Actions around the world demand freedom for the Five
Sept. 14, 2008
From Sept. 12 through Sept. 14, actions all around the world on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the unjust imprisonment of five Cuban heroes have had one demand: Free the Five! This is a brief summary of some of them.
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Hundreds of activists converged on the nation's capitol, Washington, D.C., for a series of actions. On Friday, Sept. 12, a press conference held right in front of the White House featured remarks from Wayne Smith, former head of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, Gloria La Riva, coordinator of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, Brian Becker, national coordinator of the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), Banbose Shango, Regional Coordinator of the Venezuelan Solidarity Network and co-chair of the National Network on Cuba, and Claudia Morcom, former Detroit Judge.
Wayne Smith at the press conference
Video of the press conference and the action which followed (YouTube version • QuickTime version)
Brian Becker's complete talk at the press conference (YouTube version • QuickTime version)
Following the press conference, activists attempted to present George Bush with petitions containing 102,000 signatures from 78 countries demanding the freedom of the Five, and were arrested while attempting to do so. A full report and pictures of that part of the action are here, and a video of the arrests is here.
Brian Becker's talk while handcuffed and under arrest (YouTube version • QuickTime version)
Video of the arrests (YouTube version)
The following day started with an outdoor rally at Malcolm X Park featuring many speakers (click here to watch the speech by Gloria La Riva), followed by a spirited march through the streets of Washington D.C. including a stop at the Washington Post to protest the sparse media coverage given to the Five by the corporate media (click here to watch a speech given by Gloria La Riva in front of the Post). The march concluded with a picket line right in front of the White House.
Gloria La Riva's talk at Malcolm X Park (YouTube version • QuickTime version)
Gloria La Riva's talk at the Washington Post (YouTube version • QuickTime version)
Marching in Washington, D.C.
After the march, an indoor conference was held at the SEIU building. Attendees at the conference received an important legal update from attorney Leonard Weinglass, and were honored with the presence and remarks of the head of the Cuban Interests Section, Jorge Alberto Bolaños Suarez, who spoke about the importance of the solidarity movement to the Five and to the Cuban people. The Rev. Lucius Walker of Pastors for Peace told the audience about an important solidarity mission that is being assembled to go to Cuba to help with reconstruction following the extensive damage suffered from the recent hurricanes. Carpenters, electricians, and others with construction experience are particularly needed; contact the Pastors for Peace if you are able to join this important contingent. Also speaking at the rally were Gloria La Riva and Akbar Muhammad, International Representative of the Nation of Islam. Ben Ramos read remarks prepared for the occasion by the Five.
Leonard Weinglass' talk to the conference (QuickTime movie)
Gloria La Riva's talk to the conference (YouTube version • QuickTime version)
Activists spread the word about the Five
À Montréal à l’appel de la Table de concertation de solidarité Québec-Cuba et de son Comité Fabio Di Celmo pour les 5, plus de 60 personnes sont venues manifester devant le consulat étasunien pour exiger la liberté des 5 Cubains emprisonnés aux Etats-unis.
350 tractes informatifs ont été distribués aux passants piétons et en automobiles pendant que les manifestants scandaient des slogans en faveur des 5 et leurs familles.
La participation de 5 personnes enchaînées et déguisées en prisonniers et de musiciens à ajouter à l’animation de l’évènement.
Plus tôt dans la journée, des représentants des comités ont remis une pétition au consulat étasunien signée par 2020 Québécois et Québécoises dirigée à l'Ambassadeur des États-unis au Canada, M. David Wilkins. Les signataires appuient le libellé : << Monsieur l’Ambassadeur des États-Unis au Canada, M. David Wilkins : Nous réclamons la libération des cinq Cubains Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, Antonio Guerrero Rodríguez, Ramón Labañino Salazar, Fernando González Llort, René González Sehwerert qui sont injustement emprisonnés aux États-Unis pour avoir défendu le peuple cubain contre des attaques terroristes>>.
Nous continuons de tenir des lignes de piquetage une fois par mois devant le consulat étasunien à Montréal depuis mai 2007. L’évènement a été couvert par des médias nationaux et locaux.
In Alicante, Spain, the Miguel Hernández Association of Friendship with Cuba, Alicante held an activity in solidarity with the Five, in the Plaza de Manila, where we projected the documentary, Mission Against Terror, handed out information and read the communique of the Five and that of our association.
Neighbors and passersby were able to learn of this injustice that is hidden by the means of communication.
Our next commitment will be to fill at least one bus from Alicante for the demonstration and acts of solidarity with the Five, on Oct. 4 in Madrid and continue to paste up posters in the coming months throughout Alicante, denouncing this criminal injustice of the United States government.
Saturday 13th September marked ten years since the unjust arrest and incarceration of the Cuban 5. Rock Around The Blockade (RATB) joined protesters around the world on this day, and showed it's solidarity for these five brave men by holding a rally in Trafalgar Square in the heart of London.
The rally was a huge success, with some thirty protesters, adults and children alike, attracting the attention of hundreds of passers-by. RATB were joined by members of the Marti-Maceo Association of Cubans in the UK, who delivered moving speeches to the public. These and other speeches from passionate protesters encouraged people to stop and find out more. Several people, having already heard about the imprisonment of the Five, approached us and took away more information. Hundreds signed our petition, which will be sent to the international Free the Five campaign.
