out from an adjacent roadway. MIA police quickly put a stop to this.
As the rally wound down, recently returned visitors from Cuba were able to make their way to homebound flights. Miami caravan activists had worked very hard to arrange housing and transportation to facilitate their participation in our event. We hope that what they saw will inspire even more caravans around the country in months to come!
Two days after the caravan, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio announced a major escalation of attacks by politicians against us. Rubio called on the FBI to investigate Puentes de Amor, the Caravan, and Pastors for Peace as violators of the Foreign Agent Registration Act. The Miami Herald gave prominent coverage to Rubio’s demands. Miami’s main daily felt compelled to take note of the caravan movement and Puentes de Amor for the first time.
Subsequently, the Miami Herald also covered Carlo Lazo’s response to Senator Rubio’s smears.
It would seem that Rubio is coming to realize that the local rightist thugs who have been counter protesting our actions for more than a year have not succeeded in intimidating or silencing our movement. The U.S. Senator has thus elevated the campaign against our movement to trying to enlist the government’s political police against us.
The caravan will be meeting soon to discuss our response.
I can assure you, however, that the August 28 caravan will be another powerful action!
Rubio’s attack tries to portray our movement as agents of a foreign power. But what Rubio fears is that we are actually champions of the grassroots voices of thousands in Little Havana, Hialeah, and elsewhere, who are, in numbers greater than ever, taking action to oppose the U.S. blockade against Cuba.
NEW YORK CITY
By Barbara Mutnick
July 31, 2022 — The NY/NJ Cuba Sí Coalition held our monthly action here today demanding an end to the U.S. blockade of Cuba. We organized the action in solidarity with the Bridges of Love campaign led by Cuban American Carlos Lazo.
This time, right-wing Cubans announced they would counter demonstrate against us — at the José Martí statue on the south end of Central Park. “This Sunday,” they said in a Facebook post, “we will be facing the communist ratera from New York associated with ‘bridges of love’ and the major ratero Carlos Lazo.”
The Cuba Sí Coalition sounded an alert to all member groups about the right-wingers’ plans. A positive response resulted with many members of these groups swelling our ranks — Casa de las Americas, Common Action for Puerto Rico, December 12th Movement, Party for Socialism and Liberation, Socialist Unity Party, Socialist Workers Party, Venceremos Brigade, Workers World, Young Communist League, and others. The action was tense because of the right-wing assault, but there was a strong feeling of solidarity among the Cuba solidarity activists knowing that the organized left in NYC had united.
Speakers included: Ike Nahem, Yhamir Chabur, and Jason Corley from Cuba Sí; Marty Goodman, Socialist Action; Steve Clark, Socialist Workers Party; Larry Holmes, Workers World; and Justine Medina, Young Communist League.
Not only was the situation heated, but it was also a brutally hot July day. Our demonstration was situated near the Martí statue, on the sunny side of the small street at the edge of Central Park. The small group of right-wing Cubans occupied the shady side of the street.
We far outnumbered them — 70 to about 6. But they were aggressive. One individual in particular, Candido Morales, darted across the street to where we were demonstrating. He tore up a sign and hit two people in our demonstration. He tried to do this another time.
The police, who were informed of the presence of the right wingers and their threats, did little to stop their provocations. But those who answered the call from an array of organizations, along with a good number of independent activists, cooperated to keep demonstrators together and safe. Informal follow-up discussions after Sunday’s rally have focused on how to strengthen the defense of our right to demonstrate and to take measures against what Carlos Lazo calls “the haters,” those who attacked our legal and peaceful action.
Participants, many of whom support the Cuban Revolution, were united in defense of the right to free speech, and our demand to end the criminal U.S. blockade against Cuba.
LOS ANGELES, California
By Brenda Lopez and Mark Friedman
Building on a successful meeting with Cuban American Carlos Lazo to raise money for medical aid for Cuba (see “LA Medical Aid for Cuba Meeting Draws Diverse Crowd”), the LA Hands Off Cuba Committee joined the July 31 international caravans to end the U.S. blockade of Cuba.
The car caravan traveled through East LA’s Latinx community. It ended with a picnic at Ruben Salazar Park, named after a Los Angeles Times reporter. Salazar died after being hit by tear gas canisters the police fired against demonstrators during the Chicano Moratorium March against the Vietnam War on August 29, 1970, in East Los Angeles.
The caravan received major TV coverage on Spanish-language Univision — which was picked up nationally by Telemundo — and ABC Channel 7. It included an interview with committee leader Brenda Lopez.
ABC TV Channel 7 coverage
Categories: Cuba/Cuba Solidarity