On the last weekend of August, local coalitions organized car caravans and other actions demanding an end to Washington’s economic war against Cuba. The activities took place in more than 20 cities across Canada and the United States, as well as other countries. Organizers of these actions in five Canadian and two U.S. cities sent World-Outlook the reports that follow.
By Pete Seidman
The August 28 Miami Caravan Against the U.S. Blockade of Cuba was a tremendous success. About 70 people in 40 vehicles proceeded without incident along Calle Ocho, a cultural and touristic center of Little Havana, on a route to Miami City Hall.
But the numbers really don’t tell the full significance of the day.
In the previous caravan, rightist hate-filled supporters of the blockade organized to disrupt our event and even physically attack us as we went through the public streets of Miami. A few days afterwards, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio publicly called for the FBI to investigate us for violations of the Foreign Agent Registration Act, an old rebaiting law going back to Washington’s efforts to suppress dissent at the onset of World War II.
We have taken both developments as a sign of the frustration among these rightists with their failure to maintain a grip on public opinion within Miami’s Cuban (and non-Cuban) communities. The damage done to Cuban families on both sides of the Florida Straits by the blockade, and the 243 additional sanctions imposed by the Trump administration and largely continued under Biden, has sparked growing opposition to the blockade within the Cuban community here.
The caravan has increasingly legitimized the demand to end the blockade as being in the best interests of the Cuban family.
So, we integrated the fight to defend our democratic rights and prevent violence from the increasingly frustrated supporters of the blockade into the work of building the August 28 caravan.
This included organizing an August 13 news conference where Carlos Lazo denounced the threats by Rubio against himself, Puentes de Amor, the caravan, and other groups — including Pastors for Peace, Code Pink, and the Alianza Martiana — being smeared as foreign agents in the pages of the Miami Herald. (See “Puentes de Amor Denounces Senator Rubio’s McCarthyite Smears.”)
Univision TV carried coverage of that press conference, a breakthrough in the general media wall of silence against us. Important statements of support for our rights came from former State Senator Dwight Bullard, current president of the South Dade County branch of the NAACP; prominent Miami immigration rights attorney Ira J. Kurzban; Amazon Labor Union President Chris Smalls; Medea Benjamin from Code Pink; and the legislative action group ACERE.
Lazo challenged Senator Rubio to debate these issues any time, as well as calling on people to join the August 28 caravan as the best response to this kind of intimidation.
One result of the rightist violence in July, was that police authorities — no doubt under some pressure from the work we have done to raise these matters before elected officials — used a new protocol for how they approach these counterdemonstrators.
We have been told the City of Miami Police Department even held a meeting that involved the Chief of the Department to discuss the threats against the caravan.
When an advance group arrived at 6:00 am to start organizing the work of the day, we found that the rightists had taken over the corner where we had applied to assemble. Upon leaving that scene to figure out what we should do, we stumbled upon an area that the police had set up as a command center for the day.
To our surprise, we saw some 20 police cars, a police SWAT armored vehicle, a car and trailer from the “Underwater Recovery Unit,” an Emergency Response vehicle, and a big command center trailer! An officer came up to us and said, “What happened last month should never have happened. And it won’t happen today.”
We negotiated a change in our caravan location and the police proved cooperative throughout the morning. This is in a city whose mayor publicly called us “communist terrorists” and demanded we be banned by every city inside Miami-Dade County!
The caravan itself was a festival of struggle and joy! Clearly, the attempted intimidation and violence launched against us failed to deter participation. Many new people came. Some who had attended earlier caravans but had stopped participating for a while decided to come back.
Carlos Lazo again travelled across the country to join us. He helped lead a rally where Miami YouTuber Liber Baruetta, Alianza Martiana leader Max Lesnik, Medea Benjamin from Code Pink, Nesbit Crutchfield from the Venceremos Brigade, Libre Sankara, a leader of Troika, and others spoke.
A new sound system ensured that the rightists’ efforts to drown us out with their expensive equipment did not succeed. People donated more than $300 at the rally towards the new system and other caravan expenses.
There were no attacks on the caravan as it went down Calle Ocho on its way to a concluding event at Miami City Hall.
Our new sound system blasted out the music we danced to at the caravan endpoint, expressing great joy in another successful moment in the fight against the U.S. blockade.
NEW YORK CITY
By Mark Satinoff
For the fourth time, twice in the last two weeks, the “Dos Alas” mural in the East Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan (El Barrio) has been defaced by right-wing opponents of the Cuban revolution.
Dos Alas (Two Wings) was painted in 1997 to demonstrate the historic and cultural connections between Cuba and Puerto Rico. In her poem “Cuba,” written in 1893, Lola Rodríguez de Tió described the islands as “two wings of the same bird.” The faces of Che Guevara and Puerto Rican nationalist Don Pedro Albizu Campos alongside the flags of their two nations are painted above her poem. The right-wingers brazenly spray painted their organization’s name, “SOS,” on the mural and marked up the faces of Che and Don Pedro.
On Saturday, August 27, the NY-NJ Cuba Sí Coalition held its monthly protest against the U.S. blockade of Cuba and in defense of freedom of speech and assembly. The demonstrators, some 75 strong, assembled outside the First Spanish United Methodist Church, known as “The People’s Church,” where a short rally was held. They then marched to the mural where a broad range of speakers representing the community and many political groups spoke. Volunteers with buckets and brushes then proceeded to restore the mural, as has been done every time it has been vandalized.