The rally did much to raise awareness of the need to have the Cuban 5 freed from prison, and of the positive politics of Cuba in general. RATB continues to stand in solidarity with socialist Cuba and revolutionary struggles in Latin America.
San Antonio, TX:
Coverage of the event in the San Antonio Current here.
Watch a YouTube video of the San Antonio action here
Read the excellent press coverage from Luxembourg's Zeitung vum Lëtzebuerger Land here and here
This September 12th, Toronto participated in the international condemnation of ten years of the unjust imprisonment of the Cuban Five, with an event organized by Toronto Forum on Cuba and presented by Ontario Public Interest Research Group at U of T, demanding freedom for the Cuban Five and visitation rights for their families.
A couple of weeks prior to the event, three radio interviews were done by members of Toronto Forum on Cuba on community radio stations at Ryerson, York University and CIUT 89.5. In addition, there will be upcoming articles on the Cuban Five resulting from the event in the Correo Canadiense and in the Yeni Hayat Turkish newspaper.
The dance ensemble “Azteca Tonatzen” from Mexico, kicked off the evening performing an Indigenous dance. Thando Hyman, the host of the “African Woman and Family” program on 89.5 CIUT-FM, was the master of ceremonies for the evening and after welcoming everyone, she invited Morteza Gorgzadeh to give a brief introduction of Toronto Forum on Cuba.
The Honourable Consul General of Cuba in Toronto, Laureano Cardoso, described the injustice that the Cuban Five and their families continue to be subjected to and he provided some of the circumstances surrounding their arrest and their conviction. After mentioning the participation of three of them -Gerardo Hernández, René González and Fernando González- in the internationalist mission against the South African apartheid regime in Angola, he went on to expose the hypocrisy of the “war on terror” waged by the U.S. government by outlining the Five’s actions of alerting the Cuban government about impending terrorist attacks against Cuba, planned from U.S. territory by extreme-right Cuban exile groups and contrasting their imprisonment with the impunity that U.S. authorities give to known terrorists such as Orlando Bosch (one of the masterminds of the bombing in mid-air of a Cubana airliner in 1976, which killed all 73 people aboard). To conclude, the Consul General read a letter that René González wrote to the people of Pinar del Río and of Isla de la Juventud after hurricane Gustav.
Samira Hamedan , the Honourable Consul and the Consul General of the Consulate of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in Toronto brought strong words of solidarity for the Cuban Five, for the sovereignty of Cuba and for the Cuban people and some updates on the situation facing Venezuela a the moment. They were followed by Social Researcher and Human Rights Defender in Colombia, William Castilla Alvarez who expressed his complete support of the Cuban Five and explained the necessity of their mission, in light of the recent events indicating the U.S. government’s illegal involvement in the internal affairs of Bolivia and of Venezuela.
The next speaker to offer a message of solidarity, was sister Marie Clark Walker, Executive Vice President of the Canadian Labour Congress, who also read a message sent by brother Dave Bleakney from the Education Department of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, who was scheduled to speak.
Keith Ellis, Professor Emeritus and former Chair of the Latin American Studies Committee of the University of Toronto presented a report of the damages caused in Cuba by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike with details and a slide show illustrating the devastation. He informed the audience of the Cuba Hurricane Relief campaign and announced the upcoming fundraiser on September 26th at 7:00PM at the Steelworkers’ Hall in Toronto. He encouraged everyone to donate as much as possible and to get others to donate as well, to help Cuba recover as rapidly as possible, considering the huge amount of damages and losses that the Cuban people suffered as a result of these hurricanes.
Poetry written by two of the Cuban Five –Antonio Guerrero and Ramón Labañino- was interpreted by Carlos Angulo from Perú and by Ardis Harriman from CCFA-Toronto. Benny Esguerra thrilled the audience with his performance of a song entitled “Se Acabe el Silencio” (Break the Silence), dedicated to the Five and by singing and rapping more lyrics filled with socially conscious context. Ten-year old Skigh Johnson concluded the cultural segment of the program, by performing a monologue written by her, portraying Ivette, René González’ daughter.
The political segment continued with Attorney at Law, Juan Carranza, who called the Cuban Five case “a complete travesty to justice”. He provided a history and an update on the legal aspects of the case, along with an explanation of the possible outcomes.
Mr. Khaled Muammar, the President of the Canadian Arab Federation, spoke of the bravery of the Cuban people and of their internationalism and solidarity with the people of the world and he stressed the need to campaign for the freedom of the Cuban Five and to support Cuba through this difficult time.
The event had a successful participation of about 90 people united in demanding freedom for the Cuban Five, over $1000 in donations were collected for the Cuba Hurricane Relief and hundreds for the Cuban Five campaign. On behalf of Toronto Forum on Cuba, Morteza Gorgzadeh expressed our appreciation to all who helped us to make this day a success and said, "We shall continue to educate ourselves in order to educate the broader public on issues related to Cuba, so that we can take a just stand”.