Report on the Picket for the Cuban Five at the
American Consulate in Calgary
April 14, 2007
The Calgary CCFA (Canada-Cuba Friendship Association) has been in existence since the mid-1980s and has in the intervening twenty years or so performed a variety of solidarity activities on behalf of our Cuban brothers and sisters.
Over the past five years we have experienced an upsurge in interest in the local CCFA and in the ranks of our membership. As a result, we have been able to launch a number of initiatives, foremost of which has been collecting material aid for a seniors’ home in Cuba; this aid, which comprises some 500 cubic feet, is now being prepared so it can join the IFCO/Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba in June and July.
We also formed a subcommittee in January to support the Cuba Five, who have been unjustly imprisoned for lengthy terms in the US. In the first few months after our formation, we performed the usual tasks – writing letters to government officials, signing petitions, and distributing information to those unaware of the enormity of this injustice.
By March it was clear that we were ready to escalate our protests, and we began planning for an information picket and rally in front of the American Consulate here in Calgary. This is not as simple or routine an event as those living in Toronto or Vancouver might imagine: Calgary is a very conservative city, with many connections to the politics and finances of the US empire.
On Saturday, April 14, we held our first picket for the Cuban Five from noon until 1:00pm, and, by all measures, given that we live and work in “the belly of the beast”, it was a resounding success. Forty or more supporters of Cuba and of the Cuban Five demonstrated with banners, placards, and chants; the positive responses we received from passing motorists were invigorating and encouraging.
Five people spoke for about ten minutes each: Gord Christie, head of the Calgary District Labour Council (CDLC), brought greetings from the labour and union movements; Ligia Portal represented the Latin American community and is the President of the Solidarity Association for El Salvador, Monsignor Oscar A. Romero; John Waller from Vancouver brought best wishes from IFCO and the Pastors for Peace Caravan for Cuba; Grant Neufeld spoke eloquently from the perspective of local activist organizations; and Peg Askin brought a feminist, working-class, and progressive orientation to the event. In between speakers, a large contingent of the Raging Grannies entertained everyone with their ironic and humourous protests against injustice.
While the speakers and Grannies were performing, members of the CCFA handed out an information leaflet on the Cuban Five, while others distributed a more extensive pamphlet with a letter to the Prime Minister attached; we collected (and have posted) some thirty signed letters requesting the PM to protest the continued imprisonment of the Cuban Five to the American government (see attachments).
There were representatives from several media outlets present, and we garnered a couple of minutes of news time on two local TV channels in the evening.
All in all, it was a very effective and encouraging event: it was our first picket to support the Cuban Five, but it will most certainly not be our last.