This month’s Bridges of Love action here in East Harlem was dedicated to the memory of Frank Velgara, a veteran of the Puerto Rican independence and Cuba solidarity movements as well as a committed socialist and internationalist. Many speakers, at the church and at the mural, heralded him as a tireless fighter: for winning the freedom of the Cuban Five; and for his non-sectarian leadership in many social justice movements. Many spoke formally and among themselves of how Frank’s memory steels them for the struggles ahead.
Speakers included Rev. Dorlimar Lebrón Malavé, pastor of The People’s Church; Gail Walker, Executive Director of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO)/Pastors for Peace; Dr. Rosemary Mealy, a leader of the campaign to get an anti-blockade resolution passed by the New York City Council; John Melendez, General Secretary of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party (NY chapter), who spoke representing the Frente Independentista Boricua; Camilo Matos of East Harlem Preservation; and Estela Vazquez, a retired member of Service Employees International Union Local 1199.
Last month’s protest, held at the José Martí statue in New York’s Central Park, was attacked by right-wing Cubans. The Cuba Sí Coalition’s website has also come under continued attack.
Having learned from those experiences, Cuba Sí activists and others made sure to have a well-organized and hefty security presence this time. Volunteer monitors met earlier in the day to discuss how to ensure the march and rally take place without disruption. Monitors wore yellow vests. Representatives of the National Lawyers Guild were present as legal observers. The local police precinct was notified of the potential threat. The defacing of the mural, which is a community landmark and part of the cultural heritage of El Barrio, won few friends from East Harlem residents. As it turned out, only one disrupter showed up, and she was quickly isolated and kept separate by the monitors and this time also by the police.
September is a busy month for the Cuba solidarity movement in New York. An event will take place to welcome the Cuba delegation when it arrives for the opening of the UN General Assembly in mid-September. On September 24, a meeting at Riverside Church on Manhattan’s upper westside will hear Bruno Rodriguez, Cuba’s foreign minister; Carlos Faria, Venezuela’s foreign minister; Vijay Prashad; and others speak. The next day, an action in solidarity with Bridges of Love will take place in the Jackson Heights/Corona neighborhoods of Queens.
By Tamara Hansen
On the last weekend of every month, protest actions, rallies, banner drops, and car caravans are taking to the streets against sanctions on Cuban families and to end the cruel U.S. blockade of Cuba. This call to action has been inspired by Puentes de Amor (Bridges of Love) and its founder and leader, Cuban American Carlos Lazo.
This exciting work continued in August with cities around the world taking to the streets once again. Across Canada, actions were organized in: Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Victoria, and Vancouver with clear demands to U.S. President Joe Biden to end the unjust U.S. blockade against Cuba.
In Montreal, on Saturday, August 27, there was a solidarity picnic for Cuba, Chile, and El Salvador organized by a broad coalition of solidarity groups. This led into the Sunday monthly car caravan, which joins the Cuba solidarity movement and the Cuban community living in Montreal in the untied demand to “Stop U.S. Sanctions on Cuba!”
In Toronto, folks rallied in front of the U.S. Consulate on August 28. Organizers and supporters listened to dynamic speakers and chanted in unity to end the blockade.
In Winnipeg, three Cuba solidarity events were connected throughout the day. First, everyone gathered for a rally and picket, they then took off on a car caravan, which attracted the attention of many onlookers. The caravan concluded at the Graffiti Gallery for a screening of the epic film, “The Motorcycle Diaries.”
During these activities, Winnipeg organizers were fundraising for the ongoing campaign for medical supplies for Cuba in the wake of the disastrous fire in Matanzas. The cross-Canada fundraising effort has been organized by the Juan Gualberto Gómez Association of Cuban Residents in Toronto. To learn more about this campaign please visit: http://cubanosjgg.blogspot.com/2022/08/asociacion-de-cubanos-inicia-en-toronto.html
In Victoria, organizers and supporters gathered for a banner drop on August 27. They raised their fists against the blockade while holding Cuban flags and a large banner which read, “U.S. Hands Off Cuba!”.
Here in Vancouver, a dozen cars and 22 people participated in the action. Caravanistas drove a 18-kilometre route (just over 11 miles) through Vancouver with signs and Cuban flags, getting attention and support from drivers and pedestrians alike. We drove peacefully condemning the criminal U.S. blockade on the people of Cuba. August 28 also happened to be Italian Day and the caravan drove right through the festivities, getting lots of waves, raised fists, and honks of support and solidarity!
Following a successful Vancouver car caravan, it was time for a solidarity picnic. Organizers and supporters gathered in the park to share some food and refreshments. It was a great chance to connect and discuss future ideas and plans for building the movement against the cruel U.S. blockade of Cuba.
Part of these conversations included the need to defend the rights of Cuba solidarity activists from government and right-wing attacks. On August 5, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (Republican, Florida) called on the FBI to investigate and intimidate Carlos Lazo and Puentes de Amor for their work in calling for an end to the U.S. blockade on Cuba. Then on August 23, the Committee in Solidarity with Cuba (CSC) of Puerto Rico issued a press release explaining how the FBI in the United States has been harassing, intimidating, and attacking recent participants in the Puerto Rican Juan Rius Rivera Brigade to Cuba.
We must be prepared to defend other Cuba solidarity organizers, activists, and organizations as they develop and push forward their important work to end over 60 years of the cruel blockade against Cuba. These tactics of intimidation and harassment by repressive government institutions are a violation of our democratic right to organize, educate, and mobilize. As is often said, an attack on one is an attack on all. We must unite to support and encourage those who are under attack in their fight back. We must respond by expanding and deepening our important united projects toward building bridges of love with Cuba.
Most of all, let us commit to organizing and taking to the streets once again on Sunday September 25!
Lift the Blockade on Cuba now!
¡Abajo el bloqueo!
Categories: Cuba/Cuba Solidarity